RPI: Sectional Edition
Playoff basketball in Indiana is something special. It’s do or die. It’s back to the wall. It’s lose, and go home. We’ve got some very talented seniors in the Wabash Valley who unfortunately will be done playing basketball after this weekend, and other’s that will survive to play another day as they take a step closer to the state finals. At Sports 10, we get to see so many great sectionals this time of year. It was hard to narrow it down to just five, but rules are rules. Here’s the special Sectional Edition of the RPI, in no particular order.
Game 1: Terre Haute South vs. Mooresville
Game 2: Terre Haute North vs. Martinsville
Here in the Wabash Valley, particularly Terre Haute, we would love to see a North-South showdown for the championship. The bracket is aligned for that to happen, now both teams just need to take care of business.
Terre Haute South plays in the opening semi-final Friday night against Mooresville. Mooresville comes in at 10-11 while the Braves come into play at 9-13. South has lost three straight games, but all three have been to teams better than Mooresville. Indy North Central is a powerhouse, Evansville North is tough, and Rockville looks to be poised to return to Bankers Life for the title game, cruising through the year without a blemish. A season in the MIC has the Braves well prepared for this game, now they need to take advantage. The Braves start with Jeffrey Turner and he’ll undoubtedly be keyed on by the Mooresville defense. Another source of scoring will have to play hero for the Braves to advance. For much of the season, that’s been Kevaris Gregory. He’s a shot maker, and long and rangy on the defensive end. This one will be tight, but I think the fresh legs from the bye will get South over the hump. Logan Steward, takes open shots and makes four threes on his way to a 14 point night. He’s the extra spark the Braves need to play on Saturday night.
The other side of the bracket features Martinsville against Terre Haute North. After losing three straight during a brutal portion of the MIC schedule to end the season the Patriots appear to be back. They blasted Plainfield by 23 on opening night and will try to keep it rolling against Martinsville. At 11-9 the Artesians are no slouch. When South wins the early game, North will have to focus on Martinsville first and not look ahead to their rivals the following night. North has a nice combination of size, ability and most importantly senior leadership. I look for the seniors to draw deep down into their experience from a great tournament run last year. Calvin Blank will be a matchup problem for anyone in this sectional. He plays so hard every night and will pace the Patriot offense. When teams double Blank, they can’t leave Stephen Davis. He is a sniper from long range and is long and athletic enough to get his shot off over the defense. Austin Lewis, a D-1 football recruit, provides more athleticism and Nate Jahn runs the show to perfection. I look for North to march on decidedly Friday night and meet South in the finals.
A rivalry game in the finals is really all we can ask for as a Terre Haute sports community. The draw made it possible and I think it happens. Blank and Turner both can put the ball in the basket, but at the end of the day I think it’s the tough defense from the North side that’s the difference. The Patriots pride themselves in defensive toughness and it’s on that end that they make it difficult for South in the title game.
Pick: Terre Haute North
North Knox Sectional
Game 1: Bloomfield vs. Sullivan
Game 2: Linton vs. North Knox
North Knox knocked off the defending champs on opening night and now will take on mighty Linton in the semis. Home court advantage works out nicely in this case. Linton brings to the table everything 2A schools dream of. They have tons of size, the schools all time leading scorer in Dess Fougerousse. Pair him with 6’8” standout Austin Karazsia and you have one of the most dynamic 1-2 punches in the Wabash Valley. The Miners are 19-3 with losses to Sullivan, Casey-Westfied, and Clay City. They have the star power to win a title, but first have to get past the Warriors on their home floor.
After getting the lone bye in the sectional, Bloomfield now has 20-3 Sullivan in the semis. That doesn’t seem like much of a reward. The Cardinals have been solid this season and have a nice inside outside combo with Ben Hayes and Kyle Robinson. The Arrows have to be the favorite in this sectional. They haven’t lost since Rockville beat them in the Pizza Hut Classic. Since that game they’ve won 13 straight. It’s a combination of a stellar point guard in Brooks Weszely, size and strength inside with Jake Kinneman and Michael Hutchcraft, and Nate Pirtle and Max Gregory providing sparks on the wing. This is a complete lineup and they’ll be hard for Bloomfield to contain.
It’s lined up for Sullivan and Linton to meet in the championship game. The two teams have combined for a 39-6 record this season. This will be a clash of the titans. If Linton can establish Karazsia early and often inside against the Arrow bigs they have a good chance. The Miners are probably the underdogs, but I’ve got to give them the nod ever so slightly over a talented Sullivan bunch.
Game 1: Loogootee vs. North Daviess
Game 2: Barr-Reeve vs. Shoals
Jack Butcher Arena will be packed to the brim Friday night for the Lions to get the semis going against North Daviess. The student crowd from North Daviess travels as well as anyone and they’ll be loud and proud as the Cougars try to knock off the defending champs. Loogootee got a scare in the opener when Vincennes Rivet took them to overtime. If they don’t kick up the urgency fast, they’ll be in trouble. Just when the Cougars had gone 2-2, midway through February and looked to be a notch below mighty Barr-Reeve and Loogootee, they knock of Eastern Greene to finish the year and are right back amongst the big boys. North Daviess plays great defense and has a phenomenal leader in Nick Crays. The Lions will run their offense through forward Conner Wittmer. Both teams will look to control tempo and this one could end up being played in the 30’s. If it comes down to a last second bucket, which is very possible, I like the Cougars. I always say great guards win in March and that’s no different here. Crays makes the difference; North Daviess gets to the finals.
The other semi features Shoals and Barr-Reeve and might not be quite as close. Barr-Reeve looks like a team to be reckoned with. They are 21-1 and won by 40 in the opening round game against Washington Catholic. Barr-Reeve has every piece you need to make a deep run. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if they are playing on the last day of the season at Bankers Life. Even though the Vikings didn’t get a bye, drawing opposite Loogootee and North Daviess is a win in itself. The Vikings shouldn’t have to play nearly as tight of a game as the Lions and Cougars. They’ll march into the title game and then win a barn burner in the sectional title.
North Vermillion Sectional
Game 1: Turkey Run vs. Rockville
Game 2: Covington vs. Attica
There really isn’t much more you can say about this Rockville team. I talked to a class just the other day about how fun it is to see a look in a players eyes that makes you know he’s not going to lose. That’s the look Lane Mahurin has had since Christmas. I really think Turkey Run is playing so hard right now that they could’ve won a game in this sectional, then they got the bye and play Rockville, that’s tough luck. It’s the championship game that could be fun. Rockville has blasted both Attica and Covington this season, and they’ll look to do it again. Coach Dave Mahurin told me, “I don’t like Attica or Covington. If we get past Turkey Run, I’ll be excited to try to get after either team. Attica might be playing better right now. There is definitely bad blood between the two teams. It should be exciting.” Those words are coming from a coach that comes into the new season undefeated and is rightfully confident. I don’t see the Rox getting a challenge until at least the second game of regionals. A Barr-Reeve, Rockville championship game would be fantastic and would turn the Wabash Valley upside down. I think the Rox start to hold up their end of the bargain with a sectional championship.
White River Valley Sectional
Game 1: Eminence vs. White River Valley
Game 2: Clay City vs. Shakamak
The sectional at White River Valley should be an absolute battle. I like the Wolverines to move on over Eminence in the semis, especially on their home court. The second game is the one to watch. Clay City and Shakamak are sure to grind it out in an all out war. The Lakers have played a brutal schedule on their way to an 11-11 record. This time of year is when that pays off. If you like scorers, this is your game because Blake Cesinger for Clay City and Brodie Crowe for Shakamak can fill it up. Clay City will be the favorite, sporting a 13-8 record, but I’m going to say the tough schedule pays off for Crowe and the Lakers as they march to the finals to take on the Wolverines.
In their first meeting this season the Lakers edged the Wolverines 42-40 in Switz City. While WRV has some really nice players with Cade Hill and Luke Mowery, I think the star power Crowe brings to the table will be the difference. The Lakers move out of a sectional after knocking off Clay City and White River Valley by 5 points, combined.
The RPI has been a blast to debut this season. If you’re a regular reader, or a first timer, I hope you’ve enjoyed it. I’m going to try and blog regularly during the basketball offseason and possibly about individual matchups as the playoffs continue. If you have any topics you’d like to hear about email me or shoot me a tweet. Until then, I’ll see you at the gym.