Hoosier Hysteria is in full swing and, of course, that means we’ve already had to say goodbye to some fun teams.
Wednesday night I had to watch the careers of four Whitko players come to an end thanks to a cold-blooded three from Central Noble’s Mason Smith. It was a fantastic shot, sectional basketball at its best. But, just 26 miles up the road, fans were also getting a heavy dose of sectional heroism. Elkhart Central had rallied from 17 down in the fourth quarter to beat Penn in triple OT, just another reminder of why it’s never really over until it’s over. Then, not too long after, Warsaw and Northridge had a dramatic finish of their own. This all comes just one day after rivals Wawasee and Tippecanoe Valley needed OT to figure out who could move on in Syracuse.
That’s a lot of drama, a lot of celebration, a lot of heartbreak and quite a few separate chances to go view our stories. The point is that there is some fantastic basketball being put on display after just one round of sectional hoops so far (and that we write really good stories).
Before we hit tonight’s slate of games, clear your schedule and get out to any local tournament and watch some good high school hoops. The obvious place to be in North Side Gym where four programs that all know each other very well will be slugging it out in one of the state’s most storied arenas. That’s where I would spend my money first. One of my favorite places to watch a game is the Trojan Trench in Bourbon which will be hosting a set of semifinals of its own that should be entertaining.
The records of most of the remaining teams at Wawasee and Bethany Christian are far from appealing, but that doesn’t spell out bad basketball. Wawasee has been a part of some exciting, close games the past few sectionals and is shaping up for another tight one with West Noble. On the other side of the bracket is the presumed champion NorthWood, but if you think that Fairfield will just roll over while the Panthers march into the title game, you’ve got another think coming. Lakeland Christian is searching for history at the Mennolands and just might have enough this year to make it happen.
That is four sectional sites each offering four teams and two games on one night. There is no better way to spend your Friday night. The new Power Rangers movie is not out yet, so you have no excuse to be anywhere else.
Nate Walpole was one of the most exciting players to watch in the entire state. He was fourth in scoring among all players and second in Class 2-A. He and Whitko were eliminated in heart-wrenching fashion and now we will never have the joy of seeing him light up a high school score board again. He’ll go on to do great things at whatever college is lucky enough to get him, sure. But for us locals, we won’t have that privilege anymore. We also won’t have the opportunity to watch Alec Craig tear it up at Valley one more time. These are things I didn’t really think about until it was just a little too late.
Don’t get caught taking any of the remaining seniors, or this year’s teams, for granted. Do you really want to be the person who missed out on Walpole’s final game and then chance missing the final sectional games of Kyle Mangas’ career too? No, don’t let that happen. You are a Hoosier, get out and catch some of the games this weekend like your granddaddy intended.
So, that’s my big, hopefully enticing push to get you off the couch and onto to an uncomfortable bleacher for an evening. You won’t regret it. Don’t do it for me if you don’t want. But do it for the kids, come on, think of the children! (I’ve seen that work in TV shows)
Warsaw fans, do it for Rev. Do you really want to make him upset? I didn’t think so.
Okay, enough begging. Time for some picks.
Oh, and if you see a portly Cubs fan at spring training, stuffing his face with hot dogs and baking in the Arizona sun next week on TV, it’s totally me and, yes, you should be jealous.
Last Edition: 25-3
Elkhart Sectional at the hallowed North Side Gymnasium (I’m contractually obligated to describe the gym with a verb such as hallowed, venerable or storied.)
Semifinal 1: Elkhart Memorial (11-11) vs. Goshen (14-9), 6 p.m.
I have this really good feeling about Memorial in this sectional. Joe Smith leads the Chargers at 15.1 ppg while Hank Smith and Jose Soto add double figure averages of their own. The Chargers will have some jitters as it is their first sectional game, but that will fade. Memorial 52, Goshen 44.
Semifinal 2: Elkhart Central (20-2) vs. Warsaw (15-9), 7:45 p.m.
I need a t-shirt that says, “Kyle Mangas got me.” @Kmango2 broke the hearts of Raider Nation Wednesday night with a game-winning three. It was exhilarating, though it should not have surprised anyone, it’s just what Mangas does. The last time the Blue Blazers and Tigers met, Mangas dropped 30 and Warsaw still lost. This is my plea to anybody else on Warsaw’s team to step up and score some points. The Tigers have not lost to the same team twice since 2012, I’ll take the chance with this pick. Warsaw 42, Central 38.
Championship: Warsaw vs. Memorial, Saturday, 7 p.m.
I’ve been thinking Memorial would win this sectional for a few weeks. I still have no idea why I feel that way. I’m sticking with the Chargers. Coach Ogle is upset with me now and I probably won’t get cowboy cookies for a while.. This feeling about Memorial comes with little to no real reason and I’ll probably be embarrassed when Goshen knocks Memorial off tonight, but, whatever, you already gave me my page view.
Memorial 48, Warsaw 40.
Semifinal 1: West Noble (8-14) vs. Wawasee (6-17), 6 p.m.
The Warriors topped West Noble earlier this season at the Hardwood Teepee. Since that time both of these teams have improved so I expect a closer game than 61-44. The Warriors should be riding high after knocking off Valley and they get the benefit of a home game. Wawasee 53, West Noble 47.
Semifinal 2: Fairfield (11-12) vs. NorthWood (21-2), 7:30 p.m.
This is NorthWood’s sectional to lose. No other analysis needed.
Championship: Wawasee vs. NorthWood, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Again, this is NorthWood’ tournament to lose. Sure, Wawasee will have the underdog advantage, as does Fairfield, as would West Noble. But, the Panthers have depth and experience, something the rest of this sectional can’t offer. I’m picking the Panthers until I’m given a reason not to.
NorthWood 58, Wawasee 44.
Semifinal 1: Triton (17-5) vs. Culver (12-10), 6:30 p.m.
The Trojans have been red hot as of late and are playing at home. I’ll stick with Triton. Triton 59, Culver 41.
Semifinal 2: Argos (15-8) vs. Oregon-Davis (18-6), 8 p.m.
I don’t know much about either team, but I know I’ve heard more about O-D this year and that I expect both teams to lose to Triton. Oregon-Davis 54, Argos 48.
Championship: Triton vs. Oregon-Davis, Saturday, 7 p.m.
O-D whooped Triton 58-42 in the season opener. That’s going to be on the bulletin board before this game. Like I said, Triton is red hot and playing in the Trench. I’m behind the Trojans 100-percent this weekend.
Triton 62, Oregon-Davis 50.
Bethany Christian Sectional
Semifinal 1: Lakeland Christian (8-15) vs. Blackhawk Christian (16-9), 6 p.m.
It was a historic (an historic? That just feels wrong) season for the Cougars as they won the most amount of games that they have since joining the IHSAA. Unfortunately, LCA had no friends in this year’s sectional draw. Last year the Braves dominated the Cougars 95-40 in the sectional. It should not be that bad as LCA is a much better team this season, but Blackhawk is still the superior team in this matchup. Blackhawk 63, LCA 40.
Semifinal 2: Hamilton (1-21) vs. Lakewood Park Christian (15-8), 7:30 p.m.
I know absolutely nothing about these two teams, but I do know that 1-21 is not great. Lakewood Park 62, Hamilton 38.
Championship: Blackhawk vs. Lakewood Park, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Blackhawk is the defending champions but I think the Braves poor defense (64.7 ppg) becomes an issue. So, I’m taking a chance on Lakewood Park winning its first-ever sectional, what could possibly go wrong?
Lakewood Park 68, Blackhawk 59.