WARSAW – Fans of several area teams won’t have to wait long to see their boys at this year’s IHSAA boys basketball sectional tournaments. The IHSAA drew its brackets for the 109th annual state tournament Sunday evening.
Warsaw will have a huge test right out of the gate, paired with Elkhart Memorial in the Tuesday night game to open Class 4-A Sectional 4 at the Historic North Side Gym in Elkhart. The state-ranked Tigers have arguably the toughest draw of any team in the seven-team bracket, having to take on state-ranked Memorial on its home floor, then if it survives, take on Elkhart Central on its home floor in the first semi-final Friday night.
Warsaw and Memorial are set to face each other Tuesday night at the Tiger Den to decide the top two places in the Northern Lakes Conference, Warsaw sitting at 6-0 and owning at least a share of the title and Memorial coming in 5-1 playing for half the title. Warsaw has won at least a share of the last five NLC titles.
On the other side of the Elkhart bracket are Northridge versus Concord and Plymouth versus Goshen in the NLC smorgasbord on Wednesday. Those two game’s winners will play in the second semi-final Friday night. The championship for Sectional 4 and all of the area sectionals are set for Saturday night.
NorthWood will find out if it’s tournament ready right out of the gate as well, drawing Fairfield in Tuesday’s first game of the Class 3-A No. 21 Wawasee Sectional. The matchup is a rematch of last year’s sectional, where the Panthers started its march to the title by knocking out the then-defending champ Fairfield. Fairfield comes in as this year’s prohibitive favorite, having won all four of its inter-sectional matchups, including a four-point win over the Panthers early in the season. NorthWood is sloshing through its first losing season in eight years, but earned a win over Tippecanoe Valley last week, which awaits the winner of the Fairfield-NorthWood contest. The Falcons and Vikings did not play this year.
Valley comes in as one of the hotter teams in the sectional, having won five of its last six games including a blowout Friday night at rival Triton. Valley is looking to end a five-year title drought and give coach Chad Patrick his first tournament championship.
Wawasee sits on the other side of the bracket as the second bye team, awaiting the winner of Lakeland and West Noble, which play in Tuesday’s game two. The Warriors played West Noble tough in a two-point loss in December, and clubbed Lakeland in late January at their place.
Lakeland Christian Academy and Triton both play Wednesday, the Cougars at Class 1-A Sectional No. 52 Fremont with the toughest assignment in the Class 1-A draws by getting No. 1 Fort Wayne Blackhawk. The Trojans are hosting Sectional 51 and meet Elkhart Christian, both games are the second at their respective sites.
Blackhawk presents a herculean challenge for LCA, leading the state in scoring offense at 79 points per game and have notched 97 or more points on six different occasions, including a pair of 100-point games this past week. The Braves knocked out LCA of the sectional last season via blowout, a game after LCA had won its first-ever sectional contest. The Cougars have only cracked 60 points three times this season, and two of those were in losses.
Triton gets a chance to see what it will be up against when it faces off with Elkhart Christian Academy Monday night in a make-up game from earlier this month. The two come into Monday night’s game on three-game losing streaks, Triton’s slump coming off back-to-back losses to Tippecanoe Valley and Rochester where its offense scored in single digits in the first half. The Trojans are hoping home court advantage, and the proven preparation plan of head coach Jason Groves, can regain some momentum.
109th Annual IHSAA Boys Basketball State Tournament
Tuesday, Feb. 26 7 p.m. — Warsaw vs. Memorial