INDIANAPOLIS – Other than arguments on Twitter about class basketball, the hottest talk about the IHSAA and its sports skeletons are the sectional alignments. The IHSAA opened that new level of conversation late Monday afternoon with the announcement of its alignments for football, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, and volleyball. Its baseball and softball groupings will be announced in the summer.
Just to put it out there right away, the IHSAA is still using the class basketball format.
BOYS AND GIRLS BASKETBALL
Of the major changes in the area for basketball is the shift in the Elkhart Central sectional. Penn has been added to both the boys and girls brackets, and Plymouth has been shifted west. That’s key for the girls bracket in particular as Plymouth was the 2019 Northridge Sectional champion, and Penn’s prowess in both basketball programs – the girls reaching the regional final and the boys making the semi-state – adds a lot of punch to an already well-balanced diet.
Fairfield’s drop to 2-A affected the Class 3-A Sectional 21 boys basketball grid, making it just a five-teamer with Wawasee, NorthWood, Tippecanoe Valley, West Noble and Lakeland. The Falcons move to Sectional 35 in both arrangements, which the girls bracket sees Whitko move to Sectional 36 to accommodate South Bend Career Academy joining Sectional 35. The Whitko boys move to Sectional 36, which will also welcome in Class 1-A state champion Fort Wayne Blackhawk on its ascent from the success factor. The girls bracket for Sectional 21 will have Central Noble move in for the vacancy created by Fairfield. Central Noble was the No. 1 team in Class 2-A a year ago.
The Class 1-A boys basketball sectionals moved around quite a bit, with Triton’s normal Sectional 51 now becoming Sectional 50. Gone from the Triton group are South Central Union Mills and South Bend Career Academy to 2-A, which moves the bracket to a six-teamer. LCA is also on the move, heading to the southern hemisphere and Sectional 53 to join North Miami, Southwood, Southern Wells, Northfield and Smith Academy.
The Sectional 50 girls grid has Triton also say goodbye to South Central and South Bend and welcome in West Central from the Hoosier North Athletic Conference. LCA’s girls are also joining Sectional 53 in the same team format.
The whole “Bart knows how to beat Penn” conversation took a slight turn as Warsaw was shifted back to the east and out of the Region. With it, Penn stays with the Duneland foes while Warsaw will renew pleasantries with Fort Wayne Carroll, Homestead and now the Millers of Noblesville. Should Warsaw get out of that, an Indianapolis-based regional would be waiting, where the Carmels and Hamilton Southeasterns of the world would await. A Penn rematch would have to wait until semi-state.
The pieces are set to be in place for when Elkhart Central and Memorial become Optimus Prime in 2020. For now, Central and Memorial are in Class 5-A with Concord and Goshen, but in 2020, Elkhart High moves to 6-A to join Penn’s group, Valpo moves to Sectional 9, and both South Bend Adams and Mishawaka join Concord and Goshen in Sectional 10. Got all that? Warsaw still stays in Fort Wayne/Noblesville.
Class 4-A sees Sectional 19 incur some movement, with Culver Academy and Plymouth going west, and Columbia City and Leo move in. It’s not too far back for NorthWood fans to remember the wars with Leo in the state tournament earlier in the decade. Wawasee, under the guidance of Jon Reutebuch, remains put in Sectional 19.
Tippecanoe Valley will need to inquire on some new tape for the state tournament. Gone are Peru, Knox, Fairfield and Maconaquah – the Vikings beating Peru then losing to Maconquah in last year’s sectional – but here come South Bend Washington, West Noble, Garrett and Lakeland. Fairfield ends up with Whitko in Class 2-A, the Wildcats entering next season under the guidance of newly hired Phil Jensen.
Triton will have to reload for new coach Rodney Younis with a whole new tournament approach. The Trojans move to the far east side of the state to join Sectional 44 with the likes of Adams Central, Northfield and Southwood. While the sectional is going to be a gauntlet, at least Pioneer moved up a class. Class A rejoices.
As with basketball, those from the Elkhart-based Class 4-A sectional – last year hosted by Elkhart Memorial – will see Penn come into the fold this year, which serves as the virtual sixth team next year when Elkhart Central and Memorial merge. A Penn-Warsaw matchup could provide some serious fireworks, both teams were involved in the same LaPorte Regional last October.
Class 3-A’s Sectional 21 will see Fairfield move out and drop back down to 2-A where it was mega successful for nearly a decade. The void left by the Falcons will have Jimtown take its place, joining Wawasee, NorthWood and Tippecanoe Valley. Fairfield joins with Westview and friends in Sectional 36.
Class 1-A is also getting a makeover, where Triton’s Sectional 51 now turns into 50. Gone are South Central and South Bend Career Academy, enter West Central. LCA also moves into a new spot in Sectional 52, with Pioneer, Northfield and others.
BOYS AND GIRLS SOCCER
Not much changed in the soccer landscape, notably the local girls soccer teams. None of the 3-A, 2-A or 1-A sectionals involving IFN area teams had a change in alignment.
On the boys side, however, Warsaw moves north rather than east, and will create what could be the deepest sectional in the state. The Class 3-A Sectional 4 hosts Warsaw, Penn, Northridge, Goshen, Elkhart Memorial, Elkhart Central and Concord. Of those teams, six were ranked at one point or another last season, with five of them ranked at the end of the regular season. Surprisingly, Penn and Elkhart Central were not among the five, but both have been perennial top-20 programs in recent years.
Wawasee and NorthWood’s sectional, the Class 2-A hosted by Angola last October, stays the same. Valley, however, jumps to a new 2-A grouping that includes perennial powers Culver Academy, Manchester, Fort Wayne Canterbury and Fort Wayne Concordia along with bitter rival Rochester. One minor note in the Class 1-A Sectional 36 is Lakeland Christian loses neighbor Oregon-Davis, otherwise everything else there stays the same.