As many of you know, there may be no bigger fan of high school hoops on this or any board than I am. Perhaps it is my upbringing, perhaps it is my small town Indiana roots, maybe it is my coaching experiences at this level, or it could just be my love of all things basketball....but I can tell you that this is my favorite time of the year, and this might actually be my favorite basketball weekend of the season: Regional Saturday!
The entire format of the regional in Indiana is deeply rooted in our basketball DNA. 4 teams, 3 games, all in one day at one venue. All across the state, entire towns will be emptying themselves to hit the tournament trail, following the youngsters of their homes, chasing the dreams of basketball glory. Dads watching their sons follow their own footsteps, grandparents longingly remembering their own playing days, and in some cases dying Indiana towns looking for just some small pleasure amid the bleakness and hopelessness of the rising tides of economic recession. Memories of a lifetime, created in a 10 hour span of craziness.
On Saturday, you can watch kids play for the love of their school, instead of the love of money. Instead of worrying about bailing out billionaire business people with government money, you can pay $9 bucks for an all day pass and see 3 great games in any corner of the state you are near. From Michigan City to Washington, from Marion to Seymour to Indianapolis and all points in between, you can once again renew your love for the game and see basketball played as you remember it, and perhaps as you once played it.
Sit and imagine a better thing in life than the sounds of sneakers squeaking, of dueling bands playing loudly to be heard over the din of the crowd, or the smell of fresh popcorn hitting your nostrils from the darkened corners of the gymnasium. Compare this to the piped in music you get at Conseco, or the 6 buck hot dogs, and tell me the games Saturday can't be basketball heaven for the purists of the game.
My challenge to you reading this from somewhere in Indiana is this: take a kid with you. Take your Dad, or your uncle, or your grandfather with you. Pack up the car, take your friends, and tail gate outside on of our states grand cathedrals of basketball and tell me it isn't a great thing to experience, even if you haven't done it since you were in school, or for a very long time.
Many say class basketball has ruined or hoosier pasttime. This is not a thread meant to discuss that topic, as I still know that rubs emotions raw. But for those who are choosing not to go somewhere to a game because you think high school basketball is dead, let me tell you partner, it is very very alive! Really only in the major urban areas is attendance down, and that is among mostly bigger 4A schools. Especially in the smaller schools, enthusiasm, dedication, and attendance is all up, and excitement in many places is at an all time high.
I promise you all this: if you pick the right venue and atmosphere, you'll have a great basketball day for yourself and your family. And this year, unlike last season, I'm even going to give out some recommendations on where to go, depending on where you may be reading this from. Consider it a favor from one basketball lover to many! You'll have many great games to choose from:
1. 4A at Michigan City pits South Bend Clay vs Munster, and Valporaiso vs Elkhart Memorial, with the winners playing at night for the title. This will likely be a matchup of 23-1 Munster vs 21-3 Valporaiso at night for all the marbles, although Elkhart is cinderella here, knocking off two powerhouse teams last week, and they have one of the state's best coaches in my opinion in Mark Barnhizer.
2. 4A at Marion should be exciting! Fort Wayne Snider against Anderson in the opener, old rivals Kokomo and Marion in the second game. Anyone could win this regional, but my money is on Anderson, playing under another great Hoosier coach in Ron Hecklinski.
3. 4A at Indianapolis has teams with huge talent, but will likely be the worst crowd and atmosphere of the day. Lawrence North is the big favorite here at 24-2 with several players goign to major D1 schools, such as Louisville and Kentucky, with Indiana and Michigan State also in the mix I hear. Hamilton Southeastern comes off their first ever sectional win, and Pike and Franklin Central play the second game. Franklin is very good, with all state player Patrick Bade headed to Purdue. Look for Lawrence North to march on.
4. 4A at Seymour in the "Owl's Nest" (one of the states best venues) is where I will be in the morning personally, to watch #1 ranked and undefeated Bloomington South hook up with #2 ranked and undefeated New Albany. South has several D1 level players, including Iu recruit and likely Mr Basketball Jordan Hulls playing the point. New Albany is no slouch either, having gone undefeated 2 consecutive regular seasons. 6'7 Donnie Hale is their big gun, and is likely headed to play for Rick Pitino I hear.
A sellout crowd is expected in the morning, although experience tells me there will be limited tickets at the door if you show up early enough. My guess is that the nations 4th ranked Bloomington South Panthers march on.
5. 3A in Plymouth has Rochester, Griffith, West Lafayette, and Gary Roosevelt. Plymouth is a fun place to see a game when the home team is playing, but I dont know what the crowd will be there this time. I'm guessing Rochester marches on.
6. 3A at Blackford has Peru and Delta in the first game, Whitko and Fort Wayne Harding in the second game. I have little information on these teams, but my guess is that this is one of the lighter attended regionals. Whitko is my pick to advance. Athough Harding has the worst record, they play a very hard schedule, and they could move on instead.
7. 3A Shelbyville. Shelbyville is a fun gym to see games at, and fans there will see New Palestine, North Montgomery, Greensburg, and perennial power Indianapolis Roncalli. North Mont should march on in front of a pretty good crowd.
8. 3A Washington. In my opinion, the states best regional and best gymnasium. Hoosier hysteria will have the town rocking all day Saturday, and Tbird and friends will be there at night for the final. Tickets are sold out as of 5 oclock today I am told, but SRO tickets will be sold at the door. Over 8500 will be crammed in the venerable "Hatchet House" on Saturday morning for Salem 19-4, vs Washington 21-2 (defending champ, ranked number 2), then Edgewood 16-7 takes on undefeated, 25-0 and ranked number 1 Princeton. Look for the 2 favorites to advance to the championship Saturday night, where a Hoosier hysteria classic is expected. If you guys reading this love basketball and want to try out what I am selling, THIS IS THE PLACE TO GO!
You can even pm me for restaurant information, if you like. Readers of this board like you DD, you would have a blast going to Washington Saturday night....but you better get there by 6 for a 7:30 start to get in! Or, if you head to the morning session (which will also be a blast) you better get there by 8:45 or so, no later! I look for Washington, with yet another Zeller brother, to upset number 1 Princeton!
9. 2A North Judson is the host of their own regional. They invite 21-3 Wheeler to play themselves, with Westview and Garrett to play the second game. I like Westview here, although it is just an educated guess.
10. 2A Tipton will be a blast. Their gym is known statewide as "the Inferno", and it indeed will be hot in Tipton on Saturday! All 4 of these teams have great storylines....North Miami with an interim coach hired midseason, Carroll of Flora has had a great season, Fort Wayne Luers with a proud tradition of state titles, and Tipton at 23-2 with Indiana recruit Derek Elston being near a legend in his hometown. Look for the party to go deep into the night at Tipton, as I think they'll dance on.
11. 2A at Connersville for you easterners pits perennial power Winchester and Centerville in the first game, with Lawrenceburg and Indianapolis Ritter going in the second. I really don't have any idea who will win, but I do know that there are few greater communities that support high school basketball than Winchester. Look for a big crowd to bring them over the top.
12. 2A at Huntingburg. This is annually one of my favorite stops, and would be a great place for some of you to head on Saturday, not for super high quality of play but for the surroundings. Memorial Coliseum is an outstanding gymansium right in the middle of Huntingburg, which is a great Indiana sports area and town. They actually play the theme from "Hoosiers" over the loud speakers thru out the entire town all day long there. If you go, I highly recommend "The Overtime Bar and Grill" right downtown within walking distance of the gymnasium, for the worlds biggest tenderloin! The local coach at Southridge used to own that bar, and I think he still does although Im not sure.
The games pit Covenent Christian vs Forest Park in the first game, with Bloomfield and Brownstown in the second. Some of the best coaches in the state are here this weekend, Ron Mcbride of Bloomfield is a big believer in the slow down game, and he will try to keep Dave Benter's Brownstown Braves from running the floor....this game may be in the 20's!
In the other game, the state's winningest coach by percentage is Tom Beach of Forest Park, who won it all under him just a couple of years ago. I look for the Forest Park Rangers to win both games and march on!
13. 1A at Triton. Triton is 21-2 playing Bethany Christian in the first game, the second pits Bowman Academy at 18-3 vs the Cinderella story of the Caston Comets, who won only 1 game all season before miraculously winning 3 last weekend to win the sectional!
My heart is with Caston, but reality will strike against Bowman Academy, who I predict will also beat Triton in the nightcap and move on.
14. 1A at Frankfort. The home of the hot dogs is the host for Monroe Central, Daleville, Lafayette Central Catholic, and the Rockville Rox. LCC has the tradition and experience, but I am going to rock on and go with the Rockville Rox to march on.
15. 1A at Martinsville in John Wooden Arena. A trip to Bynums steak house may be in order for these teams and their fans: Bethesda Christian, Waldron, 21-2 and highly favored Jac-Cen-Del, and the Clay City Eels, making their first regional appearance since 1985 I think. My guess here is that JCD cuts down the nets.
16. 1A at Loogootee. Again, this is an awesome atmosphere for games, and one I'd recommend if any of you want to make a road trip. I look for the Jack Butcher Arena to be sold out, but SRO tickets will likely be available if you arrive early enough. Great amish restaurants nearby as well!
Nearby school North Daviess advanced in very controversial fashion last week, and fans of rival schools are buying tickets just to root against them I hear! Now that is truly Hoosier hysteria! ND plays the Tecumseh Braves, followed by the Northeast Dubois Jeeps against one of the states best coaches in my opinion, Doc Nash and his Borden Braves. All of these teamns have awesome fan support, especially North Daviess and Borden, who I predict will both advance to the championship. My hope and prediction here is that justice finally prevails here, and that the Borden Braves celebrate all the way back home. You can read about what I am referring to in the North Daviess sectional by reading about it in the Washington Indiana newspaper by the way.
To review, the state's best venues and matchups tell me youll have fun anywhere Saturday, but I especially recommend Washington, Loogootee, Seymour, Huntingburg, and Tipton. Enjoy the spirit and passion wherever you go, as the celebration of our basketball heritage continues on once again!