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The best time of year starts next weekPosted Thursday, February 24, 2011, at 7:16 PM
Although there are not 738 teams that participated in 1938 or 694 that played in 1960, the Indiana High School Athletic Association's 101st annual boys basketball state tournament will begin next week.
Despite what March weather brings, and we never seem to know what mother nature will dish out in the weeks leading up to the official start of spring, there are 401 teams around the Hoosier state are preparing for battle for one of four crowns.
Although class basketball, whether we like it or not is here to stay, will never have the excitement and drama of the old single-class tournament, those involved, even those like myself on the periphery, consider it the 'best time of the year.'
Some nine teams sectionals start Monday, but the majority of the 64 sectional sites will begin Tuesday, including the two sectionals involving local teams.
"I still get excited," said Linton-Stockton coach Joey Hart. "It is a lot of fun.
"It is a great time for the kids."
Eastern Greene coach Andy Igel, who's Thunderbirds will face the Miners in the opening game at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Eastern Greene Class 2A Sectional 45, said his coaching staff joined him at the local fire station to watch the pairings being announced Sunday night.
It was optional for his players to attend.
"They all showed up on their own," said Igel. "To be real honest, the draw is what is it.
"You can't change it. Any coach that tells you they don't want the bye is lying."
When I asked Hart about class basketball, he showed his sense of humor.
"I think class basketball stinks. If things would go back to the way they were before (when we would not have played Eastern), that would be just fine," said Hart, a member of the 1989 sectional champion Union (Dugger) Bulldogs who also lost at the 1990 Terre Haute Sectional during the non-class years of the tournament. "Dad (former Union (Dugger) coach Joe Hart) was a major proponent of class basketball because of having to play at the Terre Haute Sectional every other year.
"I know that Eastern did not get a fair shake when they got shipped off to the Bedford Sectional."
When I phoned Bloomfield coach John Bucher a couple of hours after the pairings were announced, his first comments were, "There was a draw for the sectional tonight. Nobody told me.
"Since it's you, I have some time to talk about it."
Those three wouldn't be the first to be less than honest with a sports writer, though they are usually very candid.
" As the character Gregory House says on the TV show House, "Everybody lies."
When I stopped laughing at Bucher's dry wit, we had a very nice conversation about the sectional. They open play against South Knox at 6 p.m. Friday, March 4 in the first semifinal at Eastern Greene.
It is a rematch of the title game last year, won by South Knox 50-45.
He is hopeful the Cardinals' schedule, their attitude and work ethic and possible revenge factor for last year, will be enough to get them past the Spartans and into the title game.
He also said if you throw out the loss to Class 4A Terre Haute South, that his Cardinals, who have been starting Kyle Doane, Caleb Hasler, Drake Vandeventer, Ben Hays and Ryan O'Neall with Payton Karl, Bryce Lindsey and Jake Phegley playing off the bench, has been defending better and have been competitive.
Even though Igel will admit that his defense, which was without starting center Ray Darnell, was less than stellar for a half in a victory over South Knox last week, the Spartans have some athletic kids that did not seem to be in awe of the Thunderbirds, who are 19-1 and ranked No. 8 going into their regular-season finale tonight at North Daviess.
The Linton-Stockton-Eastern Greene winner will meet North Knox at 7:30 p.m. in the second semifinal Friday, March 4.
The championship games across Indiana are set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Hart said they have to be able to take care of the ball against the Eastern Greene pressure. They committed 29 turnovers as they were dominated by the Thunderbirds -- 72-34 -- during the regular season.
Hart said he has been pleased the attitude and work ethic of his kids in his first season at Linton-Stockton.
He said the Miners, who start Austin Karazsia, Dess Fougerousse, Blake Eaton, Caleb Stuppy and Koye Kaiser and have Ben Brown play off the bench in his six-man rotation, are in pretty good shape.
"We run for every turnover in practice," he said. "So we get a chance to run a lot."
Despite a few nagging injuries, Igel expects to start Zack Johnson and Ray Darnell up front to go with a three-guard look of Davis Russell, Tyler Igel and JT Yoho.
They are all seniors with Yoho being a junior.
Nathan Cobine, Zach Ingram, Miles Hutchison, Logan Hash and Brody Martin give the Thunderbirds a second five that will see significant minutes.
Tyler has returned to the line-up after some back issues and Darnell is expect to start at North Daviess after missing two games with sprained ankle.
While watching his team warm-up before the South Knox contest Feb. 19, I commented to Darnell, you don't look like your injured to me.
He has been the perfect complement to Yoho as the two have paced the balanced Eastern Greene offense.
The sectional at WRV will be interesting as well as the Wolverines, who will be without center Cole Goodman (broken wrist), will take on defending champion North Central at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Luke Mowery has been suffering from the flu, but coach J.B. Neill is hoping for his return. Jan Juhas has been starting in place of Goodman.
John Ashcraft and Cade Hill will be counted on for major contributions.
Clay City will meet Eminence in the second game at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Union (Dugger) will take on the WRV-NC winner at 6 p.m. Friday, March 4 and then Shakamak will face the CC-EM winner at 7:30 p.m. in the second semifinal.
As Bucher said after North Central gave the Cards all they wanted for three quarters, "These guys are going to slip up and get somebody one of these nights."
Center Aaron Bellgraph is athletic enough to cause some problems and Seth Vanschoyck can shoot the 3-pointer as evidenced by the five treys he hit against Linton-Stockton.
Eminence has 11 wins against a less than stellar schedule, but they have some athletic kids than can shoot it.
Clay City might be the most dangerous and unpredictable team in that sectional. When they are on, they play unselfishly and have some of the best ball movement I've seen this year.
With a player like Tyler Talpas, Union (Dugger) can't be counted out. As coach Clarence Johnson said, "Nobody outside of Dugger is really giving us much of a chance to do anything. It's not been a great year as far as wins and losses go.
"Why not? Two wins can turn a season that's not been the greatest in the world around. Two wins in a week and a half and you can forget the rest of the season."
Upsets are a part of the tournament lore, including Milan over Muncie Central in the 1954 title game being the most famous.
Locally, Linton-Stockton finished the 1971 season with a 6-19 record, including a 103-42 loss to Jasper in the Huntingburg Regional.
But after winning just four of 22 games during the regular season, the Miners, led by coach Tom Oliphant, notched victories over host Switz City (62-56) and Eastern (70-62) to win the sectional.
Rivet's 30-point turnaround -- from a 19-point regular-season loss to 11-point sectional semifinal win -- against Sullivan still is something that Arrow coach Jeff Moore said he will never forget.
It was just nine years ago that Pike Central lost to Vincennes Lincoln 71-37 during a 2-19 regular season. In the tournament, the Chargers walked away with a 54-46 victory.
In a span of four nights, PC won as many games -- two -- as they had all year, including a semifinal victory over Princeton before losing to Jasper in the final game of the Class 3A Washington Regional.
So what does all of this mean?
Only time will tell.
Good luck to all.
"We want to get lucky," said Bucher. "If we get all the breaks, that will be just fine."
B.J. Hargis is the sports editor at the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached at email@example.com or at (812) 847-4487, ext. 12.
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