The Linton Miners celebrate after winning the 2016 Class 2A sectional at North Knox, 43-40 over South Knox in five overtimes.
Every year is seems Class 2A Sectional 47 is one of the most - if not the most - competitive sectionals in 2A basketball.
For each of the last four tournaments at least three - and sometimes four - teams could claim a legitimate chance at winning. And it’s true again this year.
As South Knox coach Mark Rohrer said, “Another year and another loaded Sectional 47!”
The one common thread the past four sectionals? Linton-Stockton won all four. That’s four consecutive sectional championships - unprecedented in the history of the Linton basketball program.
It started in 2013 when the Miners upset favored Sullivan to win the school’s first sectional since 1982.
And we know where that ended up - Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The next three sectionals share another common thread - South Knox was the bridesmaid each time.
In 2014 Linton played the role of the avengers. The Miners reversed regular season losses to Sullivan and South Knox to repeat as sectional champions.
The next year Linton edged the Spartans 36-33 - high-scoring affair that - for the three-peat.
And who can forget last year’s instant classic? Linton Miners 43, South Knox Spartans 40 in five overtimes.
Now Linton-Stockton will be gunning for a record fifth straight title.
But just like last year, the Barr-Reeve Vikings, Eastern Greene Thunderbirds and South Knox Spartans figure to have plenty to say about that.
Barr-Reeve joined the Sectional 47 field last year after the 2015 Class A state champions were bumped up a class due to the IHSAA Tournament Success Factor.
And the Vikings have had little trouble adjusting to life in 2A. Barr-Reeve entered last year’s sectional as the top-ranked team in 2A. This year they were ranked third in the most recent poll.
Last year computer guru Jeff Sagarin assigned Barr-Reeve a 59 percent likelihood of winning Sectional 47.
But we all know what happened. South Knox fired the shot heard ‘round Southern Indiana, knocking off the vaunted Vikings 43-40 in the semifinal round.
And Spartans coach Mark Rohrer got his first win in eight tries against his mentor Bryan Hughes.
Rohrer played for Barr-Reeve and was Hughes’ point guard. The Spartans coach still holds the Class 1A State Finals record for assists with nine against Oregon-Davis in the 2007 state title game.
It’s entirely possible the Bloomfield Cardinals gave South Knox a shot of confidence. The 2016 Class A State Finalist Cards won 44-35 at Barr-Reeve in the regular-season finale, proving the Vikings weren’t invincible.
As did South Knox, a week later.
Hmm, 43-40 - the same score as the five-overtime grinder between Linton and South Knox in the sectional championship.
When Pierce Jackson’s 3-pointer at the end of the fifth overtime hit nothing but rope, jubilation erupted on the Miner side. And it was yet another heartbreak for the Spartans.
It was South Knox’s second straight three-point loss to Linton in a sectional final.
OK, enough about years past.
Then again, there are just a few too many similarities to last year’s lineup to merely toss it aside as old, useless, irrelevant past history.
Just like last March, Barr-Reeve and Linton both enter sectional play ranked in the AP top 10.
Barr-Reeve was ranked third in the most recent poll. The Vikings dropped from the top spot after a 59-49 loss at 3A Jasper February 2.
Likewise, the Miners dropped from fourth to sixth after a 49-47 overtime loss at Loogootee the same night.
Which is about where I’d have Linton-Stockton rated.
Sagarin also has Barr-Reeve rated third in 2A, the Miners ninth. I don’t know enough about teams like Westview and Southwood - teams the computer guru has just ahead of Linton - to know how good those teams are, or aren’t.
I do know this - Linton beat Terre Haute South. And I doubt if there are more than four or five teams in 2A and 1A combined who could do the same on their best night with South playing at its worst.
And I hate to keep harping on an old tired theme but Barr-Reeve figures to again be the favorite.
Sagarin agrees, assigning Barr-Reeve a 51 percent and Linton a 21 percent chance of winning.
The Vikings have already beaten everyone in the sectional field with the exception of Mitchell who they don’t play.
Barr-Reeve beat Linton by seven, North Knox by 37, Eastern Greene by 22 and South Knox by 11 - all in December.
But as sectionals past should have taught us, basketball in December isn’t necessarily the same as basketball in March.
Class 2A Sectional 47 has been a highly competitive sectional each of the past half-dozen seasons and this year is no different.
And that’s why I enjoy this sectional so much.
Every year it seems several teams have a very real chance of winning and anything can happen come tournament time.
Ever since Eastern Greene blew everyone out in the 2011 sectional, the next five sectional championship games produced “instant classics.”
And that’s what makes this sectional so compelling.
Players and coaches, give it all you’ve got, take your very best shot, and may the best team win!
See you next week in Little Cincinnati!