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Boys basketball state tournament has been interesting thus far

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

It’s always nice when one of our local high school teams advances to the third week (or beyond) in an IHSAA state tournament, and that’s what we have again this year in boys basketball.

In 2018 it was New Castle reaching the Class 3A northern semi-state championship game before losing to eventual 3A state champion Culver Academies 65-60 at Lafayette Jeff.

This year, it is Shenandoah, who will be playing Linton-Stockton Saturday at 1 p.m. in Seymour for the Class 2A southern semi-state championship.

The Raiders (No. 2) are the highest-ranked team left in 2A after Tell City ousted No. 1 Southwestern (Hanover) last Saturday 54-48 in the semifinals of the Paoli regional. Linton-Stockton then defeated Tell City 45-36 to win the Regional 12 title at Paoli last Saturday night.

I interviewed Shenandoah Coach Dave McCollough Wednesday morning, and a preview story about the Raiders-Miners match-up will appear in Friday’s edition of The Courier-Times. Before I type that story, I hope someone provides me some stats about the individual Linton-Stockton players, as none are posted on MaxPreps.

Despite what happens Saturday, Shenandoah will be really good the next two years, as well, and I think now is a good time to campaign to get the Raiders back on the New Castle High School boys basketball schedule as they were for many years.

Before the sectionals began, I had predicted the winner of each one and put my picks in the C-T for all you readers to see. I ended up being right on 37 of the 64, not the 66.7 percent correct that I had obtained in my football sectional predictions last fall or even 60 percent, but 58 percent right isn’t bad considering all the upsets the first week of the tournament and that most sectionals had six or seven teams to choose from.

Thirty-seven right out of 64 still is way better than the 16 out of 64 right I had using a Ouija board to predict the sectional winners for the contest held by the now-defunct Indianapolis News back in 1968.

I can see why God disses Ouija boards in The Bible—they are lousy in predicting basketball tournament winners. I haven’t used a Ouija board since.

In taking a look at this year’s boys basketball tournament, some interesting tidbits surface.

Is there any doubt that the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference (the MIC) is the best conference in the state? It dominates the IHSAA football tournament in Class 6A, and now three of the four schools left standing in the tournament in Class 4A are from the MIC - Carmel, Ben Davis, and Center Grove.

One of them (either Ben Davis or Center Grove) is guaranteed to play for the Class 4A state championship in Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 23, and I’m pretty sure Carmel will be there, too, to make it an all-MIC party, as I don’t think Penn has much of a chance to defeat the Greyhounds Saturday in the Class 4A northern semi-state title game.

No matter what Culver Academies does against Marion this Saturday in the Class 3A northern semi-state championship game, it is guaranteed to move up to Class 4A next season, as the Eagles already have accumulated the minimum six points to do so under the IHSAA’s tournament success factor.

I think the Hoosier Heritage Conference (HHC) is a better conference overall than the North Central Conference (NCC), but both of the sectional winners from the HHC (Delta and New Pal) were eliminated from the IHSAA tournament in the regional round while the NCC’s lone sectional winner (Marion) still is alive to compete for a state title.

Marion and Lafayette Jeff tied for the NCC championship this season with 7-2 records apiece, and the Giants ended Delta’s undefeated season 45-39 in the championship game of Class 3A Regional 6, so one could take the position that the NCC’s best was better than the HHC’s best in boys basketball this season.

Did you know that only seven of the 64 sectional hosts were champions of the sectionals they hosted? That has to be one of the lowest figures of all time. So much for home court advantage in hosting a tournament.

Of 16 teams left in the state tournament, six have mascots that are warriors or soldiers (Trojans, Raiders, Braves, Knights, Vikings, and Fighting 59ers), three are birds (Eagles twice and Cardinals), three are mythical beings (Giants twice and Dragons), two are mammals (Greyhounds and Tigers), and two are occupations (Kingsmen and Miners).

There are no Cinderellas left in the tournament and there are no teams even close to having a losing record.

Shenandoah has the best record percentage-wise at 26-1 and two other teams (Linton-Stockton and Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian) are tied with the Raiders for most wins at 26.

Carmel (24-1) is the only other team besides Shenandoah with just one loss. On the other hand, Andrean has the worst record percentage-wise among the 16 teams left at 19-8, but the Class 2A Fighting 59ers consistently play the bigger 3A and 4A schools in the northwestern part of the state, so that record may be deceiving.

It should be an interesting Saturday of semi-state action, and I hope Shenandoah wins so I can follow it to Bankers Life on March 23.

As I am typing this, today (March 13) is the 48th anniversary of New Castle’s appearance in the 1971 Indianapolis semi-state at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Trojans faced Batesville (who had lost only one game all season) in the second afternoon semifinal game.

New Castle didn’t play all that well for three quarters and was down 54-44 after three. I remember the Trojan student section, including myself, not giving up, and yelling encouragement to the team during the break between the third and fourth quarter.

I like to think that what we students did helped, as New Castle roared out of the gate for the final period and outscored the Bulldogs 24-9 in that last quarter to record a 68-63 victory and move on to the semi-state championship game that night. I’ll never forget the stunned looks of the Batesville players and fans at the end of that contest.

That game ended around 3:30 p.m. and we were taken to the State Fairgrounds to get something to eat and mess around before the night game, which started at 8 p.m.

Hinkle Fieldhouse was a sea of green that night as more than 7,000 New Castle fans were there (compared to only about 1,000 fans for Bloomington) to watch the Trojans defeat the Panthers 77-65 to win the semi-state title and clinch a berth in the state finals the following Saturday.

It was the last game Bloomington played as a unified high school, as it split into Bloomington North and Bloomington South for the 1971-72 season. 

After the 22 student buses returned to New Castle that night, there was a gigantic pep session in New Castle Fieldhouse honoring our semi-state champion Trojans. We had no classes the following Monday, as we spent the day painting signs and taking some of them to elementary schools around the city for those kids to sign.

It was one of the best times I experienced as a high school student here and one I’ll never forget. As folks sometimes say, you can lose your possessions, but you’ll always have your memories.

David Risley is sports editor of The Courier-Times.