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Boys basketball state finals had a few surprises

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Linton-Stockton sophomore Lincoln Hale (15) passes to junior teammate Kip Fougerousse (11) as Shenandoah junior Jackson Campbell (5) and sophomore Andrew Bennett (12) guard the pair of Miners during Class 2A southern semi-state action in Seymour. Hale and Fougerousse are the only returning starters for 2A state runner-up Linton-Stockton next season while Campbell and Bennett both return for the Raiders.
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New Castle sophomore William Grieser (20) is guarded by Carmel freshman Pete Suder (10) as the Greyhounds’ John Michael Mulloy (33) looks on from the background during January’s boys basketball game in the Fieldhouse. Saturday, Suder was Carmel’s leading scorer in its 60-55 Class 4A state championship victory over Ben Davis, and Mulloy received the Arthur L. Trester Award.
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New Castle’s Nicholas Grieser (24, with ball) is guarded by Culver Academies’ John Cohen (4) during the 2018 Class 3A southern semi-state championship game at Lafayette Jeff. This season as seniors, Grieser was named to the All-Hoosier Heritage Conference team while Cohen received the Arthur L. Trester Award after his Eagles lost to Silver Creek 52-49 in last Saturday’s Class 3A state title game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

I had hoped to be in Bankers Life Fieldhouse last Saturday covering one of our local teams in the IHSAA boys basketball state finals, but it was not meant to be this year. Perhaps next year will be different.

Instead, I was over at Bethesda Christian High School northwest of Brownsburg running the scoreboard and keeping the scorebook at the PostYourT Girls East/West All-Star Basketball Games.

Usually, there are a few local girls in those games, but not this year. If there had been some, there would have been a story and photos in today’s edition of The Courier-Times about them. Perhaps 2020 will have a local flavor to them.

I missed seeing the Class A boys state championship game on TV, but I did arrive back in New Castle in time to see most of the Class 2A contest.

I had heard that Class A No. 1 Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian was very good and that proved to be the case as the Braves overwhelmed No. 2 Barr-Reeve 60-43 for the Class A title.

The score could have been even more lopsided, as Blackhawk had a 48-23 lead after three quarters before the Vikings made it a little closer with a 20-point final period.

I felt that Linton-Stockton was a good bet to defeat Andrean in the Class 2A championship game after seeing the Miners handle a pretty good Shenandoah team in the southern semi-state championship game, and for 30 minutes it looked like Linton-Stockton would claim the trophy.

But after scoring a basket with a little over two minutes left in the game to take a 54-48 lead, the Miners didn’t score again as The Fighting 59ers went on an 11-0 run to close the contest and claim the 2A title 59-54.

Linton-Stockton didn’t shoot nearly as well Saturday as they did against Shenandoah, and that was one reason for its downfall.

The Miners graduate three senior starters while Andrean returns most of its team next season.

That sets up an interesting scenario next season to see who will be the best team in Class 2A from the north, as Blackhawk Christian moves up to Class 2A for the 2019-20 season because of the IHSAA’s tournament success factor rule.

It would not be a surprise if the battle for the 2A northern semi-state championship next season is between the Braves and the Fighting 59ers. Hopefully, the Raiders and other local 2A teams will stay on the southern path in the tournament.

If you watched on TV (or were there in Bankers Life Fieldhouse in person), have you ever seen such dismal free throw shooting for both teams in a state championship game as was exhibited by Culver Academies and Silver Creek in the Class 3A state championship game Saturday evening?

Both the Eagles and Dragons shot under 50 percent from the charity stripe for the game and both normally are pretty good free throw shooting teams.

Perhaps it was the shooting background at Bankers Life, but Culver Academies played for the state championship in the same venue in 2018 and didn’t shoot poorly from the foul stripe, so I don’t know what the problem was.  

In any case, it was a close game. For a while there, I thought private schools would make a clean sleep in winning the A, 2A, and 3A state titles, but Silver Creek got a lead late and managed to hold on for a 52-49 victory over the Eagles. 

Culver Academies moves up to Class 4A the next two seasons, so New Castle won’t have to be concerned about playing the Eagles in the semi-state next year regardless of whether the Trojans are sent north or south.   

When I saw New Castle play Carmel in the Fieldhouse in late January, I felt the Greyhounds would be the representative from the north in the Class 4A state finals, and that proved to be the case.

Carmel faced fellow Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference member Ben Davis in the 4A state championship game Saturday night. The Greyhounds beat the Giants by 10 points during their regular season meeting.

This game was pretty close throughout and Carmel ended up winning 60-55 which wasn’t a surprise to many, as the No. 1 Greyhounds finished the season with only a two-point home loss to Brownsburg preventing them from having a perfect record during the 2018-19 season. 

Carmel does (and should) win a lot of IHSAA state championships in various sports because it is by far the largest school in the state by enrollment with 5,286 students enrolled in four grades. Ben Davis is second with 4,499 students, and then there is a drop of more than 600 students until one reaches the third largest school in Warren Central (3,821).

The largest non-Indy metro area school is Penn, which comes in No. 6 at 3,338 students, and Lake Central is seventh at 3,316.

Carmel would have moved up to another class next season based upon the IHSAA’s tournament success factor rule (it was Class 4A runner-up to Warren Central last year and then won the 4A title this year), but there is no class higher than 4A.

It seems like the Carmel High School girls swimming team has won the state championship since President Lincoln was in the White House. Go up and down the sports list. and you’ll see Greyhound teams finishing at the top or near the top in most state championship events.

Is Carmel High School too big? I don’t know, but what I do know is that if you split the one big high school into two smaller ones, those two “new” schools would have enrollments of 2,643 apiece which still would place them as the 15th and 16th largest high schools in the state.

With the domination of Indy metro schools, I wonder if we’ll ever see a Warsaw vs. Columbus North state championship match-up in Class 6A football or 4A basketball. I wouldn’t hold my breath.

In any case, now is the time the IHSAA needs to make all sports class sports in this state, giving those athletes in boys and girls tennis, boys and girls swimming, boys and girls golf, boys and girls track & field, gymnastics, and wrestling a fair shake when competing for team championships.  

David Risley is sports editor at The Courier-Times.