Now that the 2018-19 season has come to an end, now it’s time to experience Hoosier Hysteria at its finest in the 109th State Tournament. Please note that my picks are completely subjective, so please don’t take this to offense. Besides, I’m not expected to be right every time and with this tournament being as historic and crazy as it has been, my picks are in major jeopardy. So, here goes.
1A 52 @ Fremont
FW Blackhawk 11 defending sectional champs
Fremont 5 (2005)
Hamilton 4 (2001)
Elkhart Christian 1 defending sectional champs
Lakewood Park 1 (2017)
FW Smith Academy (3-19) vs Fremont (6-16)
If there’s one thing Fremont accomplished in this year’s sectional is that not only they avoided Lakewood Park and Blackhawk Christian in the first two rounds, but they play the worst team in the sectional, and potentially a winnable game in the second round. Difference between the two teams: 1. Tanner Behnfeldt and his teammates are decently good athletes, 2. Smith plays almost ZERO defense and 3. It’s Fremont’s barn: The CAGE where the fans get loud in a unique, enclosed basketball setting. Just like what that crew from Fremont sports dot com would say, “Nothing But Net”.
Prediction: 71-43 Fremont
Lakewood Park (7-15) vs Hamilton (4-17)
Winner gets to meet the alpha dogs known as Caleb Furst and Frankie Davidson. Hamilton enters this sectional with the most wins in 2 seasons despite having yet another down season. But, they get to redeem themselves against a Lakewood Park team that has been young and have struggled to transition with new head coach Steve Oberlin.
One things for certain, both teams can score buckets, but both teams have struggled to stop buckets from going into their own nets. Part of the Panthers’ problem is the fact they’re playing a lot of young players that aren’t accustomed to playing significant varsity minutes. As for Hamilton, they’re not only small but they have been plagued with turnovers and bad defensive play. Stanojcic and Merritt along with a decent group led by Dustin Cool could make things interesting especially since this is the most talented team they’ve had in a while, but if they’re going to beat a Panthers team that has Caedmon Bontrager as a freshman, Caleb Kruse, Josh Pike, and Dylan Miller, they can not afford getting caught in this trap of who can make the most baskets. Hamilton has got to be better defensively if they’re going to have a shot at their first sectional win in 4 years. Lakewood Park is 4-2 all-time in the playoffs vs Hamilton.
Prediction: 68-62 Lakewood Park
1A #1 FW Blackhawk (21-2) vs Lakeland Christian (10-13)
Hey, nice season for Lakeland Christian. But, here’s the problem, they don’t play anybody that can test the superteam known as the Blackhawk Christian Braves. So, unfortunately, Lakeland Christian is the FURST (get it? No? You’re not fun) team to face the wrath of 1A’s top dog. I think it’s time for Fremont to start rehearsing that trophy presentation speech.
Prediction: 98-34 Blackhawk
Bethany Christian (3-19) vs Fremont
You know what’s better than drawing the worst team in sectionals? Potentially getting to play the 2nd worst team there. Fremont fans definitely want to cheer their team for one more night.
Prediction: 71-36 Fremont
Lakewood Park vs 1A #1 Blackhawk
Congratulations, Lakewood Park, now it’s time to meet that team that dropped a school-record 114 on you. I know life’s not fair..
Prediction: 91-47 Blackhawk
Fremont vs 1A #1 Blackhawk
Congratulations Fremont, you most likely get to play in the sectional finals even though you probably have no chance to beat a team that shouldn’t even be in 1A. Dang. That’s just cruel, man. But, hey, at least you could feel proud that you’re going to fight to the bitter end even if Blackhawk has a couple guys that are almost a foot taller than you. And just to not make it sound like I have zero emotion whatsoever. Blackhawk has way too many weapons for half of 1A to compete with because Caleb Furst (19.4 point 10.6 boards) is awesome and will go to the Big 10, Frankie Davidson (22.3 points 10.8 boards) is probably going to the Big 10, plus his dad is a stud coach, Zane Burke (13.1 points) is playing too well right now, and that entire bench could have probably competed with 80% of the other sectional teams’ starting fives. #MoveBlackhawkTo2A
Prediction: 84-52 Blackhawk
Top 1A teams in Northern Indiana
- Blackhawk Christian
- Gary 21st Century
- Lafayette Central Catholic
- Washington Township
- Morgan Township
- North Vermillion
- Jac-Cen Del
2A 37 @ Oak Hill
Rochester 33 (2009)
Wabash 26 (1967)
Manchester 11 (1995)
Oak Hill 9 defending sectional champs
Lewis Cass 9 (2014)
North Miami 3 (2011)
Rochester (10-10) vs Manchester (12-10)
With a massive graduation class depleting the reigning state champs, it appears to me that there is some breathing room for someone to finally hoist a trophy in 2019. One of them could come from the Manchester Squires, who are quietly having a solid season led by sophomore Weston Hamby (15 points and 3 assists per game) and senior Brayden Casper (10.1 points and 6.8 boards). As a team, they shoot the ball fairly well at 42% from the floor, they have made over 100 3’s for about 33%, and they’re pretty solid from the free throw line at just under 70%. But, more than anything else, this is a team that is very humbled on their defense as they amass a reasonable 25 boards and over a block a game.
But, Rochester will be a challenge for the Squires as this Zebras team is also stingy on the defensive end. While this team is probably not as deep or talented quite frankly as their opposition, they shoot fairly well at 46% and makes 33% of their triples despite only making less than 70 in that area. I’m expecting this game to be tight and low scoring for most of this match. Squires won the first playoff meeting 2 years ago 59-36.
Prediction: 44-36 Manchester
Wabash (18-4) vs North Miami (7-13)
Wabash is a bad matchup for North Miami. Good day.
Prediction: 70-45 Wabash
Cass (5-17) vs Manchester
Yeah I have nothing to say here. Hopefully, Lewis Cass doesn’t play the game of we’re going to try to spoil Manchester’s run like the girls team almost did.
Prediction: 62-35 Manchester
Oak Hill (10-12) vs Wabash
Now, here’s an interesting scenario. You have Oak Hill who won state last season, but lost almost everybody from that team, and have struggled all season to stay at .500. Meanwhile, you have a Wabash team that’s having its best season in probably 25+ years at least. Some may argue they could make the deep run to Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
This Apaches team is loaded all the way around. Their offense has been humming all season at over 65 a game led by junior Trenton Daughtry (17 points 3.8 assists 4.7 boards and 3.3 steals per game) and 6’5 senior Logan Vander Veldon (10 points 3.5 assists 5.3 boards 3.5 blocks and 2.3 steals a game). This is a very deep Wabash team that loves the 3-ball making nearly 120 of them despite shooting under 30%, but they have been tremendous on the boards with nearly 33 of them. They also distribute the ball well, and they average over 4 blocks a game, but their biggest area of weakness to this point has been the free throws as the team shoots a pedestrian 62%. The other challenge has been they’ve only been in 6 games where it was decided by 10 or less in which they only went 3-3.
Oak Hill went off to a disastrous 1-7 start, but have since went 9-5. Scoring has been nowhere near where it was last season, but it has been good enough to help the team grind out wins led by senior Konner Cable (12.4 points and 4.2 boards) and junior Tahj Johnson (8.4 points 3.3 boards and 2.2 steals). Like Wabash, they love the 3-ball as they’ve made 94 of them for 33%, but shooting just 56% from the free throw line. Rebounding will be a trial for Oak Hill as they’ve only recorded just under 23 a game, but have facilitated the ball well on the court. The Golden Eagles grit and depth should be able to keep the defending state champs in this mix, but they’re going to need to find a way to shut down this potent Wabash if they want this run to continue. Oak Hill has eliminated Wabash in each of the last 2 years.
Prediction: 57-54 Wabash
Manchester vs Wabash
This is probably the most fitting way to decide the sectional: a conference and county rivalry. Clearly these 2 do not like each other and it shows from past games. Manchester hasn’t won a boys sectional in 24 years, while it’s been 52 years since Wabash last claimed a boys basketball sectional. These two have faced each other 7 times in playoff action with Wabash winning 4 of them. Wabash pretty easily won their regular season game vs the Squires, but I don’t see the same result from that game. I think Manchester will step it up defensively because if they were to meet whoever in the title game, they know what’s at stake, especially if it’s none other than Wabash. But, in the end, I think Apache hang on to win their first sectional since 1967.
Prediction: 57-48 Wabash
2A 36 @ Eastside
Bluffton 31 (2011)
FW Canterbury 6 defending sectional champs
Adams Central 6 (2012)
South Adams 5 (1993)
Eastside 4 (2010)
Churubusco 1 (2017)
Eastside (9-13) vs FW Canterbury (6-13)
Here you have two teams who are in interesting trends as we head into the 2019 boys basketball state tournament. We can admit both teams have had their struggles for much of this season one way or another, but they seem to be able to weather the storm.
This is a very gritty Eastside team that still has youth and depth with 6,7, or even 8 guys they can rely on to get the job done with the likes of Alex Yoder, Chase Franz, Gabe Trevino, Noah Johnson, and Phoenix Smyth, but I’m honestly still struggling to figure what they really are. Some nights they look like their old selves, and other nights, in a nice way of saying things, it’s obvious that there are some struggles. From what I saw them a month ago, it seems like they on occasion have went through a couple dry spells, but the Blazers are having a decent year on the offensive end, especially when they move the ball real well. As for the defense, it’s really hard to describe. I watched them play CN, and while CN is undoubtedly an excellent offensive team, I felt like Eastside didn’t play their best defensive game that night much like a couple nights. However, on other nights like the Angola game, they seemed to have been more sharper defensively.
While I still think the Blazers have a shot of a “upset” on the reigning sectional champs, how well they move the ball and their defensive performance could very well be keys to either survive and advance or have their season end early. Now, this is probably the weakest Canterbury team I’ve ever seen, but this is still Canterbury. The Cavs have never been known for having a very good bench, but their starting 5 when they’re at their best is pretty solid with Will Shank, Noah Drapala, and Noah Wolfe. Do NOT assume they’re a bad team based on their record cuz they play most of the teams in Fort Wayne and play a much tougher schedule than most teams in 2A.
Size could potentially be an issue for Eastside as the Cavs have 5 players that are 6’3 and taller, while Eastside only has 5 6-foot players. Both teams definitely love the 3-ball, especially from the Cavs, so this could be a high-scoring game, but for Eastside they cannot let this game turn into a shootout. This will probably be a close game. Canterbury own a 2-1 playoff record vs Eastside.
Prediction: 58-51 Canterbury
South Adams (2-20) vs Churubusco (11-11)
Well, at least South Adams was able to hang on and beat a prep school in Anderson (no not the Anderson Indians. The other team that nobody knows) I don’t expect Churubusco to let this game fall out of their grasps. Onward to round 2 hopefully in convincing fashion if you’re the Eagles.
Prediction: 67-50 Busco
Adams Central (13-10) vs Canterbury
This is probably the most likely matchup in this sectional with Adams Central getting the bye. The Jets like pretty much that entire sectional has seen its ups and downs. AC started the season 5-1, but are just 8-9 since. Kevin Brown became the school’s all-time leading scorer just a few weeks ago in a loss @ Southwood, and while there is some help at AC, I get the perception that it’s basically him caring his team on the offensive end. Now, defensively, this has been (for the most part) a solid team that has helped them grind out wins, especially like the come-from-behind 61-56 win @ Fremont which is not an easy place to win let alone make a comeback and win there.
Now, AC did beat Canterbury 65-50 back on Dec. 8 at the Hanger (also not an easy place to win either), but do keep in mind that AC was 5-1 at that time, and Canterbury was in a midst of 8 losses in a 9-game span. Canterbury has since slightly improved at 3-4. I just have this feeling that the Cavs are going to find a way to win this game, and if AC cannot contain Will Shank or can’t stop the Cavs’ perimeter shooting, then I might be right. I know the USF baseball commit Kevin Brown is darn good at sports, but I see the Cavs advancing.
Prediction: 59-55 Canterbury
Bluffton (7-15) vs Churubusco
Here’s a interesting scenario with the Bluffton-Churubusco matchup. You have two teams where one way or another have faced their fair share of adversity but have improved enter sectionals. Busco has won 4 of their last 6 while Bluffton has posted a 6-7 record since posting a 1-8 start.
The Tigers are a pretty relentless team where they’ve been a team-by-committee led by senior Johnathan Irwin (12.4 points and 2.1 assists). Bluffton has been in a ton of close games as they are 3-7 in games decided by 10 points or less with 4 of those games decided in OT. Busco has had to rely on the 6-7 guys that play the most often, but boy have they been good. Jackson Paul (18.1 points 5.7 assists 5.3 boards and 3.3 steals a game) is one of the most dynamic guards in our area along with great contribution from Mason Garland, Gage Kelly, and obvioulsy Brayton Bonar.
I could potentially see Bluffton’s size in the interior create some problems for Busco, but the way they have performed on defense lately, I like their chances to move on in the title game.
Prediction: 59-50 Busco
Canterbury vs Churubusco
Let’s be honest. We kind of want this matchup since last year’s sectional, and it would interesting to see how these two teams match up this time around. Obviously, these two teams are no where near deprived when it comes to the talent department, but work ethic you might argue is quite high for both teams. Now, right off the bat you might notice there is a size difference between the two teams as Canterbury is obviously taller in size, but that doesn’t always make the case here. Busco has proved time and time again that as long as they’re healthy and playing hard, they’re going to give every team fits.
With a sectional as weak as this one since it is the state’s fifth weakest sectional, you can make a real argument for really any of them to win that sectional. I went back and forth with this matchup for the past week. Yes, it was a struggle. But, you know what I was impressed enough of Busco’s effort and cohesion that perhaps they might play well enough to win another sectional title. This will be a very interesting week at Eastside for sure.
Prediction: 57-56 Busco
2A 35 @ Westview
Westview 19 defending sectional champs
Whitko 14 (2009)
Bremen 9 (1999)
Central Noble 5 (2017)
LaVille 5 (2015)
Prairie Heights 2 (2011)
Central Noble (15-7) vs 2A #3 Westview (21-5)
After tonight’s crazy comeback by the Cougars, there’s a vibe with CN, more of, I can sense a wave of momentum that feels similar to the 2017 run. But, can they do it again?
This is where that will be put to test. Despite Westview’s loss @ Concord, this does not affect how I look at Westview. I’ve watched several of their games and 2 in person. One thing that sticks out to me is that they don’t shoot themselves too often, they make hay out of taking advantage of turnovers or mistakes from opposing teams, and they work really hard pretty much every game regardless of the outcome, and with a deeply talented group there, they’re obviously well-coached at Topeka. Charlie Yoder is to me the greatest “pure shooter” I have ever seen, and he’s just a solid all-around athlete. Elijah Hales needs no introduction as he has been an outstanding all-around athlete for the Warriors, Nick Rensberger continues to be strong on the defensive end, and Josh Hostetler is arguably the most dangerous “6th man” in Northern Indiana.
Now, while Central Noble hasn’t been as inconsistent as in years’ past, sometimes I’m still not quite sure what they really are. It’s quite evident they can score the basketball, and quite frankly they are so much fun to watch. But, their defense (while it’s not bad) has its moments. Connor Essegian has been a joy to watch since his debut and his poised 2-way game has made an immediate impact on this program as he shattered the program’s freshman records and became Noble County’s highest scoring freshman. Ridley Zolman continues to be Ridley Zolman. Strong rebounder, excellent post player, and obviously he knows how to let it rain. Lucas Deck when he’s healthy produces almost like Jason Kidd numbers where he is a triple-double machine at the point guard position along with his defense, and finally you have other players like Nick Alwine, Jacob Brose, and Carson Capps that just do their jobs well.
Both teams can shoot the ball well as stated. Westview tends to be slightly less aggressive with the 3-ball since they have the size to pound it, while CN is simply extremely athletic, and they are extremely dangerous from the perimeter where it has to be close to 40% if not higher. But, here’s the challenge with Westview. I don’t know how you really beat them because they’re expected to go to at least semistate maybe state. I guess the only way you’re going to have a chance to beat them is you’ll have to play with a ton of heart, mental toughness, and you’re probably going to have to be physical enough that you make them a uncomfortable and force them to take tough shots without being undisciplined.
When CN trailed most of that game they had to pick up the intensity big time and play with grit. The second half Cougars were a completely different team from the first and if they can play somewhere around there for a whole game, they’ll have a shot for sure. Rebounding will be crucial in this game. Depth will be crucial in this game. Keep an eye on Schrock or Wingard for Westview. And Sawyer Yoder for CN if he can perform at a level that I know he’s capable of like the most recent game vs Fairfield, it’ll go a long way.
Now while I hate doing this on the Cougars since I am an alumni at CN and they’re actually a really good team, but I’m still taking Westview for the reasons I stated about them, and their home crowd is one of the toughest atmospheres in all of Indiana, but Westview cannot take this Cougar team lightly. If CN plays to their fullest and close to their best efforts like they have had at times this season like the end of the Fairfield game, you better believe that the Cougars will push them to their limit. Westview is 10-3 in playoffs vs CN.
Prediction: 57-52 Westview
Prairie Heights (18-5) vs Bremen (10-12)
The Panthers have posted their best season in program history as they have shocked many Hoosiers with their 10-win turnaround from just a year ago. Man, I love watching Elijah Malone (14.3 points 10 boards and 3.3 blocks a game) play because he is such an animal for them that plays stellar defense and he knows how to bring home the bacon. Mike Perkin’s (15.5 points 3.5 boards and 2 assists a game) growth has made him a lethal scorer at will and an even better defender at the guard slot, Brandon Christlieb has been a major contributor on both ends, and Garrett Culler who has been overlooked at times still a solid contributor, but he is a work horse on defense for them. Give a ton of credit to Coach Watkins when he was there for a short while as well as Coach Everidge who has coached this team the entire season to not only play extremely hard but to do it with confidence. This is a confident Heights team without question that battles every inch of floor for that ball.
Now, Bremen is no slouch as they’ve been acclimated to be a tough team on defense with Justin Zumbrun and Brooks Feldman leading the way on both ends of the floor. Both teams have a lot of size which could make things interesting. But, man there’s something special about that Panthers team right now. The Panthers have never beaten Bremen in sectional play.
Prediction: 58-46 Prairie Heights
Whitko (13-9) vs 2A #3 Westview
This semifinal matchup depends on who wins the first game, if CN wins, well you might have an arguement for either team. If it’s Westview however, then I’ll probably lean towards Westview. Don’t get me wrong. Whitko has a really nice group with Spencer Sroufe and Brett Sickafoose. But, I see some problems scoring in the paint on Rensberger and Hostetler, and Westview’s style of play could overwhelm Whitko alltogether.
Prediction: Westview 71-54 Westview
2A #7 LaVille (19-3) vs Prairie Heights
Now here’s a LaVille team that some people would argue can get to the title game and make noise. Now, LaVille has a real strong team all-around, they might get to the title game, but they wouldn’t beat Westview. I just don’t buy them that much cuz their schedule is kind of weak. yes, I’m not always a stickler for that, but it’s notable in this case. LaVille is 7-1 in games by 10 or less, yes they beat Winamac and St. Joe. But, I see Prairie Heights’ size as a major challenge for the Lancers that could be too much to overcome. I mean for crying out loud, Heights made Angola look bad in the NECC tourney and Angola has been an excellent team for the last 4 years. It’ll be close, but I’ll take Heights’ grit and depth over LaVille’s usual fast pace and talent. LaVille is 2-1 in playoffs vs Heights.
Prediction: 57-50 Prairie Heights
2A #3 Westview vs Prairie Heights
If you’re thinking that Westview is going to cruise to this sectional title game, you’re getting the sense that you’re probably wrong. This sectional is way tougher than last year by itself as it is the number one sectional statewide this year regardless of class. Every team in this sectional can win this sectional. Prairie Heights has proven this year that they can hang with Westview not once, but twice. It would be a lot of fun to see the matchups between Rensberger and Malone, Hales, Culler, Perkins, and Yoder. And with this sectional being at Westview, I would assume the title game would be jammed pack if Heights gets in the finals or even LaVille to some extent. Westview holds a 6-1 playoff record vs Heights.
Prediction: 51-49 Westview
Top 10 2A teams in Northern Indiana
- Bowman Academy
- Prairie Heights
- Hammond Noll
- Central Noble
3A 24 @ New Castle
New Castle 58 defending sectional champs
Delta 10 (2011)
Blackford 10 (1991)
Muncie Burris 9 (2003)
Yorktown 5 (2010)
Hamilton Heights 4 (2015)
Muncie Burris (5-17) vs Hamilton Heights (14-8)
On the bright side, at least you didn’t draw Delta, but drawing Hamilton Heights is just as painful. Onward, Huskies!
Prediction: 78-40 Hamilton Heights
3A #1 Delta (23-0) vs Yorktown (5-16)
Ouch. Not a good way to end your season when you draw 3A’s alpha dog.
Prediction: 72-30 Delta
New Castle (12-10) vs Hamilton Heights
This could wind up being one of the better all-around matchups in the state. Here, you have a New Castle team that had to retool its roster a little after the departure of a senior class, yet they’re 12-10. The Trojans continue to have an outstanding offensive unit led by Purdue recruit 6’6 Mason Gillies who missed most of this season with a knee injury 6-foot senior Luke Bumbalough (31.2 points 3.3 assists and 5 boards per game). Like the girls team there, they love the 3-ball to how about 218 times for 41% (LET IT RAIN). Yes, this is an excellent offensive team, but there are some weaknesses with this team especially on the defensive end where they’ve allowed just under 60 points on average.
Hamilton Heights, a team New Castle lost to on their home court back on Nov. 30 73-61, can also shoot the basketball averaging 67 points a game, but unlike New Castle, they have 3 guys that can score in double digits: sophomore Gus Etchison, junior Camron Knott, ad senior AJ Field. As a team, they basically have made the same number of 3’s and shot about the same as their opposition, but it is a little more widespread.
The interesting areas to keep an eye on is the rebounding department since both teams average below 25 a game, and both teams tend to give up a ton of points. I’m expecting the scoring to go down a bit in this potential matchup, but with it being at New Castle in a playoff atmosphere, I like the Trojans’ chances. New Castle is 3-0 in the playoffs vs Hamilton Heights.
Prediction: 68-64 OT New Castle
Blackford (17-5) vs 3A #1 Delta
When you see the words Luke Brown, Blackford, and 3A #1 Delta, you know there will be a lot of media attention for this one. Delta enters this tournament as the undisputed favorite to win their sectional, and possibly the frontrunner for a state championship. Delta has not lost a game in the regular season since February 8th, 2018 when they lost 65-46 @ New Castle. Delta, as stated, is an outstanding defensive team that allows just 44 a game, averages nearly 29 boards, and 2 blocks a game. But, they’re as explosive up front averaging 67 points, with 3 players in double-digits: 4’5 senior (This is not a typo) Josh Bryan (24 points 2.6 assists 5.5 boards and 2.4 steals a game and yes he’s not even close to being 5 feet tall) 6’3 senior Tyler Wilburn (11.4 points and 4.3 boards a game)and 6’5 sophomore Brady Hunt (11.8 points 7.3 boards and 2.1 assists a game). The Eagles can also shoot from the perimeter making over 140 of them at 37%.
Meanwhile, you have the touching story of a small town that had little to no success and this young phenom shows up and makes them a contender. It’s as pure Indiana as you’re going to get. Blackford’s success in the playoffs starts and ends with Luke Brown. The sophomore leads the entire state and is 5th in the nation in points per game at a whopping 36.6 along with 6.6 assists 5.2 boards and 2.9 steals. But, he does have a decent supporting cast with 6’3 junior Brandon Stroble (15 points and 5.3 boards) and 6’1 junior Dalton Wilmann (7.5 points and 6.1 boards).
Blackford can also shoot the 3-ball well at 36% and are an astonishing 80% from the free throw line which is impressive since Delta and Hamilton Heights are at the upper 70s in that area. Blackford also contributes to nearly 32 boards and 1.5 blocks. But, the biggest downside to the Bruins is obviously scoring depth beyond those 3-4 guys and they have played one of the weakest schedules in the entire state. People are going to overlook Blackford and take Delta for the obvious reasons. But, this could potentially be as big of a Indiana story as ever if the Bruins somehow pull off “The Upset” because all of these elements are in place to script a fantastic Blackford story. Delta cannot overlook this Bruins team, and I expect it to be close. Blackford is 5-4 lifetime in the playoffs vs Delta, and the games have typically been pretty close.
Prediction: 63-60 Delta
New Castle vs 3A #1 Delta
New Castle or Hamilton Heights could find themselves in an interesting situation. If they face Delta, obviously it’ll be a test, but you can definitely expect some entertainment in either matchup. However, if Blackford is in the finals, then this would be the most intriguing matchup in the country.
This sectional is pretty difficult to project this year because you have 4 teams that you can argue can win this sectional regardless of the weaknesses that could be exposed. However, I have a feeling New Castle could have the best chance to pull off an upset on Delta and win yet another sectional. Delta lost to them in last year’s sectional meeting by over 20 points. Expect drama in this game and throughout this sectional.
Prediction: 56-53 OT Delta
3A 23 @ Bellmont
Marion 68 defending sectional champs
Norwell 13 (2014)
Bellmont 13 (2005)
FW Bishop Luers 6 (2017)
Mississinewa 2 (1954)
Heritage 1 (1998)
Mississinewa (12-9) vs Norwell (13-9)
In what could potentially be a low-scoring game, Norwell will try to attempt a major upset on a potential run to the championship game, but they must take care of business vs Ole Miss and it won’t be easy.
Mississinewa is a very efficient team that has three guys in double figures: sophomore Tai McClung, sophomore Landen Swanner, and junior Anthony Horton. Again, here’s another team that shoots the 3-ball well at just under 40%, grabs 25 boards, and average over 2 blocks a game with a mix of young and veteran talent.
Meanwhile, Norwell is the opposite where they’re more of a scrappy, defensive unit that has to perform through their work ethic and fundamentals to win games. Will Geiger will obviously be the guy to keep an eye on as he could be the spark of their success in this fairly tough sectional. But, there are some concerns with Norwell in terms of their consistency. Norwell has allowed 50+ points just 6 times (none since Jan. 8), but they’ve been very streaky on offense where 10 times they’ve scored 50+ points and the other 11 coming in games less than that. One instance, is their 47-43 loss @ Luers just a couple weeks ago and that’s a Luers team that has won just 4 games and allow nearly 67 a game.
If Norwell cannot find ways to score on a consistent level, they’ll struggle to advance past the first round. These two teams met back on Nov. 27 with Norwell winning 61-55 on their home court, but expect a lower-scoring contest here. Norwell is 3-0 in playoffs vs Ole Miss.
Prediction: 57-53 Norwell
FW Bishop Luers (4-17) vs Heritage (15-7)
Entering this sectional, we may find ourselves a interesting storyline. You have the rebuilding Bishop Luers Knights who have won 5 games in their last 2 seasons combined. But, do you buy them as a bracket buster? They are probably the most dangerous 4-17 team in the state. Then, you have a Heritage team that most of this season has looked like a decent threat to jump on Marion, but have now lost 5 of their last 6 games with 4 of the 7 L’s coming to NECC schools. Is Heritage for real? You be the judge.
Luers who has struggled against tough competition like the SAC has been ok offensively especially since they’ve spent all but 5 games without their leading scorer DeMarcus Hudson. Sophomore Naylon Thompson (15.8 points 2.4 assists 4.8 boards and 2.5 steals) has been the driving force of Luers’ success during some of the program’s most darkest times, and junior Jalen Causey has also been a big help for Luers and for Thompson. Luers may not be as talented or experienced as some of the other teams, but they’re quick, athletic, and can play while blocking over 3 shots a game.
Heritage is also a very athletic team, but you can argue they’re deeper and more fundamentally sounded defensive team than Luers. Seniors Cameron Mitchell (14.4 points and 7.3 boards), Alec Burton (11.8 points 2.9 assists and 3.2 boards), and Jaydon Harris (12.7 points and 2.9 boards) have been vital to Heritage’s success over these 4 seasons, and they’re going to be crucial in the playoffs where every game will not be easy (not even Luers will). Their remaining core players are also good athletes, and they just do their jobs very well. This is still a good defensive team (with nearly 29 boards a game) when they’re at their best, it’ll be difficult for Luers to overcome.
Prediction: 64-52 Heritage
3A #11 Marion (15-7) vs Norwell
How Norwell plays and if they advance will determine how they do vs Marion. This is the flashiest and talented team in the sectional and possibly in the whole state. Led by Fort Wayne native James Blackmon Sr. as head coach, he’s got another Blackmon kid that’s pretty good.
As a sophomore, Jalen has averaged just under 30 points, under 4 assists, and over 3 boards all while already eclipsing the 1,000-point milestone. But, this isn’t a one-man show as Marion has junior Jakylen Thomas, Freshman RaSheed Jones, senior Dre Aguilar, and 6’6 senior QuRan Howard-Clement who can all become effective scorers at any point in the game. This is a pretty good perimeter-shooting team, shoots 74% from the free-throw line, generates over 25 boards, and averages nearly 4 blocks a game.
This is one of, if not, the most successful boys basketball program in IHSAA history with a library full of sectional and even regional titles and 8 state titles to their repertoire. Marion is 7-0 in the playoffs vs Norwell, and I don’t see them if not anyone in this sectional that can truly be a threat to playoff-mode Marion.
Prediction: 61-45 Marion
Bellmont (14-8) vs 3A #15 Heritage
After posting a befuddlingly 67-217 (.236 winning percentage) since their last winning season in 2004-05, the Bellmont Braves have finally restored its glory from their hay days in the 90s and early 2000s.
A lot of their success comes from a deep senior class led by Aaron Lehrman (10.8 points and 4.9 boards) along with a high-scoring junior from the coach’s kid Kade Fuelling (17.6 points and 7 boards). But, the question now becomes: can they make noise in the playoffs? Since 2005, Bellmont has won a grand total of 1 playoff game and none since 2011. This could be their first playoff meeting with Heritage.
Prediction: 57-47 Heritage
Marion vs Heritage
The only way Heritage beats Marion is if their defense contains their offensive weapons well enough that they can put the offense in a position to win, otherwise you can forget it. Marion is 13-3 when scoring 60+ compare to just 1-3. Heritage is 11-1 when their opponents score less than 50, but are just 4-5 in other games. Rebounding will be huge in this game.
Prediction: 66-51 Marion
3A 22 @ Garrett
Garrett 20 (2009)
Angola 17 defending sectional champs
FW Concordia 6 (2013)
New Haven 6 (2017)
Leo 6 (2002)
Woodlan 4 (2014)
FW Concordia (12-10) vs Angola (17-5)
This game here most likely decides the sectional championship, before we even get to the semifinals. On paper, these are two stingy defensive teams that grind every possession for baskets. What a turnaround it has been for the Cadets who went from a team stuck in a mud puddle of mediocrity to a team under Phil Brackmann that is on the rise. Now, I know there will be people that are going to hound on Angola because of the system they play in and accusing it of being “boring!!”. Let me say my advice for the 150th time: GET OVER IT! They’ve been implementing this system basically since Coach Bentley came to the program, and look “Bentley Ball” has led to 4 straight seasons with at least 17 wins, perennial NECC contenders, one of the 3 best defensive teams in state regardless of class, and 2 sectionals. If it works, don’t fix it. They don’t play flashy. This team is a solid one that stresses fundamentals and depth. Period. Should be a solid game, but don’t count out Concordia as they’ve proven to be a pesky team in past years. How Blake Pocock and Joel Knox plays could be key as well because the 6’4 junior Dyer Ball will have his way to the net. This game could have potential for overtime because why not. Indiana loves the flair of the dramatic.
Prediction: 45-39 Angola
New Haven (8-14) vs Leo (8-12)
When you look at this matchup, these are two teams that are really young and they have made mistakes. The Bulldogs have struggled at times to get production outside of Donnovyn Lewis. Leo while they have struggled with their youth has started to play better on defense. Boy, it’ll be close, but I’m going to take my chances and I’ll take Blake Davidson and the scrappy Leo Lions to advance.
Prediction: 54-51 Leo
Garrett (3-19) vs Angola
Ouch. It’s been a tough year for this young Garrett team and ouch they get to play the Angola-Concordia Winner.
Prediction: 58-37 Angola
Woodlan (6-16) vs Leo
Woodlan has had quite an interesting year and they’ve been a big REID on Outside the Huddle all year. But, freshman Joe Reidy is destined to be another Allen County folk hero and making Bounce his biggest fan. So, in honor of respecting greatness and because the fact this game is another 50-50 match, I’ll take Woodlan and the Fighting Reidy’s. There you go Bounce! I made your day.
Prediction: 52-50 2OT Woodlan
Angola vs Woodlan
The last few meetings between the 2 have been fairly close one way or another. Their last game was a nail binder won by Angola, but that came when the team was started to be in full strength from football and they were still trying to get to know each other. I think this game has potential to be a dandy. But, Sorry Woodlan, I just like “Bentley Ball” a little more.
Prediction: 52-38 Angola
3A 21 @ Wawasee
Lakeland 10 (2008)
Fairfield 9 (2017)
Tippy Valley 9 (2013)
Northwood 8 defending sectional champs
Wawasee 6 (2010)
3A #13 Fairfield (15-7) vs Northwood (9-12)
Fairfield enters this sectional as the favorites to win their 2nd title in 3 years. On paper, they are one of the best teams in the area and arguably one of the best defensive teams in state. However, their last 2 games were not particularly their best games especially at CN. But, when they have played at their best, they’re darn good at basketball.
Senior Cordell Hofer (15.3 points 6 boards 1.5 assists) has been a marvelous athlete for Fairfield, and I have been lucky to watch him on a livestream twice at Angola and last night at CN in person. Despite the loss, this guy was incredible for the Falcons and did a lot of nice things on both ends. Junior Nolin Sharick (12.7 points 4 boards 3.4 assists) is very composed with the basketball, very poised, and he just does a lot of the little things well beyond just points and rebounds. Fairfield will be blessed to have his talents for another year, and then you have other guys like Payton Faldoe, Skylar Mast, and Cade Gall who provide much needed depth and versatility on both ends.
While Northwood is having its worst season in 9 years, Northwood is still a very scrappy team that can give teams like Fairfield fits in sectionals. Fairfield can score from anywhere and they are pretty lethal from downtown at 40% while I possibly see Northwood as a team that can still pound the ball and get rebounds. The Falcons are going to want to hit a reset button and move on from those 2 losses including a 62-60 loss at the buzzer at CN when they were up by 20. One thing’s for certain with Fairfield is that those 2 losses will either be learning lessons that get them motivated for sectionals or it could be 2 losses that could deflate the confidence of a team like Fairfield. Knowing the fact they’re always well-coached, I think they’ll be fine and I think they’ll find a way to get by Northwood. The Panthers are 6-2 in the playoffs vs Fairfield.
Prediction: 54-46 Fairfield
Lakeland (7-15) vs West Noble (11-11)
Another sectional matchup where these two teams have already met twice this season. Both teams are heading this week trending in complete opposite directions. At one point in late January to early February, Lakeland appeared to have started to find its form winning 4 of the first 5 games since the NECC Tourney. However, the Lakers have lost their last 6 games scoring just under 50 points a game and allowing over 58 points in that span.
Here’s the thing about them: they play a whole lot better than 7-15. Of the 22 regular season games, half of them have been decided by 10 points or less, but have only won 2 of those games. Yes, you can argue the loss of Cameron Bontrager and Cole Harp from last year’s team left a big void on this team, and yes the team is younger than last year. But, for me, I think this team struggles to play a full 32-minute game on a consistent basis. A lot of their games that they have lost have either come from terrible starts and having to play catchup, dominating most of that game but shoot themselves in the foot in the last quarter, or it has been both getting terrible starts, getting the lead, and just not getting the job done.
You look at this team, you wouldn’t think they’re 7-15. Brady Bontrager (16.4 points 5.6 boards and 1.9 assists) has shown a lot of his brother’s skills and toughness and the Lakers will be glad to have him for 2 more years, Kole Miller has been big in not only filling some of the Laker’s void, but he has shown some big games on the offensive end, and they have some decent young pieces from the JV and Varsity team to work with beyond next week and into the next season.
Then. you have West Noble, who has faced all of this season dealing with adversity on and off the court. But, the Chargers are starting to figure things out on the defensive end a little and enter sectionals winners of 3 of their last 4 including a dramatic win @ Goshen where it had been nearly 2 decades since beating them. I like this Charger team because they have depth up front with David Flores, Josh Gross, and Bryan Bowman, and they have tremendous depth from the backcourt with Takota Weigold, Nick Knepper, Trevor Franklin, Drew Miller, and Joel Mast. This team can score, but their issues for most of this season is getting the big stops when needed and maybe they have solved that a little. I don’t know. With their community going through the amount of heartache that they do and the girls basketball team winning sectionals, am I starting to think that this team is rallying around all that? It happened at CN. It’s happened in pro sports like the Vegas shootings and the Vegas Golden Knights hockey team. We shall see. However, Lakeland is 8-2 in the playoffs vs WN.
Prediction: 58-54 West Noble
Tippy Valley (13-9) vs Fairfield
This could wind up being a intense semifinal game no matter who advances in that Fairfield-Northwood game. All three teams have proved in the past they win games by being physical and work ethic, and that is no exception this year. Tippy Valley like the Akron community is nothing flashy. While they have some nice talent with Parkur Dalrymple and Tanner Trippiedi, this team prides itself on their blue-collar mentality. This team gets after it, works super hard, and they grind out wins. Tippy Valley has been in 11 games decided by 10 points or less and have come away with 6 wins in those instances. This game could decide the sectional crown. Tippy Valley beat Fairfield in the playoffs back in 2016.
Prediction: 56-51 Fairfield
Wawasee (5-16) vs West Noble
Whoever wins the West Noble-Lakeland game, don’t let Wawasee’s record fool ya. They’re one of the feistiest defensive teams in the state and they are the most dangerous 5-win team out there. Wawasee has some athletes that can score a little and rebound, and they have frustrated some of the more offensively gifted teams in the past. They gave West Noble fits despite the Chargers winning, and they dominated Lakeland in the regular season. This could be close for a lot of this game. Both WN and Wawasee have beaten each other twice in the playoffs.
Prediction: 46-39 West Noble
Fairfield vs West Noble
Ah yes! The US 33 Rivalry could possibly be reborn yet again. These are two teams that have some similarities but both play different styles. Both teams can shoot and both teams have a lot of depth and that’s what could make this game a good one. The potential storyline for West Noble entering sectional play is the lack of sectional titles. West Noble has never won a boys basketball sectional despite coming close on numerous occasions. The Chargers are 0-9 in sectional championship games that includes the most recent one in 2017. They hung around with Fairfield in the regular season despite losing 62-54 at Fairfield. With a team that has a ton of seniors that probably still remember that loss a few years back and all of the other factors I’ve just mentioned, West Noble if they get in this stage will not be a push over. However, Fairfield probably still remembers last year’s loss to Northwood as well. The star players on both teams will have to come up big in this stage to get it done. Fairfield is 6-2 in the playoffs vs West Noble.
Prediction: 55-50 Fairfield
Top 10 3A teams in Northern Indiana
- Culver Academies
- Mishawaka Marian
- New Castle
4A 7 @ Wayne
Muncie Central 59 (2014)
Columbia City 30 (2016)
FW South Side 29 (2007)
Huntington North 21 (2001)
Jay County 17 (2011)
Homestead 11 5-time reigning sectional champs
Wayne 4 (1994)
4A #9 Homestead (21-2) vs Huntington North (19-4)
This should have been a sectional title game, but nevertheless it is still going to be the best matchup in this entire sectional that is ranked 2nd in the state. When we talk about Homestead, we always talk about depth, continuity, team culture, and fundamentals. This team is all business and all work even though there are people that just don’t like Homestead and they’re fine with that. This is a team that caught everyone by surprise with the breakout performances of Luke Goode, Zak Kruger, Brat Miller, Trent Loomis, etc, etc. Both teams play very solid defense and the Vikings are the team that probably has the best shot of taking down Homestead because of their size. depth, and physicality. I expect this game to be close, but Homestead has not lost in the opening round of sectionals since 2011. Both teams have won 9 games in playoffs against each other but it’s been a decacde since Huntington North beat Homestead in sectionals.
Prediction: 42-39 Homestead
Muncie Central (12-10) vs Columbia City (8-14)
Columbia City has had a nice season, but I don’t like their matchup with the Bearcats.
Prediction: 73-59 Muncie Central
Jay County (13-9) vs FW Wayne (13-9)
Jay County always has a lot of basketball tradition or grit, but the road stops here vs the host Wayne.
Prediction: 68-51 Wayne
FW South Side (11-8) vs 4A #9 Homestead
South Side has a nice young group led by JT Langston Jr, Alex Jordan, and Kameron Mitchell, but I think some of their inexperience will haunt them against the always tough Spartans. If it’s Huntington North they face, it could be interesting. Homestead is 10-2 in the playoffs vs South Side.
Prediction: 62-53 Homestead
Muncie Central vs Wayne
You like offense? You like star talent? Then this is the perfect game for you. Craig Young (16.4 points 7.8 boards 1.6 assists) has obvioulsy been as mentioned by the media as one of the best athletes in the city and that is why he is going to Ohio State for football. This is a very deep team with Micheal Redding, Darius Alexander, and Cameron Starks that rebounds like crazy because of their obvious athleticism. But, Muncie Central has a ton of offensive firepower with Victor Young, Reggie Bass, Dylan Stafford, and KJ Jackson (none of them are even seniors yet). Much like Wayne, they rebound a lot, but average over 4 blocks a game. Either way, expect a ton of fireworks in this one.
Prediction: 68-63 Wayne
Homestead vs Wayne
So, there you have it. A possible 2nd best matchup in the entire sectional could wind up being Homestead and Wayne @ Wayne Manner. Homestead took care of them in the regular season 46-37, but with this being a possible championship game @ Wayne, I expect the Generals to come out much more prepared than their first meeting. Wayne has a lot of seniors and they’re going to want to win a title for their school. But, this is Homestead and you can’t go wrong picking the Spartans. Homestead is 6-4 in the playoffs vs the Generals, and Wayne hasn’t beaten them in 20 years in sectional play.
Prediction: 56-51 Homestead
4A 5 @ DeKalb
FW North Side 27 2-time reigning sectional champs
DeKalb 20 (2005)
East Noble 13 (2001)
FW Northrop 12 (2012)
FW Bishop Dwenger 9 (2015)
Carroll 8 (2016)
FW Snider 6 (2009)
FW Northrop (13-8) vs Carroll FW (15-7)
Look, Northrop has had a strong season led by the big man that will be heading to the University of Miami (OH) Sydney Curry. But, they have lost 5 of their last 7 since beating Homestead in OT. Carroll is an excellent defensive team that was able to contain Curry and fairly dominated the Bruins 63-50. The Chargers are always battle-tested and I think Carroll is peaking at the right time. Northrop is 7-5 in playoffs vs Carroll.
Prediction: 58-42 Carroll
FW Snider (14-8) vs FW Bishop Dwenger (11-10)
Bishop Dwenger is a scrappy ball club that fights to the final buzzer in every single game. But, this is a young, dynamic Snider team led by Micheal Eley and Dillon Duff who will be back next season. Enjoy this group Snider Nation! Both teams have won 4 games in the playoffs against each other.
Prediction: 53-45 Snider
4A #15 East Noble (19-3) vs FW North Side (2-19)
East Noble, you are very fortunate that your first opponent looks like a team that can barely beat a small academy school and a 2-win South Adams team. North Side has essentially went from being one stop/one triple from a state title in 2017 to a team that is decimated by transfers of star players like Keion Brooks Jr., graduation, and a coaching change, thus this team is bad. I can’t ever recall a SAC team falling so far down in a short period of time. Onward, my fellow Knights!
Prediction: 87-41 East Noble
DeKalb (6-16) vs Carroll FW
Whoever wins that Carroll/Northrop game is definitely going to the finals. DeKalb is a good defensive team, and they play hard, but they don’t have the talent or manpower to compete with either SAC school this year.
Prediction: 64-47 Carroll
FW Snider vs East Noble
Redemption. Vengeance. These are the two words that always seem to pop up during the playoffs. Snider is a run and gun team that showed on the first night of the season vs a veteran savvy East Noble team 62-60. The Knights on the other hand rely on their depth and defensive intensity in the rebounding department to go with Ali Ali (16.2 points 5 boards 5.5 assists and 1.7 blocks) and Hayden Jones’s (10.3 points and 5.7 assists) natural talents. Brent Cox (13.7 points 10.5 boards) has been a matchup nightmare in guarding him in the post and scoring on him, and boy has Nate Dickson and Micheal Bender been huge for EN. I think the Knights have learned a bunch since that game, and I think their defense will step up against a hungry Snider team. Snider is 4-1 in playoffs vs EN.
Prediction: 61-54 East Noble
Carroll FW vs East Noble
De ja vu? I don’t think it would be a big surprise if these two would meet again in the sectional finals. Both teams match up with each other very well, and I expect this one to be one of if not the best title game in the entire area. Rebounding and discipline are going to be keys to this game and I expect these two teams to wear each other out. It will be a war at DeKalb if these two meet in the finals. My gut tells me Carroll, but my heart says East Noble. And you know what I think they have what it takes to win their first sectional in 18 years. But, Carroll is 4-0 vs East Noble in the playoffs.
Prediction: 53-50 2OT East Noble
4A 4 @ Elkhart
Warsaw 40 (2017)
Elkhart Central 36 (2003)
Plymouth 35 (2013)
Concord 13 (2014)
Elkhart Memorial 10 (2015)
Goshen 9 (1992)
Northridge 8 (2015)
4A #12 Warsaw (13-7) vs 4A #13 Elkhart Memorial (16-6)
This is a rematch from a game that Memorial won just a few days earlier 48-45. The Chargers have a very efficient offense led by Hank Smith and Trey Gallope. This is a team that can shoot from distance gather rebounds and spreads the floor well while averaging over 2 blocks a game. Warsaw like they have been for quite some time are a very stingy defensive team but is a very deep team with Nolan Groninger, Wyatt Amiss, and Trevor Rumple to name a few while spending most of this season without Brian Elliott their second leading scorer. They average 3.3 blocks a game even though they don’t rebound as well as the Chargers. Free throws could be key as Warsaw shoots 9% better than Memorial at 68%. Warsaw is 6-1 in playoffs vs Elkhart Memorial.
Prediction: 52-47 Elkhart Memorial
Concord (7-15) vs Northridge (15-8)
Concord has to feel real good about themselves after upsetting Westview just last night 49-47 on senior night. But, Northridge has won 9 straight and should take care of business vs the inexperienced Minutemen.
Prediction: 57-48 Northridge
Plymouth (14-8) vs Gosehn (8-14)
Both teams enter sectionals on a cold stretch. Plymouth has lost 5 of their last 7 and Goshen has lost 7 of their last 10. Goshen’s inexperienced has shown this season, but they’ve been in a lot of games this season. 12 games have been decided by 10 points or less with their record of 5-7 in those games. I expect this game to be a low-scoring one but I see Plymouth prevailing here.
Prediction: 51-47 Plymouth
4A #20 Elkhart Central (5-16) vs 4A #13 Elkhart Memorial
Who’s ready for this rivalry to go? Hopefully you’re answer will be no because North Side gym will never be the same when Central and Memorial consolidate in 2 years. Could this be the last boys basketball sectional meeting of this Elkhart rivalry? Regardless how good or bad each team is, you better expect a tight one every time. Central has been battle tested all year despite the record and youth. I think the Blazers will push their neighboring rivals to the limit.
Prediction: 64-62 OT Memorial
Northridge vs Plymouth
This could wind up being one of the better games out there. Northridge has seen its ups and downs but they are catching fire at the right time. Their offense is one of the more lethal ones at there with 3 players in double digits in scoring and a team that shoots nearly 40% from downtown. But, my biggest concern will be on defense where they only generate 20 boards a game and Plymouth can play that is for sure. In fact, neither team rebounds well so to me this is more of a up-tempo style game in the making for these two. Plymouth also has offensive depth led by Clay Hillard who’s averaging 19 a game. Their first meeting was 62-59 Northridge win and I’m expecting something similar to that this week.
Prediction: 57-55 Northridge
4A #13 Elkhart Memorial vs Northridge
While this has the makings of a quality title game, I could see this being a matchup problem for Northridge due to some size in the interior. Memorial rebounds the ball really well and I think their depth and experience could be too much for the Raiders.
Prediction: 64-50 Elkhart Memorial
Top 10 4A teams in Northern Indiana
- Hamilton Southeastern
- East Noble
- Carroll FW
- Huntington North