The 107th annual IHSAA boys basketball state tournament begins next week, with all four Hancock County teams taking the floor on opening night.

Mt. Vernon kicks off the first-round doubleheader at New Castle Fieldhouse at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Greenfield-Central plays in the evening’s second game at 7:30 p.m. in the Class 4A Sectional 9 Tournament.

The New Palestine Dragons face a familiar foe to start the Class 3A Sectional 27 Tournament on Tuesday at Brebeuf Jesuit, while Eastern Hancock drew the early game in the first round of Class 2A Sectional 42 at Triton Central.

The state tournament continues with the sectional semifinals March 3 and championships on March 4. Admission for each session is $6 with all sessions at $10.

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Class 4A

Sectional 9 at New Castle

The teams: Mt. Vernon (13-8), Connersville (23-1), Greenfield-Central (11-11), Pendleton Heights (17-6), Richmond (2-21), New Castle (16-5).

First-round byes: Richmond, New Castle

What happened last year: Connersville capped an eight-game winning streak by collecting its 58th sectional title in school history and first since 1997.

Coach Kerry Brown’s Spartans received the first-round bye in the sectional and beat Greenfield-Central in the semifinals 50-40 before defeating host New Castle 63-55 in the championship. They lost to Southport in the regional opener to end their season at 21-6.

Mt. Vernon fell in the other sectional semifinal to New Castle 85-76 after receiving a first-round bye.

The team(s) to beat: The tournament’s four favored teams have been divvied up equally throughout the bracket, with outright Hoosier Heritage Conference champion Pendleton Heights (7-0) and league runner-up New Castle (5-2), with the bye, on one side.

On the other, HHC co-runner-up Mt. Vernon (5-2) and 13th-ranked Connersville meet in the first round, while Richmond awaits in the semifinals with a bye. Greenfield-Central plays Pendleton Heights in the first round.

Based on Sagarin Ratings, Pendleton Heights holds the advantage at 84.57, but New Castle (84.22), Connersville (83.40), and Mt. Vernon (82.83) aren’t far off.

Connersville finished the regular season 5-0 against sectional opponents, but they needed overtime to slip past New Castle 52-51 and four overtimes to beat Mt. Vernon 88-85.

The Spartans also narrowly topped the Pendleton Heights Arabians 41-39. Their margins of victory against Greenfield-Central and Richmond were by seven points or less.

The Arabians were 3-1 versus sectional foes, and Mt. Vernon was 2-2.

Players to watch: Mt. Vernon’s Michael Ertel, a Louisiana-Monroe recruit and a 2016 Indiana Junior All-Star, carries the sectional’s second-highest points per game average at 21.1.

A 1,000-point club member, the 6-foot-1 senior point guard is one of three experienced seniors for the Marauders along with 6-6 Erick Shepherd (13.9 ppg) and 6-5 James McCloud (11.7 ppg). Shepherd recently surpassed 1,000 points in his career.

Richmond’s Christian Harvey, a 6-0 junior guard, is scoring 24.3 ppg while averaging 4.8 assists and 3.8 rebounds.

Much like Ertel (three 30-plus point games) and Harvey (six 30-plus point games), Pendleton Heights Mark Albers, a 6-4 senior wing, can take over with a 20.0 ppg average. He scored a season-high 37 points against Hamilton Southeastern on Dec. 21.

Grant Smith, a 6-6 senior forward, leads Connersville with 17.7 points, 5.0 assists and 9.9 rebounds per game.

New Castle big man, Mason Gillis, a 6-6 sophomore, powers the Trojans’ deep lineup with 14.5 points and 10.5 rebounds on average.

Greenfield-Central’s Will O’Conner, a 6-6 junior, is the centerpiece for the Cougars.

Coach’s comments: “Obviously, there is no easy draw in a Class 4A sectional. Pendleton is extremely talented and well coached. We played them tough in the regular season, so I know they won’t be overlooking us. We have won five of our last seven heading into the tourney and we wanted to be playing our best at the end of the year, so that’s encouraging heading into the postseason.” — Michael Lewis, Greenfield-Central

“I don’t know if there’s ever been a coach who has drawn a Kerry Brown coached team in the sectional that has been happy about it because this year they are who they always are. They are disciplined, and they’re going to make you do it right, or they’re going to make you pay. I think our guys are excited for the opportunity to play a good team like that, especially in our sectional. Based on the Sagarin we have one of the deepest and most balanced sectionals in the state. We’ll have to play our best” — Travis Daugherty, Mt. Vernon

Class 3A

Sectional 27 at Brebeuf Jesuit

The teams: Indianapolis Marshall (7-12), New Palestine (5-16), Indianapolis Herron (0-20), Indianapolis Crispus Attucks (17-4), Indianapolis Manual (15-6), Brebeuf Jesuit (12-8), Bishop Chatard (3-19).

First-round bye: Bishop Chatard

What happened last year: Brebeuf Jesuit ran the table to win its 10th sectional in program history and first since 2010.

Coach Todd Howard’s Braves reached the regional championship, losing 64-50 to Tri-West after knocking off Park Tudor 66-56 in the first round.

In the sectional final, they beat Indianapolis Crispus Attucks, 77-63, which opened the tournament with a 59-50 win against New Palestine.

The team(s) to beat: If there is a silver lining in such a loaded sectional, the New Palestine Dragons drew it, getting placed in the opposite bracket of the three tournament front runners.

The Dragons open with Indianapolis Marshall, a team they beat 74-44 during the regular season, and feed into the semifinal where Bishop Chatard holds the bye.

Brebeuf Jesuit and Indianapolis Manual, who carry Sagarin Ratings of 82.45 and 83.20, respectively, will knock each other off in the opening round, while Indianapolis Crispus Attucks (84.27) should move into the semifinal to face the winner.

Players to watch: For a second straight year, coach Donnie Bowling’s Manual Redskins have reached 15 wins. A big reason is 6-foot-5 senior forward Courvoisier “Voss” McCauley.

The relative newcomer is averaging 27.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game as a quartet of Redskins players have scored at least 10.8 points or more a night.

Crispus Attucks senior guard Nike Sibande, who stands 6-4, leads the Tigers with 23.3 points and 7.6 rebounds. He’s reached 30 points in a game three times this season for the senior-laden group.

Junior Myja White averages 14.1 ppg for Brebeuf Jesuit to lead a trio of double-digit scorers.

Freshman point guard Maximus Gizzi of New Palestine is posting 11.9 points and 3.5 assists per game. Senior forward Jalen Qualkinbush is averaging 11.3 ppg for the Dragons.

Class 2A

Sectional 42 at Triton Central

The teams: Irvington Preparatory Academy (17-4), Eastern Hancock (12-9), Triton Central (9-12), Indianapolis Howe (16-8), Shenandoah (17-4), Knightstown (3-18).

First-round byes: Shenandoah, Knightstown

What happened last year: Led by coach Mosi Barnes, the Indianapolis Howe Hornets buzzed through the postseason and won six straight before falling to Lapel, 59-37, in the Class 2A State Finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

They beat the Eastern Hancock Royals 68-53 to open the state tournament en route to the team’s first sectional title since 2007.

Their regional championship snapped a 35-year drought and the program’s semistate crown was its first ever. The Hornets finished the year with a 23-8 record.

The team(s) to beat: Based on records against sectional foes and overall wins this season, the three favorites entering Sectional 42 are Irvington Prep, Howe and Shenandoah.

Irvington Prep is 3-0 against the field this season with victories against Knightstown (54-47), Triton Central (55-52) and Eastern Hancock (62-52).

Howe is 2-0, beating Eastern Hancock (85-60) and Knightstown (108-49), while holding the best Sagarin Rating at 82.27.

Shenandoah, which was sectional runner-up last year, has two wins against sectional foes during the regular season. They defeated Eastern Hancock (58-39) and Knightstown (69-30).

For Eastern Hancock to challenge for its first sectional title since 2008, it will need to avenge previous losses to Irvington Prep in the opening round and Shenandoah in the semifinals to reach the championship.

Players to watch: Despite the loss of last year’s leading scorer Brian Warren, the Howe Hornets are averaging 76.4 points per game behind the increased production of guard Kycia Washington and 6-foot-4 junior forward Tony Hopkins.

Both can score in bunches at 16.0 ppg or more and are holdovers from last season’s experienced tournament team.

Junior Myles Johnson, a 6-4 junior wing, leads Irvington Prep with 18.9 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. He averages 1.7 steals, 1.8 assists and 1.9 blocks as well.

Eastern Hancock’s Addison True, a 5-10 guard, has eclipsed the 1,000-point mark as a junior and paces the Royals offense with 17.6 points per game. Brycen Napier, a 5-11 junior guard, is never far behind at 16.0 ppg.

Shenandoah’s Gavin Griggs, a 6-3 senior, drives the Raiders with 17.0 points and 6.8 rebounds on average.

Coach’s Comment: “Irvington Prep has had a great year. They have a good combination of bigs inside and shooters and penetrators on the outside. With that being said, we feel strongly that if we play well, we can give ourselves a great chance to win. We have been working hard all season towards playing our best basketball at this time. We are confident we will do just that.” – Aaron Spaulding, Eastern Hancock

Sectional Schedule

Class 4A

Sectional 9

at New Castle

Feb. 28

First Round

Game 1: Mt. Vernon vs. Connersville, 6 p.m.

Game 2: Greenfield-Central vs. Pendleton Heights, 7:30 p.m.

March 3

Semifinals

Game 3: Richmond vs. Winner of Game 1, 6 p.m.

Game 4: New Castle vs. Winner Game 2, 7:30 p.m.

March 4

Championship

Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 7:30 p.m.

Class 3A

Sectional 27

at Brebeuf Jesuit

Feb. 28

First Round

Game 1: Indianapolis Marshall vs. New Palestine, 7 p.m.

March 1

First Round

Game 2: Herron vs. Indianapolis Crispus Attucks, 6 p.m.

Game 3: Indianapolis Emmerich Manual vs. Brebeuf Jesuit, 7:30 p.m.

March 3

Semifinals

Game 4: Bishop Chatard vs. Winner Game 1, 6 p.m.

Game 5: Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 3, 7:30 p.m.

March 4

Championship

Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5, 7:30 p.m.

Class 2A

Sectional 42

at Triton Central

Feb. 28

First Round

Game 1: Irvington Preparatory Academy vs. Eastern Hancock, 6 p.m.

Game 2: Triton Central vs. Indianapolis Howe, 7:30 p.m.

March 3

Semifinals

Game 3: Shenandoah vs. Winner Game 1, 6 p.m.

Game 4: Knightstown vs. Winner Game 2, 7:30 p.m.

March 4

Championship

Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 7:30 p.m.

Author photo
Rich Torres is sports editor at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at rtorres@greenfieldreporter.com or 317-477-3227.