The wait is over. After weeks of anticipation, the Indiana High School Athletic Association announced its 2017-18 boys basketball sectional pairings Sunday night, revealing each of the state’s 403 participating team’s postseason paths.
Locally, three of Hancock County’s boys basketball programs will be heading to Richmond High School’s Tiernan Center next week for the Class 4A Sectional 9 tournament. Greenfield-Central and New Palestine play in the first round Tuesday, while Mt. Vernon drew an opening-round bye into the semifinals Friday, March 2.
Eastern Hancock will compete in the Class 2A Sectional 42 tournament where Mid-Eastern Conference rival Shenandoah poses a challenge in the first round on Tuesday night.
The six-team field in the Class 4A Richmond Sectional isn’t just loaded with talent; it’s more than familiar with one another.
Four teams share Hoosier Heritage Conference affiliation and each program has played at least three sectional foes this season with defending champion Connersville having faced all of them – including Richmond twice.
Coach Kerry Brown’s Spartans have won back-to-back sectional crowns the past two seasons to push the program’s total to 59 overall, and its lone loss to a postseason foe in 2017-18 was to Pendleton Heights 33-30 in overtime on Dec. 9.
Built to defeat teams by a thousand paper cuts rather than by brute, overwhelming force, the Spartans (19-4) draw a recently surging Greenfield-Central (19-4) team, which has won three of its last four games.
Led by 6-6 senior Will O’Connor, who is averaging 16.0 ppg 4.4 rpg, the Greenfield-Central Cougars are seeking their first sectional title since 1998, beginning with their postseason opener on Tuesday at 6 p.m. against Connersville.
The Spartans are shooting 48 percent from the field this season and 35 percent from beyond the arc with Garrett Silcott (15.8 ppg), a senior, draining 31 of those 3-pointers in 79 attempts. Junior Noah Belt is contributing 10.6 ppg.
The winner moves on to play Mt. Vernon (11-9) on Friday, March 2 at 6 p.m. in the semifinals. Richmond (8-14) was awarded the other bye and will face either Pendleton Heights (11-11) or New Palestine (12-9) in the second semifinal at 7:30 p.m. The title game is Saturday, March 3 at 7:30 p.m.
Mt. Vernon is 2-2 against sectional foes, while Pendleton Heights is 4-0. New Palestine is 2-3, but the Spartans are 5-1 and have wins against Greenfield-Central, 62-51, and the Marauders, 42-37 in overtime.
Damari Gatewood leads the Marauders in scoring with 12.2 ppg, which is ninth best in the HHC. Junior Cade Gentry is second with 8.4 ppg, and junior Peyton Meadors is posting 8.2 ppg as the team moves on without senior guard Logan Smith, who is no longer with the program.
On the contrary, New Palestine has welcomed back playmaking point guard Maximus Gizzi to the lineup after the sophomore missed several games due to an injury.
Recovered enough to get steady minutes the past few contests, Gizzi is shaking off the rust in an effort to resume his 16.2 ppg prowess. He was averaging 4.8 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game prior to the setback.
The Dragons are competing in the Richmond Sectional at 4A for the first time since moving up a classification, following two seasons in 3A. Their last sectional title was in 2012 as a 4A program at the Center Grove Tournament.
Their meeting with Pendleton Heights in Richmond will give the Dragons a chance to avenge their earlier loss to the Arabians, 64-49, on Feb. 3, which they played without Gizzi.
Pendleton Heights is 4-0 against sectional foes this season with wins over Mt. Vernon (63-59) and Greenfield-Central (62-51). New Palestine is 2-3 with victories against Richmond (49-42) and Greenfield-Central (56-44).
The Arabians’ roster carries four double-digit scorers in senior Justin Shupe (14.2 ppg), senior Trent Miller (13.3 ppg), 6-4 junior standout Eli Pancol (11.3 ppg and 6.7 rpg) and Damieon Warrum (10.3 ppg).
Ending the Drought
It’s been 10 years since head coach Aaron Spaulding’s Eastern Hancock boys basketball program has won a sectional championship, but this year is unfolding to be historic.
At 216-205 in his 19th year at the helm, Spaulding’s group has won 16 games this season – the most since going 16-6 in 2013-14 – and captured a share of the Mid-Eastern Conference title last week. The league championship was the team’s third all time and first for the Royals since going back-to-back in the White River Athletic Conference in 2002 and 2003.
Adding to the hoopla, Royals’ senior guard Addison True recently cemented his spot in the history books by becoming the program’s all-time career leading scorer and rebounder.
True surpassed Dustin Smith in scoring, a mark the elder set at 1,447 points in 2011. True pushed past Caleb Kennedy (557 boards in 2008) for his other career distinction.
In the process, the wins have piled up for Eastern Hancock, which opened the season 7-0 and have claimed Ws in five of their last six games.
Their confidence and solid mix of senior leaders such as True (19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game) will come in handy as they enter the Class 2A Shenandoah Sectional next week.
The Royals (16-5) open the tournament against the host Raiders (17-4), who could lock down a share of the MEC crown with Eastern Hancock if they defeat Wapahani this Friday on the road.
Shenandoah lost to Eastern Hancock 55-47 during the regular season on Jan. 20, but they haven’t lost since, setting up a huge rematch between the two potential co-MEC champs this Tuesday night at 6 p.m.
The Raiders are the defending sectional champions led by 34-year coaching veteran Dave McCollough, who came over from Noblesville three seasons ago.
Offensively, the Raiders have two double-digit scorers in senior Chase Kinsey (14.7 ppg) and Braydin Myers (10.2 ppg). Freshman guard, 5-foot-10 Andrew Bennett (9.2 ppg) is contributing 2.8 assists per game.
Last year’s sectional runner-up 10th-ranked Indianapolis Howe (15-7) faces Knightstown (5-15) in the other first-round game on Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. with Triton Central (9-12) awaiting the winner in the semifinal at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 2.
The winner between Eastern Hancock and Shenandoah will move on to play Irvington Prep (15-7) in the first semifinal at 6 p.m. on March 2. The title game is Saturday, March 3 at 7:30 p.m.
Class 4A Sectional 9
GM 1: Greenfield-Central (7-14) vs. Connersville (19-4), 6 p.m.
GM 2: Pendleton Heights (11-11) vs. New Palestine (12-9), 7:30 p.m.
Friday, March 2
GM 3: Mt. Vernon (11-9) vs. GM 1 winner, 6 p.m.
GM 4: Richmond (8-14) vs. GM 2 winner, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 3
GM 5: Championship, 7:30 p.m.
Class 2A Sectional 42
GM 1: Eastern Hancock (16-5) vs. Shenandoah (17-4), 6 p.m.
GM 2: Knightstown (5-15) vs. Indianapolis Howe (15-7), 7:30 p.m.
Friday, March 2
GM 3: Irvington Prep Academy (15-7) vs. GM 1 winner, 6 p.m.
GM 4: Triton Central (9-12) vs. GM 2 winner, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 3
GM 5: Championship, 7:30 p.m.