Lots at stake as regular season winds down


Mt. Vernon at New Palestine

At stake: With no possibility of a sectional matchup (the squads belong to separate 4A brackets) and the elimination of the Hancock County Tournament, this is the only chance for the longtime local rivals to claim bragging rights.

The favorite: It’s a toss-up. The Dragons (10-9, 4-2 Hoosier Heritage Conference) are the 21st highest-scoring team in the state (70 points per game), while the Marauders (10-8, 3-2) are allowing only 53 nightly, including 47.4 over the last five contests. Their schedule strength is nearly identical: New Palestine’s S.O.S is 51st toughest, according to Sagarin, while Mt. Vernon comes in at 47th.

Fearless prediction: I like the way Mt. Vernon shoots — including 40 percent from long range and 48 percent overall. And I like its balanced attack. But, the last time I saw New Palestine senior guard Ryan Curry, he scored 46 points. There’s no one in the county right now who can take over a game like he can, and I can’t picture Curry losing his final home game to New Palestine’s fiercest rival. Dragons 63, Marauders 61.

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Morristown at Eastern Hancock

At stake: It’s the last home game of the year for the Royals, who will recognize all their winter athletes, band members and cheerleaders. In other words, it’s going to be a full house. So, while this game will count in the Mid-Hoosier Conference standings, it’s also a chance for the Eastern Hancock senior players, of which their are several, to put on one final good show in front of their loyal fans.

The favorite: The Royals (8-11 overall, 2-5 MHC) allow six fewer points than the Yellow Jackets (5-14, 2-6), and fared better against the most recent common shared opponent. Hauser defeated Eastern Hancock 51-45 on Thursday. In the Jets’ previous game, Feb. 7, they beat Morristown 75-49.

Fearless prediction: Not even close. Royals 72, Yellow Jackets 56.

Rushville at Greenfield-Central

At stake: At 9-12 and with three regular season games remaining, the Cougars (who would also need a sectional win) have a realistic chance at their first .500 season in ages. After hosting Rushville (12-5), Greenfield-Central will visit Avon (5-14) and Plainfield (6-12).

The favorite: The Lions have the better overall record, but each team is 7-3 over the last 10 games. Still, 3A Rushville gets the slight edge by the oddsmakers. It’s two most recent losses were to standout 3A programs Greensburg (58-51) and Batesville (41-39), while two of the 4A Cougars’ recent setbacks were to 2A Eastern Hancock (51-47) and Triton Central (49-43).

Fearless prediction: Greenfield-Central has had eight days to prepare for this one, meaning head coach Michael Lewis and/or his staff probably took in Rushville’s win Friday vs. Beech Grove, as well the Lions’ contest Tuesday at Winchester. Give me the rested and well-armed home team in a slight upset. Koogs 71, Lions 69.

— Compiled by Brian Harmon