If it weren’t for last year, we might be talking about the recently completed Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic as the best one ever — and it unquestionably had the most interesting championship game, only the 2003 Terre Haute North-Bloomfield matchup being anywhere comparable.
There wasn’t really a close game on the first day, but plenty of down-to-the-wire thrillers the rest of the way. Crowds, by my educated guess, were also second only to the 2008 tournament — nearly full for the 11:30 a.m. game on the first day (maybe a morning record, and a sign of discriminating taste since that was the Sullivan-South Vermillion matchup), full by the time Marshall and North played on the second day, and perhaps down early on the third day but filling the gym by the time Marshall was finishing its game and Sullivan and West Vigo were getting ready to go.
Two of my friends from Terre Haute South are no longer in the Classic’s top 10 in scoring, with Armon Bassett’s 155 points and Jeremy Lock’s 152 having been supplanted by West Vigo’s Tyler Wampler and South’s John Michael Jarvis.
R.J. Mahurin of Rockville leads the way with 292 points, and probably will for awhile. To put his numbers in perspective, to get to 292 points a player would have to average 18.3 points per game and play four games (which only half the teams do each year) in all four years of high school. Yes, that record is safe.
Unofficially, the rest of the top 10 now consists of Nate Blank of North (225), Adam Gore of Monrovia (214), Lucas Eitel of Marshall and Wampler (both 210), Phil Woods of Turkey Run (208), Logan Eitel of Marshall (200), Jarvis (197), Zach Keyes of Northview (179) and Tyler Morgan of Riverton Parke (162).
Other unofficial statistics and tidbits from 2009 are as follows:
• He played too early in the day — I had no qualms at all about the 10 players (Thomas Anderson and Justin Gant of North, Dreyson Boyd and Rhett Smith of Sullivan, Taylor Duncan of Marshall, Jarvis, Trent Lancaster of Northview, Billy Newton of Shakamak, Andy Walsh of South Vermillion and Wampler) named to the all-tournament team. All of them were under consideration on the ballot that I eventually whittled down to 10.
But the first player I wrote down on that ballot was Jake Weaver of Turkey Run, who averaged a little over 15 points per game (on a team that averaged a little over 46) and who does a lot more for the Warriors than just score. I also voted for Tyler Richardson of Shakamak and considered Anthony McGill of South and Chase Rhoten of Linton.
• Teams that helped themselves — The obvious first choices here are Northview and Linton, each of whom picked up their first win of the season and came close to getting at least one more. The Miners who lost to Casey on Tuesday were a vastly better team than the Miners who lost to Shakamak on Saturday. South also gained a shot of confidence from its three wins (and its Dec. 22 win at Indianapolis Arlington).
No team, however, got a bigger boost than consolation-bracket champion Casey.
• Teams who hurt themselves — I’m not sure anybody’s on this list, although I imagine Bloomfield and Monrovia were fairly desperate teams before beating Riverton Parke and Rockville on Tuesday to salvage a win each, and Marshall’s Lions need the shots to start dropping pretty soon.
South Vermillion certainly suffered a setback when Cody Mumaw, one of the Wildcats’ three-year starters, was injured against Sullivan and missed the rest of the tournament. But if a couple of players take advantage of additional playing time until Mumaw’s return, the Wildcats might be a deeper and more versatile tournament team as a result.
Rockville didn’t win, but I don’t count the Rox as having hurt themselves either. They are 10 deep (as coach Dave Mahurin quipped, five offensive players and five defensive players), they were in all three of their Classic games and could easily have won two of them, and figure to keep getting better.
• Players who emerged — Maybe I should include West Vigo in the list of teams that helped themselves, because the Classic was a coming-out party for both Zach Kent, the hero of the Owen Valley win, and Ryan Crowther. Chance Talbot of Northview seems to be taking advantage of increased playing time too, and I thought Ike Worrell of South had a very solid week.
• Best mascot — Even with a little more competition, the Marshall Lion would have won this award paws down.
• All-name team addition — Kruz Kusterman of Casey makes any top-10 list in that regard.
n New favorites needed — This was the final Classic for David Parsons of Rockville, very possibly the most interesting player I’ve ever covered, and Dustin Morey of Marshall, one of my favorite people to interview.
I may have isolated a possible successor to Parsons in Dess Fougerousse of Linton, however.
• Best crossover dribble — I know a lot of you are picking Duncan, having watched him operate at the top of the key for Marshall for four days.
But the best single crossover I’ve seen all season — maybe for several seasons — was turned in by freshman Jeff Woods of Turkey Run (yes, that’s his brother who was mentioned earlier). Every time I’m in the North gym now I keep expecting someone to trip over that athletic supporter left there by Woods’ move against a surprised Owen Valley defender.
• Best one-on-one matchup — Nominations are pouring in for Duncan again, either being guarded by North’s Chris O’Leary or guarding Northview’s Lancaster the following night.
My vote, however, was set in stone early Monday when I watched Parsons — who would have thought he’d become an offensive threat as a senior? — being guarded by Casey’s Chris Unzicker. Parsons had Unzicker by about five inches and at least 50 pounds, but Unzicker — captain of the all-feisty team and the Classic leader in righteous indignation — did his best to match Parsons push for push and shove for shove.
Unzicker, in fact, might have been my favorite player to watch in this tournament, at least partly because after a couple of days — my 22 games plus halves of two others enabled me to see the Warriors four times — I figured out who he reminds me of: John McEnroe.
I can hear Chris now. “McEnroe? You cannot be serious!”
Andy Amey can be reached after 4 p.m. for comments or news items at (812) 231-4277 or 1-800-783-8742; by e-mail at email@example.com; by mail at P.O. Box 149, Terre Haute, IN, 47808; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.