News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 30, 2007

Given to Fly: Plethora of reasons to enjoy Pizza Hut Classic

By Craig Pearson

TERRE HAUTE — Not long after arriving at my parents’ home in rural northern Indiana on Christmas Eve, the Andy Williams song “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” began coming from the living room speakers.

Filling the role of The Grinch, my comment was to the effect “It’s been 35 degrees and raining lately and before that much colder, is this really the most wonderful time of the year? I’d really enjoy some 85 degree temperatures and some sunshine.”

Well, eventually I got into a semblance of a Christmas spirit — it’s tough for a single guy in his 20s — and enjoyed the time with my family, which is easy to do.

But the perfect cure for the winter time blues was to spend as much time as possible at the Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic.

This year’s version was the most enjoyable one I’ve witnessed, having spent time at much of the past few years’ tournaments. I try to take full advantage because it is often one of the only times I get to see much high school basketball because I have in-office duties on Friday nights.

Our Tribune-Star sports staff recently voted on the top stories of the year and the Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic didn’t make my top five. I would like to retract that vote (even though it’s a little too late). This is definitely one of the top events in the Wabash Valley each and every year.

The Odum brothers of Terre Haute South took on the Eitel twins of Marshall for the tournament championship Saturday. This may have been the best story of the year in the Wabash Valley even though the game turned out lopsided.

As a former player at a school with an enrollment around 300, it would be nice to see a small school win this tournament at some point. But Terre Haute South’s dominance was impressive behind an aggressive, physical defense.

Marshall twin brothers Logan and Lucas Eitel appear to belong on the Phoenix Suns with their acute ability to find the open man as well as nailing shots from 3-point range when they have the chance. It would be like Steve Nash having a twin brother.

The Eitels appear to have the potential to be future Division I players, and it will be interesting to see if they are a package deal for some “lucky” coach.

After a couple tough seasons, it’s great to see the Odums and John Michael Jarvis leading coach Mike Saylor’s team back to being the best in the Wabash Valley. Despite an ugly offensive performance against Terre Haute North, the Braves were able to acclimate show off their strong chemistry and toughness during this tournament.

And while Terre Haute North coach Jim Jones’ team isn’t one of his best so far, 6-foot-6 Thomas Anderson showed he has a bright future as just a sophomore. I’m glad I had a chance to see the Patriots battle West Vigo’s Vikings on Friday, and those two teams will rematch in the Green Dome on Jan. 11 by the way.

Friday’s game that left several young fans saying “West Vigo won” even though the scoreboard disagreed after Anderson’s 40-footer was let go it seemed simultaneously as the buzzer sounded.

West Vigo is as fun to watch as anyone. The desire to win shown by coach Tommy Thornton’s team is inspiring. Maybe Santa can bring Thornton a 6-foot-8 center for Christmas next year.

Speaking of 6-8, Rockville’s 6-8 R.J. Mahurin put on a show as well, racking up a tournament record 40 points in a first-round victory against Monrovia in front of a large contingent of Rockville fans that never failed to arrive early and in a large mass. Mahurin also topped former Northview standout Zach Keyes’ tournament scoring record. Keyes is now an assistant coach for Mitch Lancaster’s Knights.

As excited tournament director Gary Fears pointed out Friday, the Eitels, Mahurin and most of his Rockville teammates will be back next year, along with most of the West Vigo guards and many many other high-quality players and coaches will be back next year.

“It was a tremendous tournament,” Fears said Saturday night. “A lot of great games. A lot of small 1A schools against the big schools … great matchups, very pleased with the attendance at the tournament and really looking forward to year No. 9.”

Here’s to enjoying the most wonderful time of the year next December.

Craig Pearson can be reached by e-mail at

Falling records

Most Points in a Game

R.J. Mahurin, 40 points

Most Points in a Tournament

R.J. Mahurin, 118

Most Field Goals in a Game

R.J. Mahurin, 15

Most Points in a half (1 team)

Casey, 53

Most Points in a half (2 teams)

Casey (53)/Monrovia(39), 92

Most free throws attempted (game)

Casey, 42 (tied record)