TERRE HAUTE —
Two days of snow and the first postponement in its 13-year history don’t seem to have affected the Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic very much.
And unless today’s predicted third day of precipitation produces a lot more than it’s expected to, the final session at Terre Haute South should wrap up the tournament in outstanding fashion.
Fans are reminded, by the way, that times for today’s games are different than those listed in the program and on tournament brackets. The first game is at 2 p.m., with the fourth game — a highly anticipated championship contest that’s certain to produce a first-time winner — is at 6:30.
Owen Valley fans might argue the lack of effect the weather’s had; even with a postponement, their Patriots were unable to dig themselves out for Thursday’s opener. But even that day, most of the seats were filled.
“It certainly doesn’t seem the postponement [of the first day] has had much of an effect on the attendance,” said Gary Fears of Pizza Hut, whose brainchild 13 years ago has blossomed into one of the Wabash Valley’s premier annual sporting events. “Annually, [attendance] has to do with matchups, and we had some good ones on that first day … overall, we’ve been very pleased.”
Fears doesn’t have a rooting interest — or at least not one that he publicizes. If prodded today, however, he’ll probably admit that the Rockville-Robinson pairing — two smaller schools who arguably have the most state-championship aspirations in this year’s field — is likely to result in both a thrilling championship game and a packed house.
Like the last few PHWVC title games, tonight’s final will be telecast live on WTWO-TV.
“You’ve got an undefeated team that’s No. 1 in its class [Rockville, in Indiana’s Class A] that will perk some interest,” Fears noted, “and then you have a new team [Robinson] that’s only lost one game and that’s had an outstanding performance by their guard [Aaron Siler, with 81 points in three games including a 39-point outburst against Terre Haute North] that’s certainly sparked some interest too.”
All four games today, in fact, should be plenty interesting. The consolation championship that starts the four-game program features Casey — with its own great scorer in junior Brandon Wolfe, who has a 37-point game in the tournament — against the host Braves and the Jeffrey Turner-Kevaris Gregory combination.
Terre Haute North, with reason to think it was one basket away from today’s 6:30 game, plays Marshall for fifth place and those two teams have developed a Classic rivalry of their own — particularly since the Lions beat the Patriots in the 2008 championship game. And Northview and Sullivan will meet for third place and have been spirited rivals for many, many years (although it was Brazil and Sullivan for a lot of those years).
Fears and the other tournament organizers have no complaints about the fan bases that will be involved either. South and North might be the biggest schools in the field, but their fans will be hard-pressed to make more noise than either of their Illinois rivals today.
“Northview and Sullivan have always traveled well,” Fears pointed out, and fans for the championship game are already hopeful of making a second Elite Eight trip in four years (for Robinson, which won the Illinois Class 2A title in 2010) or a second straight Indiana Class A final game (in Rockville’s case).
The final could be a Classic case of Robinson’s strength against Rockville’s quickness, between two of the tournament’s biggest stars in Siler and Rockville’s Lane Mahurin.
Getting there early is probably good advice.