TERRE HAUTE —
As Indiana State basketball and tennis legend Duane Klueh pulled names of high schools out of a box one by one Tuesday afternoon at Terre Haute South, pairings for the 13th annual Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic boys basketball tournament became known.
Among the first-round matchups set for Dec. 26 at South:
n Two-time defending Classic champion Terre Haute North will meet Turkey Run at 2:30 p.m.
“I don’t know a lot about them,” North coach Todd Woelfle said of the Warriors from Parke County. “But I’ve known coach [Grant] McVay for a long time and he’s a good guy. He’ll have his team ready to play.”
n The host school will go up against Robinson, Ill., right before the North-Turkey Run clash — at 1 p.m.
“I think they got us in overtime in a summer game,” South coach Scott Ridge said of the Maroons. “They’ve got a really good point guard [in Aaron Siler]. It’ll be a really competitive game.”
Although several coaches present for Tuesday’s drawing luncheon didn’t know much about Robinson — a first-time entrant for the Classic — veteran Marshall coach Tom Brannan is familiar with the Maroons.
“I think all the Illinois teams [competing in the Classic] are really strong this year,” Brannan told the Tribune-Star. “Robinson is bringing a really good team. They’ve got someone who’ll probably be an All-State guard in Aaron Siler. And Casey’s got experience now. They’re pretty strong.”
n Speaking of Marshall, the Lions will tangle with a familar regular-season foe in West Vigo at 4 p.m.
“I don’t know how many times we’ve played them here over the years,” Brannan said. “They haven’t played yet this year, so hopefully I’ll get a chance to go watch them play [before the Classic]. Coach [Joe] Boehler does a great job with them.”
From the West Vigo perspective, Boehler offered plenty of respect for Marshall and its coaching staff as well.
“Last year, we played Marshall in the final four [of the Classic] and they beat us at the buzzer,” he recalled. “We play each other in the regular season [Feb. 9 at West Vigo]. We know each other.
“They’re very well-coached. I think coach Brannan does an excellent job with his basketball team. He gets the absolute most out of his team every year. They’re going to be a very tough opponent for us to open the tournament with.”
n Class A powerhouse Rockville will battle Casey, Ill., at 5:30 p.m.
“I don’t really know what to think of the draw, to be honest,” Rockville coach Dave Mahurin said. “I’m just glad we play in the afternoon or evening. I don’t really like morning games. … I don’t know anything about Casey. We played them a few years back. I know they’re always well-coached [by Steve Hawkins] and play hard. It won’t be easy, I’m sure.”
n The other first-round Classic games are Owen Valley vs. Shakamak at 10 a.m., Northview vs. Monrovia at 11:30, South Vermillion vs. Riverton Parke at 7 p.m. and Linton vs. Sullivan at 8:30.
“I think it’ll be another exciting tournament,” Woelfle assessed. “There are some very good teams and some excellent individual players.
“Rockville played for a [Class A] state championship [last season], so they obviously have to be a favorite. We had a chance to play Robinson a couple of times over the summer and they have a couple of very good players and are well-coached [by Mack Thompson]. Casey-Westfield is very talented and whoever comes out of the Sullivan-Linton game will be tough.
“On our side of the bracket, I think Terre Haute South obviously is very capable. … I don’t know a lot about Northview’s personnel, but they have a new coach in Clint Weddle and he always does a good job. There are some very good teams this year — from top to bottom.”
Riverton Parke coach Charlie Martin echoed some of Woelfle’s sentiments.
“I think it’s a pretty balanced draw,” he noted. “I think you’ve got some real strong teams in each half of the bracket, so I think the semifinals will pan out to be really interesting.
“I think, obviously, North and South are always going to be big favorites. I think Sullivan, Linton, Rockville and Casey would all be considered favorites too and they’re all in our half of the bracket. It’ll be interesting to see who comes out of that.”
“I think the field is probably the deepest it’s been in the last five, six, seven years,” Ridge emphasized. “I’d say there are seven or eight teams that have a legitimate shot of winning it. You can’t always say that when you’ve got some big powerhouse schools. Sullivan’s been really good. Rockville’s been really good. You’ve got sectional champions, state-finals teams.”
“I think it’s a pretty balanced field,” Brannan added. “Of course, Terre Haute North is a team you always have to figure will be in the mix. Rockville was [Class A] runner-up in Indiana.”
“I think every year the tournament gets better and better and better,” Boehler chimed in. “As I look at the draw, there are several teams that have a legitimate chance to win this tournament. Obviously, Terre Haute North — being the biggest school here and being the two-time defending champ — might be a little bit of a favorite. But there are a lot of teams here that bring a lot to the table.
“I think the Illinois schools are all very good. Rockville’s coming off a state-championship run last year. So there are a lot of quality basketball teams here.
“It’s going to come down to which one can put together a good four-day tournament run.”
Gary Fears is again serving as tournament chairman. More information about the tournament can be found online at www.wabashvalleyclassic.net.
• Classic tickets — Tickets for the Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic are now on sale at the South athletic office and at the other participating schools.
Cost of all-tournament passes (good for all 28 games) is $20 and they will remain on sale until Dec. 22. Daily tickets will be sold for $7 apiece.
For more ticket information, contact the South athletic office at (812) 462-4265.