TERRE HAUTE —
When Terre Haute South knocked off Terre Haute North 58-48 Monday night on the Patriots’ Jim Jones Court to capture its first Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic title for boys high school basketball since 2007, that wrapped up an eventful 2013 of athletics in the Valley.
In that championship game, played in front of a packed house, coach Scott Ridge’s Braves were led offensively by junior forward Greg Newton with 15 points. Also noteworthy from the 2013 Classic, Casey (Ill.) senior Brandon Wolfe became the all-time leading scorer (311 points) in the 14th annual tournament.
Looking back, a year that ended with basketball excitement certainly began with basketball excitement. In the early months of 2013, coach Joey Hart’s Linton squad reached the IHSAA Class 2A state championship game, where it lost to Bowman Academy 86-73 in Indianapolis’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Miners finished 24-4.
A Class A boys team from the Valley — Rockville — started off even hotter than Linton. The Rox won their first 25 games, including a North Vermillion Sectional crown, before losing to Lafayette Central Catholic 65-55 in the Frankfort Regional. Since then, Dave Mahurin stepped down as Rockville’s coach and has been replaced by Ryan Luce.
On the collegiate front, Indiana State’s men finished their 2012-13 campaign with an 18-15 overall mark. Coach Greg Lansing’s Sycamores lost to Creighton 64-43 in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament quarterfinals at St. Louis.
After opening 14-7, ISU had aspirations of receiving an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament if it didn’t win the MVC championship, but it received a National Invitation Tournament bid instead and lost its first-round game at Iowa 68-52. Guard Jake Odum of Terre Haute was the Sycamores’ leading scorer, averaging 13.6 points per game.
Meanwhile, the Indiana State women concluded 2012-13 with an 18-13 overall record. Coach Teri Moren’s Sycamores lost to Northern Iowa 71-60 in the first round of the MVC tournament at St. Charles, Mo., and lost at Youngstown State 63-51 in the first round of the Women’s NIT.
Over at Rose-Hulman, the men’s basketball team earned its second straight Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament championship. Coach Jim Shaw’s Engineers lost to Calvin 72-52 in Hulbert Arena in the first round of the NCAA Division III tourney and ended up 24-4.
Indoor track is usually a happy hunting ground for ISU and it was again for thrower Felisha Johnson. She won her second national title in the NCAA weight throw in three seasons. Five of her six throws were over 70 feet in the competition at Arkansas and her title winning throw was 77 feet, 2 inches.
In the spring and early summer, senior Liz Evans of Bicknell left no doubt that she’s the greatest athlete in Rose history. She won the Division III outdoor national championship in the women’s high jump with a leap of 5-10 1/2 at La Crosse, Wis. That was Evans’ fifth national title and eighth All-American award.
Back to ISU, the Sycamores’ baseball squad went 26-25. Then its coach, Rick Heller, left for Iowa to guide the Big Ten’s Hawkeyes. Mitch Hannahs, recently the president at Lincoln Trail College after a long tenure as its baseball coach, was hired to take Heller’s place. Hannahs was a standout ISU player in the late 1980s.
Over the summer, the Terre Haute Rex provided Valley baseball fans with plenty of fun at Bob Warn Stadium. Since then, Wabash Valley Baseball LLC — a Terre Haute corporation whose owners are Brian Dorsett, Bruce Rosselli, Bob Brown, John Newton, Ray Kepner and Kevin Hoolehan — purchased the summer college wooden-bat team from the ISU Foundation and announced it will be back in Terre Haute for the 2014 season.
At the Terre Haute Action Track and other Valley motorsports venues, the big story was the weather. No Midwest track could escape the wraths of Mother Nature. The Action Track, one of the hardest hit, lost five of seven scheduled events.
The two events that made it into the record books produced some of the best-attended shows in recent years. Young Kevin Thomas Jr. captured the Don Smith/Hulman Classic during Indiana Sprint Weeks and veteran Jerry Coons Jr. won the Hurtubise Classic for U.S. Auto Club sprint cars.
Heading into the fall, new ISU football coach Mike Sanford was optimistically preparing for his first season at the helm after previous coach Trent Miles had left to guide Georgia State. Unfortunately for Sanford and ISU fans, the Sycamores dropped from 7-4 in 2012 to 1-11 in 2013 while mysteriously dropping first-team Preseason All-American running back Shakir Bell from the team in the process. They also went winless in eight Missouri Valley Football Conference games.
Rose-Hulman fared much better on the gridiron, tying perennial power Franklin for the HCAC championship at 7-1 and finishing 7-3 overall. Coach Jeff Sokol’s proud group earned the engineering institute’s first conference title in football since 1988. For his efforts, Sokol was named HCAC Coach of the Year.
At the same time, Terre Haute South graduate Danny Etling became the starting quarterback for Purdue’s football team as a freshman, although the Boilermakers went 1-11 overall (0-8 in the Big Ten) for 2013. In a 56-36 season-ending loss to Indiana University, Etling did complete 33 of 49 passes for 485 yards and four touchdowns without an interception.
Football was entertaining on the Valley’s high school fields as well.
With the state of Indiana implementing a six-class system for the first time and Terre Haute North and South playing in Conference Indiana for the first time, there were some adjustments to make.
Coach Chris Barrett’s Terre Haute North Patriots, ranked No. 2 in Class 5A most of the season, made those adjustments about as well as anyone. They finished second in Conference Indiana, reached the semistate — losing to Indianapolis Cathedral 42-20 — and ended up 10-3.
A few other Valley football teams who did well were Linton (reached Class A semistate), North Vermillion (undefeated in regular season) and Casey (reached Illinois Class A quarterfinals).
Individually, North Central senior running back Chase VanSchoyck broke his own state single-game rushing record by piling up 581 yards (on 22 carries) in a 71-50 victory at Eastern Greene.
In another fall sport, the Indiana State women’s soccer team reached the championship game of the MVC tournament, losing to Illinois State 5-0 at Evansville. With that setback, coach Erika True’s Sycamores concluded a 10-9 campaign.
Not all Valley successes involved athletes carrying, passing, shooting or hitting a ball.
In the fall, Indiana State sophomore John Mascari — a graduate of Terre Haute North High School — won his second straight MVC men’s championship and later won the NCAA Great Lakes Regional men’s championship in cross country, doing so in a 10-kilometer school-record time of 30 minutes, 5 seconds. He also placed 32nd in the NCAA championships (30:38 for 10k) at LaVern Gibson Championship Course, becoming the university’s first All-American in cross country ever.
On the high school level, Indiana University-bound senior Jackson Bertoli became Vigo County’s first male runner ever to win a state championship in cross country, crossing the finish line in 15:32.24 and leading Terre Haute South to a fifth-place team finish at the same Gibson course. Fifth was the highest team finish in school history for the Braves.
In that same Nov. 2 meet, Terre Haute North’s girls placed 18th as a team.
Then came the bitter cold of winter and expectations were high for several Valley basketball programs.
The ISU women were selected by coaches, media and sports information directors as the preseason favorites to capture the 2013-14 MVC championship. So far, the Sycamores are 5-6 overall as they prepare to play their MVC opener Friday at home against Northern Iowa.
The ISU men are off to a 9-3 start as they head into their MVC opener today against Loyola in Hulman Center, starting at 3:05 p.m.
As noted earlier in this story, news of the recent Pizza Hut Classic should be fresh in the minds of fans after attending games and reading Tribune-Star game reports.
However, there was at least one other significant development on the Valley hardwood scene in the early part of this season.
Terre Haute resident Pat Rady, currently the boys coach at Cloverdale, passed the late Howard Sharpe to become the second-winningest basketball coach in Indiana history. Rady’s 727-victory total in 49 seasons trails only the retired Loogootee legend Jack Butcher, who compiled 806 wins.
With the young, talented Clovers sitting at 7-1 in 2013-14 and Rady looking healthy for 72, don’t be surprised if his total gets a lot higher.
Tribune-Star sports editor Todd Golden and Tribune-Star correspondent Joe Buckles contributed to this report.