TERRE HAUTE —
Terre Haute is putting on a full-court press to make this weekend’s girls high school basketball championships another success.
No Vigo County schools qualified to play in the one-and-done state finals Saturday at Hulman Center. But that doesn’t mean the full-day event will be without local interest.
Among other things, former Indiana University standout Damon Bailey will be in Hulman Center as an assistant coach for the unbeaten Bedford North Lawrence Stars. And his daughter, Alexa, is a 5-7 guard on the squad.
“I was glad to see Bedford North Lawrence in particular make it because they have a huge fan base,” said Dave Patterson, executive director of the Terre Haute Convention and Visitors Bureau, which helped organize the four-game championship with Hulman Center and the Vigo County School Corp.
A large number of fans are also expected to make the trip from Vincennes to watch tiny Vincennes Rivet attempt to capture the Class A title, something they did two years ago. The Vincennes team (22-4) will be playing last year’s champs, Fort Wayne Canterbury (24-3).
This is the second year in a row Hulman Center has hosted the girls championship games. The first game tips off at 10:30 a.m. Saturday with the Class A title game. The Class 2A championship starts when that game ends. The evening games begin with the 3A title game at 6 p.m., and the 4A championship starts when that game is over.
The time between the early games and the evening games is bound to be a busy time for local restaurants, Patterson noted. All in all, hosting the championships is a big boost for the local economy, he said.
“All expectations are to have another great state tournament,” Patterson said. “I fully expect restaurants, the mall, gas stations, hotels, to be busy. It’s a big deal.”
With Bedford North Lawrence (27-0) playing in the 4A title game against Fort Wayne South Side (24-3), the evening session could be a sellout, Patterson added.
On Monday, head coaches from the eight teams that will play Saturday visited Hulman Center to get the lay of the land and take questions from the news media.
“Terre Haute was a great host community” last year, said Julie Shelton, head coach of the Mt. Vernon Marauders, a Hancock County team from the town of Fortville that lost the 3A title game in 2012 to Fort Wayne Concordia.
Shelton’s 22-4 squad will be facing the 23-2 Hamilton Heights Huskies, coached by Tod Windlan, whose team is making its first appearance in the finals. Windlan noted that the Indiana High School Athletic Association decided to play the final games on a college-sized basketball court, which is slightly larger than a high school court. Like the other coaches, he believes that will be no problem for his players.
“They’ll love it,” Windlan said of playing at Hulman Center.
In last year’s finals, the IHSAA chose to play on a high school-size court, which meant adding some new lines to the floor at Hulman Center. The extra lines created a lot of confusion, several coaches said.
Allowing the teams to play on the college-sized floor this year was a “good decision,” said Tim Young, head coach of the Vincennes Rivet Patriots, a school with barely more than 100 students making its fourth appearance in the Class A finals in the past five years.
Most of the teams will be staying in Terre Haute hotels this weekend, but a few, such as the Evansville Mater Dei Wildcats, have decided to make the drive from their home school the day of the game. That allows the players to sleep in their own beds Friday night, said head coach Steve Goans. And, perhaps more importantly, that’s what the team did last year when they won the Class 2A title.
“Some of the girls are even wearing the socks” they wore last year, said Goans, admitting that superstition is a factor going into Saturday’s games. “We even have the same bus driver,” he said.
As for Terre Haute, Goans said it was a great host community in 2012 and has already made a good impression this year.
“They’re fabulous,” Goans said of the event organizers. “Everything is very first class. I’m very happy with [the championship] being in Terre Haute.”
Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or email@example.com