News From Terre Haute, Indiana


December 25, 2013

TRIBUNE-STAR EDITORIAL: Tipping off another ‘Classic’

Are you ready for some basketball?

TERRE HAUTE — When the first jump ball goes up at 10 this morning, so will begin the 14th chapter in the Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic, the descendant of the old Wabash Valley Tournament that ran from 1916 to 1972 and became nationally known.

This new classic tourney, which began in 2000, may not have the wide name recognition of its predecessor, but the classic’s local appeal has grown steadily over the years since competition began on a leap of faith at the beginning of the century.

Surely, the classic’s founders at first must have wondered whether it would work — this idea of teams from schools of all sizes, from several counties and from both sides of the state line competing in a multi-day tournament between Christmas and New Year’s. Could this classic come close to engendering the kind of competitive play and  community spirit that the old tournament carried? Could it resurrect, even to a limited degree, the kind of aura that surrounded real-life Hoosier high school teams that rang true in the movie “Hoosiers”?

Yes, it could, and, yes, it still does.

That’s what will bring teams and fans from 16 schools — 13 from Indiana, three from Illinois — to Terre Haute North Vigo’s gym on Maple Avenue today, Friday, Saturday and Monday.

Teams from smaller schools such as West Vigo, Linton, Marshall, Turkey Run and Shakamak would just love to knock off one of the big schools — North, South and Northview. And the big schools sure don’t want to be outpointed by their smaller-town neighbors. Bragging rights are on the line.

This year, two of the smaller schools, South Vermillion and Riverton Parke, will be the first teams on the floor today at North. In the last game of the night, at 8:30, Robinson and Rockville will face each other, re-creating the championship game from the 2012 classic, which Rockville won, 44-39.

There are blowouts in this classic, but many games are tight contests, turning on every foul shot, every rebound, every bad pass, every missed defensive assignment, every 3-pointer, every foul.

Fans love tight games, especially against geographic rivals. Fans love to mix with their not-so-distant neighbors.

And fans love underdogs, which present themselves every year in the classic, whose closest championship games have been a two-point win for Sullivan over North in 2009 and a three-point victory for North over Bloomfield in 2003.

This year — at least according to the Tribune-Star’s in-house high school basketball whiz, Andy Amey — the tournament is wide open with lots of younger players filling roles left by those who have graduated.

That should mean very competitive games — classics, in the true sense of the word.

And at the end of it all, one team will claim the classic trophy, presented by Gary Fears, a founder, main driving force and longtime tournament director. His steadfast contributions will themselves be honored this year with the initial Gary Fears Most Outstanding Player award.

Fears’ efforts have been invaluable in re-creating the classic in echo of its vaunted predecessor — and the players, coaches, schools and fans who embrace this great regional tournament do much each year to keep the heritage alive. We are sure that will be the case again this year.

Now, to the opening tip.


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