News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Sports

December 30, 2013

Braves, Patriots play for all the pizza in tonight’s Classic championship

Only other time rivals met for title, it was a 47-38 affair, South winning

TERRE HAUTE — Expect a different kind of game tonight than the last time Terre Haute North and Terre Haute South played for the Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic championship in high school basketball.

One of the more surprising Classic statistics is that its two biggest schools (except possibly for Hamilton Southeastern’s participation in the first two) are meeting for the championship for only the second time in 14 years.

The first one, a 47-38 victory by South in 2004, was characterized by hard-nosed defensive play by both teams and arguably the best individual performance in a Classic championship game. Future Indiana All-Star Armon Bassett scored 29 for the Braves — more than a third of the points scored by the two teams combined — and accounted for all but one of his team’s 14 baskets with eight field goals and five assists.

No single player has dominated play for either of the championship hopefuls, South using 10 players regularly throughout the tournament and North getting at least nine on the court every game. It’s been a different hero every night for both teams — a key factor in why they’re playing in the 8 p.m. game after struggling early in the season.

The inaugural Gary Fears Most Outstanding Player Award that will be presented after the title game is definitely still up for grabs.

A 47-38 final score isn’t likely either, although North’s Patriots would welcome that. They’re where they are primarily because of their defense, having allowed 44, 48 and 43 points in their three Classic wins, although their offense is improving game by game.

The Braves, on the other hand, would like 47-38 to be the halftime score. They too have earned their trip to the final game with defense, but of a different variety. South’s smothering, trapping tactics are the reason the Braves have scored well — 78, 79 and 66 points — and shot well, and even a solid, veteran Sullivan team got caught up in the frenzy at key moments in Saturday night’s semifinal game.

So here’s the key statistic tonight: in their first three games, the Patriots have committed five, six and six turnovers respectively, 17 in all. South opponents have committed 26, 18 and 25.

***

The other games today should also have their moments.

• Consolation final, 3:30 p.m. — The Wabash Valley’s two most recent state finalists, Linton (Class 2A runner-up, 2013) and Rockville (Class A runner-up, 2012), have shown that they are still pretty good despite big graduation losses.

It’s veterans of Bankers Life Fieldhouse who will lead the way, though: Bryant Jackson and Ryan Woodward for the Miners and Keiontre’ Wilkey — if not the most entertaining player in the Classic, at least its most energetic — for the Rox.

• Fifth-place game, 5 — Brandon Wolfe is already the all-time leading scorer in Classic history, having surpassed Rockville’s R.J. Mahurin on Saturday night, and he’ll play his last game in Terre Haute for Casey’s Warriors. He also has a pretty good chance to join Terre Haute North’s Nate Blank — now a Patriots assistant coach — as the only players to be all-tournament selections four straight years.

There’s another team in the game too, however, and Owen Valley’s Patriots figure to make this one as interesting as any of the games that don’t involve North vs. South. Sophomore standout Cameron King of Owen Valley is gradually recovering from a bad ankle — he was much more mobile on Saturday than he’d been on Friday — and no doubt appreciates the day of rest on Sunday.

• Third-place game, 6:30 — Not only a Western Indiana Conference rivalry but a rivalry period, Sullivan vs. Northview is always an intense affair and will be again, assuming both teams have overcome their disappointment after hard-fought losses on Saturday.

This will be a man-sized game as 6-foot-5 Michael Hutchcraft; 6-4 Luke McPhail; 6-4, 230-pound Ian Perkinson; and 6-5, 240-pound Jake Kinnaman of the Golden Arrows battle 6-6 Ethan Whitson, 6-6 Jim Mace, 6-6 Daniel Kimball, 6-7 Drew Lumsdon and 6-5 Christian Ellis of the Knights.

 

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