The first thing that struck me on the final day of the Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic was how tough it was to fill out an all-tournament team ballot.

I’ve been known to gripe about all-tourney selections in the past, and I didn’t vote for all 10 recipients this year either. But I can say that all 10 of them were on the list I had to pare down to 10 — that was the tough part — and that list had between 20 and 30 names on it.

The second thing that struck me was how young all the teams were. So if you liked this Classic, the next two or three might be even better.

I don’t know if this was the best Classic I’ve seen, but it was pretty good. I don’t know if it was the best-attended Classic either, although the gym was filled at some surprising times. So here are some of my thoughts and personal highlights. Trust me, some of this stuff you won’t get anywhere else.

n Best game — This is an easy choice, and the one I actually picked that I couldn’t miss on the second day. I’m talking about Casey’s double-overtime win over Linton, of course, and as the Miner sophomores and the Warrior freshmen mature, I’d be happy to see these two play again the next two Classics. (I’d also like to see them play in football.)

Todd Woelfle thought I was going to say his Terre Haute North team’s win over Marshall on the second day, because if the Patriots can duplicate that effort and production in future tournaments, they have a chance to enjoy the month of March.

n Best team — North was supposed to win and did, which isn’t always easy. Besides showing what they’re capable of during that second-round performance, the Patriots demonstrated that their strengths — size, depth, defense — exist on the court as well as on paper.

One of the many basketball junkies I hung out with during the week wasn’t sure they’re yet eager enough to step on an opponent’s throat — his philosophy, if I remember it correctly, involves “burning, pillaging and poisoning the water” — but the next couple of months could be interesting.

n Best fans of basketball — This isn’t an award for fans of their own team. Everybody in the winners’ bracket got good support, as you might expect.

But I was impressed to see Rockville fans starting to show up before 11 a.m. on the first day — the Rox’ game was scheduled for 8:30 p.m., remember — and their players, coaches and fans were ubiquitous all week. I think Joel Wittenmyer is still in the South gym waiting for the next game to start.

n Best debut — Casey’s Brandon Wolfe, because of injuries, hadn’t played in a high school game until last week, and now he’s practically a legend. The tournament was also just one game removed from being the varsity debut of Terre Haute South’s Monte Stevenson and the season debut of Sullivan’s Rhett Smith.

n Best arguments for their schools having football — Bloomfield’s Payton Karl and Shakamak’s Justin Crody.

n Best player who didn’t score enough to make the all-tourney team — West Vigo’s Ryan Crowther was on my 30-man list for his steals, rebounds, blocks and assists, even though he averaged 8.3 points per game.

n Player who would have made the all-tourney team if the voting had been an hour later — Dillon Reynolds of Northview.

n Player who emerged — Derik Shouse of South.

n Player who was obscured — Riverton Parke’s Garrett Lientz played too many 10 a.m. games. I’m sure he’d agree.

n Toughest cheerleaders/mascots — The backflips by Marshall’s Lion, gigantic head firmly in place, were pretty impressive. And I think I saw Casey running back Austin Ragsdale among the Warrior basemen.

n Toughest players — Let’s start with Marshall’s Jared Boyll picking his tooth up off the floor, then staying in the game. We can also add his teammate Jacob Duncan, Sullivan’s David Bedwell, Linton’s Blake Eaton, Riverton Parke’s Jeremy Helton (where is the 5-foot-8-and-under league, so he could average 20 rebounds a game?) and Casey’s Clinton Scott. And North’s Calvin Blank might be scarier than all of them.

n Other favorite players — Turkey Run’s Jake Weaver and Linton’s Austin Karazsia will always be favorites of mine, and so will Lance Ellett of Sullivan.

n Most entertaining player — Linton’s Dess Fougerousse, as I predicted a year ago, is my successor to Rockville’s David Parsons as the guy you have to watch to see what he’ll do next.

n Teams who helped themselves — Start this list with Northview, which looks capable of competing with just about anybody from here on out. Shakamak should have gotten a boost of confidence, West Vigo learned it can compete with Sullivan and Marshall (the latter game without Scott West), and Linton and Casey could be emerging powers.

Riverton Parke makes this list if games are three quarters instead of four.

n Teams at less than full strength — West’s injury made West Vigo one of the teams that didn’t have a full roster throughout the tournament. Others included Casey, Marshall, Northview and Sullivan.

n What I was wearing — One of my Christmas presents from Jenny was two pairs of Jerry Garcia boxers, which are quite comfortable and extremely colorful (you’ll have to take my word for it). I didn’t realize the late guitar god designed anything but neckties.

But he never wore ties, so now I’m wondering …

n And here’s what Santa brought one of the other kids — Awaiting the North-South game on the first day, I was inadvertently and unavoidably privy to a conversation between two young ladies, one in the aisleway in front of me, the other seated a row behind me.

Let’s just say that one of the girls got a gift that involved plastic surgery.

I I I

n What we missed — While we were all busy at the Classic, however, we were short-handed in e-mail coverage in the Tribune-Star office last week.

Among the news that could have gotten in but didn’t was Robinson’s wins at the Effingham St. Anthony Tournament, 71-47 over Montini (25 points, seven rebounds, four assists for Aaron Siler, 13 points for Zach Danks and 11 each for Derrick Nicholas and Eli Wright) and 59-48 over Tolono Unity (Siler 22, Danks 12 points and 11 rebounds, Wright 12 points and Nicholas 10 rebounds); Martinsville’s two losses against Westville (57-27, Bryce Doran scoring 12) and Arthur (73-63, Doran with 23 points and Kyle Perisho with 12 blocks); and the Robinson girls’ fourth-place finish at the Vincennes Rivet Tournament (49-35 win over Linton with Kelsey Dirks getting 21 points and 11 rebounds, 56-38 loss to Rivet with Tehya Pritts scoring 13 and Dirks 11, and 44-38 loss to Hagerstown with Dirks getting 19).

I can’t tell you the Robinson boys record, but the Robinson girls are 9-5 going into today’s game with Paris. Martinsville is 3-9 and gets a rematch at Arthur on Friday.

Andy Amey can be reached after 4 p.m. at (812) 231-4277 or 1-800-783-8742; by e-mail at andy.amey@tribstar.com; by mail at P.O. Box 149, Terre Haute, IN, 47808; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.

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