By Dennis Glade Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald
---- — The Indiana boys basketball state tournament got underway Tuesday night as the most exciting month in high school began. As the old saying goes, “In 49 other states, it’s just basketball, but this is Indiana.” With that in mind, the IHSAA needs to take a long look at seeding the state tournament.
Midway through the first game of the Class A Sectional 63 at North Daviess, I was reminded again why the state tournament is an entirely new season. North Daviess, was completely dominated by No. 1 Barr-Reeve in a 15-point loss Jan. 25, was planting the seeds for a potential monumental upset. The Cougars led by one after the first quarter and trailed by just four points at halftime, 24-20
You could feel the tension in the Cougar Den at halftime. Could Barr-Reeve actually lose in the first game of what was expected to be a deep post-season run that could end with the Vikings’ first state championship for veteran coach Bryan Hughes. North Daviess tied the game at 27 and then at 32 and Barr-Reeve had a real test on its hands. The Vikings responded the way a champion is supposed to and that was that. The Vikings outscored the Cougars 23-10 the rest of the way for a 13-point victory in the opener.
It was a great first game test for Hughes’ team, but you couldn’t help but think that neither of Barr-Reeve’s next two games would be even close to a 13-point margin. Tonight Barr-Reeve plays Shoals. The Jug Rox have lost 16 of 18 games this season and in the championship game, the Vikings will play either Vincennes Rivet (10-12) or Washington Catholic (4-15). Barr-Reeve enjoyed victories of both Washington Catholic (67-18) and Rivet (67-45) this season. No offense to either program, but we deserve better for what has been called the best sectional in the entire state of Indiana.
Of course, this year has a special circumstance. The Loogootee Lions (6-15) are uncharacteristically bad as the crowd witnessed Tuesday night. Just two years removed from winning a state championship, coach Mike Wagoner watched his team lose by 20 to Vincennes Rivet — a thought that seemed unimaginable even two years ago. North Daviess and Loogootee — two teams that had given Barr-Reeve fits in sectionals over the years didn’t look like themselves this year. The Cougars lost Wes Lengacher and dynamic guard Nick Crays and Loogootee lost an entire starting lineup from last year’s team that fell to Barr-Reeve in the sectional championship.
Meanwhile, Barr-Reeve has taken a step forward. Nobody inside the Barr-Reeve program will say this publicly, but this year’s Viking squad is so talented and experienced that it’s hard to envision their final game not being played at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis under the bright lights of a state championship. With the competition watered down in their sectional this year, it likely wouldn’t have mattered who Barr-Reeve played, but at least you could have had the Vikings playing the host Cougars in Saturday’s championship game. Instead the Vikings and Cougars met at the beginning of the week.
If you picture the tournament seeded, Barr-Reeve and North Daviess would get byes as the top two seeds, while first round games would have been Rivet-Shoals and Loogootee-Washington Catholic. The idea of a draw is an outdated idea. Seeding is the most logical way to go through any tournament. No disrespect to Rivet or Washington Catholic and its fans, but I find it hard to believe that the championship game will match what we witnessed during Tuesday’s Barr-Reeve-North Daviess game. That type of atmosphere comes from a deep-seeded rivalry between two small town powerhouses, which after all is what the Indiana state tournament is supposed to be all about.
The boys basketball state tournament is supposed to be the greatest spectacle in Indiana high school sports. Don’t we owe it to the fans to build a crescendo to a great championship game? The answer should be a resounding yes. Seeding is truly the only way to go.