Regional fields for boys high school basketball often bring together teams that probably know each other, but may not have played that often during the regular season.
That's not the case at Loogootee Saturday when Barr-Reeve, Northeast Dubois, Orleans and Borden meet.
Borden (20-3) and Orleans (13-10) open the regional at 10:30 a.m. with Barr-Reeve (23-1) and Northeast Dubois (12-12) completing the first round at 12:30 p.m.
Everyone is old friends - with the possible exception of Borden. All the others have played against the other two in the regular season.
The Braves have met Orleans in the regular season. Borden came away with 37-36 win Jan. 25.
Barr-Reeve has defeated both Northeast Dubois (72-55, Dec. 21) and Orleans (51-39, Dec. 1). Orleans topped Northeast Dubois (71-63, Dec. 7).
While none of the coaches are expecting the familiarity to change any last-minute strategy - all agree it actually helps with planning during the week - they agree it is a bit unusual.
Northeast Dubois and Barr-Reeve are members of the same Blue Chip Conference. Both Barr-Reeve mentor Bryan Hughes and Northeast Dubois coach Terry Friedman know the opposition well.
"With Northeast Dubois and Orleans it actually makes it a bit simpler process for preparation." Hughes said.
"The only team we're thinking about right now is Northeast Dubois. There will be nothing said this week with the exception of Northeast Dubois. They are a conference team, a team we're familiar with that we beat, but our kids know it's the time of year that if you lose you're out." Barr-Reeve's success was not unexpected, but with new players in the starting lineup, 23 wins might be a touch surprising.
"The attitude of the players - they are a great group to coach - it's a good mix of some young players with seniors," Hughes said. "Everyone has accepted their roles and we've had great leadership." While getting the team together was a project for the year, Hughes said two moments stand out in his mind.
"When we won at Orleans early before Christmas, that was a really good win that gave our younger kids a lot of confidence," Hughes said. "Then a couple of weeks later we beat Brownstown Central (a participant in Saturday's 3A Washington Regional), and that's still their only loss. I saw a team grow up in that game." The Vikings have size with Addison Wagler and Jacob Bledsoe under the hoop.
They have been consistent.
"Playing with two bigs - Addison is a tremendous scorer who can put the ball in the basket - Jacob has been a defender and rebounder - but he (Jacob scored 10 points in that sectional final against Loogootee Saturday) - it's a nice thing to have two players like that at the high school level." Freshman Logan James, senior Brandon Wagler and junior Micah Bullock as a forward-guard grew quickly into their roles.
"Logan has been a special player for us," Hughes said. "As a freshman to run the point - I think our system is fairly complicated on the high school level - for a freshman to handle that and run the show well - he takes care of the basketball.
"Micah is probably our best athlete," Hughes said. "He has length and has had a great year. He can shoot the deep three and he can drive to the basket. We weren't sure how well he would make the jump from the junior varsity, but he sure has." The Jeeps have been a bit up and down, but Northeast Dubois is on a five-game winning streak and has won six of its last seven.
"We started playing a bit better basketball in mid January," Friedman said. "Our last 10 games our kids have really started to come together. We've started clicking offensively and our defense has been better. We're really pleased that our boys are in a good mental frame of mind. Hopefully, we're playing our best basketball." The Jeeps played at Barr-Reeve in their sixth game of the season. The Jeeps know they are facing a difficult task.
"This is a team that is really hard to defend," Friedman said. "They have really good outside shooters, and Wagler and Bledsoe are very strong inside players. We're looking at a team that we are going to have to try and figure out what we are going to do defensively. It's a tall order, but on the other hand, we fell like we are playing well. We're looking forward to this." Borden and Orleans know each other well. Both are returning from the regional field of 2012, where Borden took a 68-48 win in the opening round that year.
The Braves have four seniors and a junior in the starting lineup.
"We have tough kids who like to compete," Borden coach Doc Nash said. "We've been looking forward to competing against some good teams in the sectional and have another week of play. We've got three other teams that are playing very good basketball at the right time of the year." With the four seniors back from last winter, Nash believes his team is prepared for a second trip to Jack Butcher Arena.
"I think the kids are a bit more seasoned," Nash said. "We're going to see the same coach (Tom) Bradley team that you always see, They do a great job with three guards who can shoot and a big kid in the middle. They're tough.
It's going to be a dog fight in the morning." Bradley is in his 14th year at Orleans and has put together a 245-96 record.
The Braves experienced a six-game losing streak at the first of the year, as they became accustomed to playing without senior Jarrett Jones who suffered a concussion. Jones is not expected to return for the regional.
"We lost Jarrett - our leading scorer and rebounder - at the end of December, and we had to adjust at the beginning of January," Bradley said.
"We also ran into a really tough stretch of games. We had to give our players a little bit of time to adjust. We've stuck together and got a nice win against Loogootee (Orleans defeated the Lions at home, 57-48) really helped. The Loogootee game was important because of the confidence it gave us." The Braves entered that game 8-9 and have won five of the last six. The only loss came to Brownstown Central, 57-44, on the road.
Senior Trey Bradley, son of the coach, is a leading scorer for Orleans (14 points per game). He recently got his 1,000th career point, Sophomore Chase Hall also adds 14 per outing. The Braves are guard oriented with players at
6-0 and under.
"I think we¹re pretty evenly matched with Borden," Bradley said. "We feel they are a big rival now. We're going to have play well to win. Both teams play well defensively and take good care of the ball."