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Nathan Baird: Tenth J&C Hoops Classic will be exciting
November 29, 2012Lafayette Jefferson High School
In 108 games over nine seasons, the J&C Hoops Classic has provided countless memories for area boys basketball fans.
Benton Central’s triple-overtime championship victory. Lafayette Jeff’s run of dominance. The occasional thrilling upset. Rivalries were renewed as the tournament rediscovered some of the forgotten magic of Indiana high school basketball.
What will the J&C Hoops Classic provide us as it celebrates its 10th anniversary this week?
Let’s start with the team many favor to win its first championship: Frankfort. The Hot Dogs graduated only one starter from last year’s Class 3A regional finalist, and Dakota Isgrigg and Christian Smith are considered two of the area’s best players.
Frankfort also added two players (Isaac Rudd and Nathan Wissman) who were leading scorers on other teams last season. The Hot Dogs are skilled inside and out, and they augment that talent with experience.
Frankfort’s tournament-opening opponent, Benton Central, is already 2-0 under new coach Kyle Marlatt. Coming in as the underdog can be advantageous to the Tyler Souligne- and Brandon Rooze-led Bison.
West Lafayette could match up well against the Hot Dogs, since the Red Devils’ two best players — Justus Stanback and Brian Bangs — can neutralize Isgrigg’s height advantage.
But first West Side must get past Central Catholic. The Knights’ football players aren‘t eligible for tournament play until Thursday, which costs them three-fifths of their starting lineup. But Jake Churchill leads a solid group of upperclassmen hoping to make the most of an opportunity.
On Tuesday, McCutcheon will try to bounce back from a season-opening loss to West Lafayette. Seniors Michael Southern and Nathaniel Acree front an athletic squad that prides itself of confounding opponents defensively.
Yet the Mavericks can’t look past Twin Lakes, which already has a 20-point victory over Kankakee Valley under its belt. You may remember Cameron Bennington and company gave Lafayette Jeff a scare in last year’s semifinals.
And what about those Bronchos, the six-time defending tournament champions who some ignore due to heavy graduation losses? Lafayette Jeff opened the season by defeating a good Pioneer team, and Peter Ripke and the rest of the Bronchos are in no hurry to relinquish the trophy.
Speaking of overlooked teams, Harrison could make a name for itself by snapping Jeff’s 20-game tournament winning streak. Cole Smith led the balanced Raiders to a season-opening 20-point defeat of North Montgomery.
On paper it looks like this could be Frankfort’s year. Perhaps it is. I’m more certain we’ll see plenty of good basketball before crowning a champion on Saturday night.
Baird covers high school sports for the Journal & Courier. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter during the tournament @nbairdjc.