RECORDS & AWARDS
SECTIONAL 9 PREVIEW
March 3, 2014Richmond High School
By: Adam Derengowski, Radiotroy.com
It is that time again, Indiana’s favorite basketball holiday Hoosier Hysteria and the start of the sectional tournament, the time which each of the 411 IHSAA member schools gear up to make a run at one of the four highly coveted state championship trophies. 4A sectional 9 is one that never fails to be entertaining as seven teams from East Central Indiana look to claim the title that is very much up for grabs.
Greenfield Central Cougars (5-17, 0-4 v. teams in Sectional 9)
The Cougars got something to go their way when they drew a bye and got the chance to play in the early game on Friday night. The flip side to that coin is that they are forced to face either Richmond or Mt. Vernon (Fortville) two teams that have
proven to be unfriendly opponents for Greenfield-Central in the past. This season has been no picnic for Greenfield sporting two separate losing streaks of 7 and 6 losses respectively but they have seen some bright spots scoring wins over Shelbyville in overtime and playing talented teams like New Castle and Yorktown close only to end up losing.
Greenfield is a young basketball team playing with just two seniors on the roster and offensively it shows, averaging just a hair under 54 points a game on the season. This team however has the potential to be a threat within the sectional tournament but that is all dependent on three things.
1.) Shooting Efficiency.This Cougars squad has the potential to light up the scoreboard with good outside shooters on the roster but have struggled to find effective shots from the field thanks to settling for bad shots or being generally passive. Head Coach Josh Johnson said it best after a game against 2A Cambridge City Lincoln, a game that saw GCHS trailing, “Their defense got us a little stagnant and we were standing around, passing around. And that’s not how we are at our best.” In all reality the Cougars have to “be at their best” offensively if they want to win this title.
2.) Finding a 2nd scorer. Sophomore Tate Hall has been the only real source for consistent scoring this year. The young guard has poured in 15 points per game shooting about 36% from the outside. That scoring load is a great deal of pressure to put on a young guard so someone on the roster needs to step up and break into double digits consistently against what will be a tough string of opponents.
3.) Limiting Turnovers. Let’s face it. Basketball is not rocket science. The better care you take care of the basketball the higher your chances of winning are. It is an indisputable fact. This Greenfield team is averaging almost double digit turnovers on the season and against quick, strong defensive teams like Richmond and Mt. Vernon those turnovers will most assuredly turn into points. Points that the Cougars cannot afford to give up.
Mt. Vernon Marauders (9-12, 2-3 v. teams in Sectional 9)
Injuries can really kill a team’s momentum. They’ve done exactly that to Mt. Vernon this season.
The Marauders lost 44% if it’s scoring when they lost senior guard C.J. Coleman to a broken ankle February 8thin a 71-51 loss to Noblesville. Coleman, averaging 22 points per game and committed to UNC-Greensboro, was one of two players on the roster averaging double digits and provided a great deal of leadership to the squad. The losses however don’t stop there
as the team’s second leading scorer, freshman Erick Shepherd, is out of the lineup for undisclosed reasons.
A full strength Mt Vernon team had a decent showing at the New Castle Fieldhouse earlier in the season during the Hall of Fame Classic scoring a win over a very skilled Evansville Harrison team that was led by Div. 1 recruit Ernie Duncan.
Not only are the Marauders dealing with major roster losses but they also drew, by all accounts, the favorite to win this sectional in Richmond. The two teams met once already this season with the Red Devils cruising to a 47-34 victory and forcing 17 turnovers by Mt. Vernon.
The problems have piled up for Mt. Vernon this season first the injuries then the draw. Something a team without their two best scorers and their best ball handler hate to hear when trying to win a sectional title.
Richmond Red Devils (18-2, 3-0 v. teams in Sectional 9)
Win double digit games. Check.
Win an outright conference title. Check.
Next on the list for the Red Devils is a sectional title. Something that hasn’t happened for Richmond since 1996. Players, coaches and fans can all taste a sectional title and anything less would be considered a failure by many.
Head Coach Joe Luce has utilized an immense amount of depth at guard to pester opposing offenses coming up with almost 9 steals per game. The ¾ court trap has perplexed opponents and has given the Red Devils a great number of fast break points.
Offensively the Devils have scored a majority in transition and have seen some slumps in the half court often settling for shots from the outside when some patience could get them a higher
percentage look. Richmond will look to junior point guard Joel Okafor to control each game in the tournament. Okafor on the year is averaging 9 points and almost 5 assists per game and has been described as the engine that makes the car go. Okafor along with guards Mike Tillman and Davious Webster have made for a tough trio that can play on both ends of the floor and contribute over half of the overall scoring for the Devils.
This is the year. The Richmond faithful have been restless for too long and can see the light at the end of the tunnel. If the Red Devils can sustain defensive pressure and maintain some semblance of a half-court offense, look for the Devils to finally bring home some sectional hardware.
Anderson Indians (9-12, 1-2 v. teams in Sectional 9)
It has been a streaky season for the Indians consisting of three and four game winning and losing streaks intermittently throughout the year.
Midway through the season the Tribe shocked many by winning the Madison County tournament over the likes of Pendleton Heights, whom they beat in the first round 61-48. The however closed out the year on a two game losing streak dropping games to New Castle and Brebeuf Jesuit, each by nine points or more.
Look for the Indians to rely on two seniors, Kenya Wilkerson and Grant Bennett, to lead them to a rematch victory over opening round opponent Pendleton Heights. The duo lead the team in scoring combine for 6 rebounds per game.
This is a tough Anderson team that looks to get points from high percentage areas or get fouled and head to the free throw line, for good reason as this team is not known for shooting well from the outside clocking in at about 29% on the season.
The opening round matchup against the Arabians in many ways favors the Tribe as they are quick and athletic and can give Pendleton a great deal of problems on defense, look for that game to be much closer than many would think.
Pendleton Heights Arabians (14-6, 4-1 v. teams in Sectional 9)
Pendleton Heights is looking to make it 4 straight sectional titles.
A blend of experienced upper classmen and talented underclassmen paired with a strong identity could make it happen for the Arabians.
They may not have Kellen Dunham anymore but the talent pool remains deep. Junior guard Sean McDermott is leading the team in scoring at almost 15 points per game, teams have struggled to contain his shooting from the outside as on the year he’s shooting at a 33% clip.
The Arabians pair McDermott with skilled sophomore scorer Kenton Dunham, younger brother of Butler standout Kellen Dunham, who is the team’s second leading scorer pouring in 14 points per game. Although the younger Dunham does not possess the size of his older brother, Kenton stands at about 5’10”, he does have a knack for shooting efficiency and sharing the basketball racking up almost 3 assist per game.
Shooting efficiency and great guard play are two things that benefit teams who are trying to make a run at a state title and these are two of the things that Pendleton do well. They work their offense incredibly well and are always scanning to find the best possible shot.
If the Arabians can ratchet up their rebounding efforts and give themselves more second chance opportunities look for them to grab that highly coveted 4thsectional title even though they will face several teams with more quickness and athleticism.
Connersville Spartans (13-9, 3-2 v. teams in Sectional 9)
Connersville drew a familiar opponent in New Castle. Head Coach Kerry Brown and the Spartans hope that the previous result bodes well for their opening round sectional game.
Shooting was the difference in the regular season matchup against the Trojans, Connersville shot an insane 65% from the field and went 5 for 9 from beyond the three point line for a whopping 56%. To rely on that kind of shooting may be out of question for most teams but maybe not for the Spartans who have been crazily efficient from the field shooting nearly 60% from the field and 40% from the three point line.
The Spartans will looks to two seniors to lead the charge in this year’s sectional tournament, Dezmen Rent and T.J. Billups. Rent at 6’ 5” has great length and has led the team in scoring and assists while also setting the tone on defense averaging nearly two steals and one block per game.
Billups has been a rebounding machine for Connersville this year averaging 6 boards per game total and 2 on the offensive glass. He has also poured in close to 8 points per game and will be vital to the success of this team.
If the Spartans can continue to shoot and rebound well while also being sure to curtail their issues with turnovers, 13 TO per game, look for Connersville to make their way to the title game.
New Castle Trojans (8-12, 2-3 v. teams in sectional 9)
First year Head Coach Daniel Cox has a core of upper classmen that share the scoring load that has pushed the Trojans to 8 wins on the season.
As a team look for the Trojans to work the ball into the lane and attempt to convert on high percentage looks, something they have done well all year long shooting 50% from the field. Although in classic New Castle fashion there are several incredible shooters on the roster including senior E.J. Sorrell and junior Abe Haler.
Haler leads in scoring with just over 14 points per game all while shooting 40% from the outside. The production from Haler doesn’t stop there, he’s grabbed almost 5 rebounds per game while dishing almost 2 assists each contest.
The Trojans may be the best team in sectional 9 at controlling the basketball only coughing it up on average 7 times per game. That coupled with the home court advantage of playing at the Fieldhouse in front of a passionate fan base could result in some surprises.