A little over one week before the Vigo County School Corporation Wabash Valley Classic was scheduled to tip off at Terre Haute North and Terre Haute South, a handful of the participating teams were in quarantine due to COVID-19.
A few days later, Riverton Parke and Shakamak announced both would be forced to withdraw from the 21st annual Classic because of the virus wreaking havoc on their teams.
At that point, I cannot lie, I wasn’t so sure we would have a holiday tournament this year, let alone get through all four days of it.
But hours after Greencastle celebrated its championship win over Bloomington South, I sat in awe of how the Vigo County School Corporation members, as well as the athletic department staffs of Terre Haute North, Terre Haute South and West Vigo, made it possible for 25 games to be completed without a hiccup.
No, it did not feel anything like the ‘normal’ Classic.
There were few fans in attendance. There were two locations. There were no concession stands open. There were all sorts of parking spots available. And everyone was masked.
But the kids got to play. And their parents got to be in the stands to watch them play.
That’s what it’s all about, and I tip my hat in appreciation of everyone that helped make the four-day event possible.
At the conclusion of the tournament on Wednesday afternoon, Northview coach Michael Byrum said he was also thankful of the job everyone in charge did to make the Classic happen.
“All of the organizers did a great job. It was a first-class job of getting this tournament in. I’m very appreciative of that and I know the boys are very appreciative of that as well. We wanted to keep the Classic going and we wanted to play. They were able to make that happen. Yes, there weren’t many fans, and it wasn’t normal, but we got to play. That’s what is most important,” he said.
Let’s take a look at a couple other takeaways I had from the 21st annual Wabash Valley Classic.
• Northview’s mental toughness
When asked about what he learned about his team after four days of basketball, Byrum said they’re mentally tough. And I agree completely. Northview had, in my opinion, the tallest mountain to climb to reach the top of the Classic’s championship peak. The Knights played one game and then went into a 14-day quarantine that kept them out of the gym and weight room and away from their teammates while others played in games. They then jumped right into the tournament and had to face Terre Haute South (4A team), Sullivan (Class 3A No. 6-ranked team) and Parke Heritage (Class 2A No. 8-ranked team), as well as South Vermillion. Northview defeated South and South Vermillion and lost to Sullivan by seven and Parke Heritage by two on a last-second shot in double overtime. To me, Northview showed its one of the top teams in the Wabash Valley and could make a lot of noise come tournament time in March.
• WIC dominance
Playing in the 2020 Wabash Valley Classic, the Western Indiana Conference was well represented with Cloverdale, Edgewood, Greencastle, Northview, Sullivan and West Vigo all participating.
Combined, those six teams posted a record of 12-8 with five of those losses coming against other WIC opponents. Against non-WIC teams, the quintet won more games than it lost.
It also had four teams – Northview, Sullivan, Edgewood and Greencastle – make it to championship day with Northview finishing sixth, Edgewood finishing fourth, Sullivan finishing third and Greencastle finishing first after defeating Bloomington South in the Classic title game.
Lastly, the WIC had five players – Randy Kelley (Sullivan), Coleman Sater (Edgewood), Nick Sutherlin (Greencastle), Caleb Swearingen (Northview) and Brody Whitaker (Greencastle) – make the All-Tournament team, with Whitaker being named the Classic’s Most Outstanding Player.