The bullseye will be firmly planted on the Northview Knights' backs when they take the court for the Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic basketball tournament on December 26.
The Knights will begin defense of their title at 1 p.m. against the Sullivan Golden Arrows on Thursday. Tournament action will begin at 10 a.m. on the first day as the Class A No. 5 Bloomfield Cardinals face off with Shakamak.
The tournament will have a healthy crop of talented teams this year with 16 teams entered to compete for the Wabash Valley title. Of those 16, 10 squads have winning records. Bloomfield is the highest ranked team at No. 5 in Class A, but Rockville is No. 9 in the same class. Cloverdale received enough votes for 21st in 2A while Sullivan is 3A's No. 14 team and Vincennes is No. 23 in 3A.
Other teams in the mix will be Greencastle, host Terre Haute South, Terre Haute North, West Vigo, Monrovia, Riverton Parke, South Vermillion, Turkey Run and Marshall, Ill.
The Knights' (6-0) matchup with Sullivan (4-1) will be one of the highlights of the opening round which will feature eight games. The tournament will be comprised of 28 games from Thursday through Monday with no games on Sunday.
Last year the Knights won four straight games on their way to the title.
Northview opened with a 62-48 win over Marshall, Ill. behind Zach Keyes' career high 23 points. In the second round the Knights romped over South Bend Christian Center 84-57 with Keyes upping his high with 29 points. Next up was host Terre Haute North who fell in an emotional 78-69 thriller as Logan Whitman had 20 points. In the championship game, the Knights downed the Turkey Run Warriors 85-54 as Whitman rang up 19 and Keyes added 20.
Keyes and Whitman will be the only regulars returning to defend the title, however, Amos Wegner, Travis Hughes and Ryan Bitzegaio all got minutes in the title run. All three will be valuable in the return trip as Wegner and Hughes now comprise two-fifths of the Knights' starting rotation with Whitman, Keyes and Josh Timm generally making up the starting five. However, Craig Greenwood has gotten the start in place of Timm the last two games.
The Knights feature four, double-digit scorers in their starting rotation and get solid bench play from several athletes.
Whitman and Keyes lead the team in scoring with 20-plus points a contest with Hughes and Timm each pouring in 10-plus per game. Rebounding is a group effort each night. The Knights' team athleticism is a key to their board work and their transition game has been difficult for anyone to handle so far this season.
The Golden Arrows will get an early look at a Northview team that they will face Jan. 31 in a Western Indiana Conference tilt. Sullivan is 4-1 this season with their only defeat coming at the hands of North Central (Farmersburg) Dec. 20 in overtime, 58-55.
The Northview/Sullivan game will be the third of the first afternoon coming after the Bloomfield/Shakamak game and Turkey Run/Rockville. The winner of the Northview game will move on to play the winner of the South Vermillion/Terre Haute North contest scheduled to tip-off at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets for the entire tournament are $14 and will admit the bearer to all four days of games. Tournament passes and daily tickets will be $5 and will be available at the door.