Tonight is the rubber match of the Terre Haute South/Northview Knights series. However, this one is for considerably higher stakes than simply bragging rights.
The Braves and Knights have each taken a game on the opposition's home court this season so it's only fitting that this one comes on a neutral court, albeit hardwood still in Terre Haute.
The Knights travel to Terre Haute North High School for tonight's sectional opener at 6 p.m. with Mooresville and Martinsville facing off in the 7:30 p.m. (approx.) game.
Both games to this point have been barn burners with Northview defending their title in the Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic with a Dec. 30 win over the Braves, 73-66, on South's floor before the Knights were downed on their turf, 72-69, on Jan. 17.
South is one of the few teams who have been able to fully exploit Northview's lack of a true post player and still retain a balanced offense.
The Braves boast a starting five that generally contains Chad Talpas (6'5), Evan Harruff (6'6) and Jeremy Lock (6'6) while the Knights height comes from Craig Greenwood (6'3) and Zach Keyes (6'2). Keyes is very capable offensively and has more than enough moves and quickness without the ball to exploit South's front line. But on the defensive side the South trio has averaged a combined 34.5 points per game against the undersized Northview interior.
One bonus for the Knights is the fact that Talpas has missed time recently because of a sprained ankle suffered in last Tuesday's game. He had eight points in the tourney game before hitting for 16 in the South victory.
What has made South more consistently dangerous of late is their ability to complement their interior play by hitting from the outside.
Sophomore guard Armon Bassett has aided a recent 3-point surge by the Braves who have hit 39 over the last four games headed into the postseason.
Bassett rang up a game-high 25 points in the last game but recently it has been 6'6 senior Harruff who has come on strong.
Harruff has led the team in scoring three of the last four games with a 24 point night against Class 4A No. 8 North Central recently to his credit. He has finally begun to hit his stride after a bout of mononucleosis earlier in the season
How the Knights control Harruff and Bassett will go a long way in determining this game. But with two teams who feed off of the atmosphere of the game so strongly, this one will likely have multiple runs by each team.
The Knights have proved they can score with anyone this season, averaging 77.9 points per game. However, the Braves have averaged 78 ppg. over the last four contests as well.
So tonight's games should provide an explosive atmosphere with some of the best players in the Wabash Valley involved. Certainly the contests will be worth the price of admission so get there early. Tipoff between the Knights and Braves is at 6 p.m.