For the past couple of years, the Christmas holiday season has meant a trip south to Terre Haute for Northview basketball fans. This year, they'll get to change their travel plans and head north to New Castle.
The Knights have participated, and won, the Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic the past two years. Next Dec. 27 they have been selected to play in perhaps the most prestigious tournament in the state, the 2003 City Securities Hall of Fame Classic held at New Castle High School.
With the selection, the Knights will not return to defend their Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic title of the past two seasons.
The Knights were one of four teams selected out of about 25 that applied for the opportunity to play in the tournament that will be held in the largest high school gym in the country.
New Castle High School has a capacity of more than 9,000 and is one of the most impressive gymnasiums constructed.
To make the field, the Knights survived a selection process that rivals that of the NCAA Tournament. Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame director Roger Dickinson explained that the selection was a difficult one for everyone involved.
"When the committee first met we looked, number one, for outstanding teams who, we felt would field quality teams next season. Two, we also looked for teams that had some of the premier basketball players in the state. Players who could be candidates for Mr. Basketball," he said.
The Knights qualify highly in both regards since they return three starters from a 21-3 squad this year. The three players, Logan Whitman, Zach Keyes and Josh Timm were also their top three scorers, providing 56.0 of the team's impressive 75.7 ppg. average this year. That number made the Knights the second highest scoring team in the state this year.
Their opponent in the first round of the tournament will be 4A power Lawrence North who are ranked No. 2 in the state according to the final regular season poll and fell to No. 1 ranked Pike in the first game of regionals this year.
The Wildcats will have no shortage of firepower next season with 11 returnees to their roster.
Only senior Chaz Spicer (13.2 ppg.) graduates from this year's 21-3 squad and the Wildcats return one of the best freshman groups in the state.
Coach Jack Keefer returns 6'11 center Greg Oden (8.7 ppg. 9.0 rpg., 3 blocks), 5'10 guard Mike Conley (7.1 ppg., 3.1 apg) and 6'1 guard Brandon McDonald (2.0 ppg.). They'll also boast five seniors topped by 6'0 guard, Anthony Sargent (12.5 ppg, 2.4 apg.).
While both squads return a strong lineup next year, Dickinson also noted that the committee took a great deal of time looking at a wide variety of other factors.
"In choosing the teams we also looked at a team's record this year and how they did in the postseason this year along with their strength of schedule and we assessed each team's strengths and weaknesses," commented Dickinson. "When we met on March 19 the committee actually had a three hour meeting to evaluate the teams and all of the pros and cons. Northview just kept rising to the top. They are an excellent team and we're really pleased to have them in the City Securities Hall of Fame Classic," said Dickinson.
The Wabash Valley will be strongly represented in the tournament as White River Valley will also be participating. The Wolverines will face Columbia City (21-2).
The Knights will face the Wildcats in Saturday's first game at 10 a.m., followed by the Wolverines and Eagles at 11:45 a.m. The winning teams will face off for the title at 8 p.m. with a consolation game at 6 p.m.
On Friday the tourney will feature some of the best girls' teams in the state as Indian Creek (20-2) faces off with Mooresville (21-3) at 10 a.m. and Jeffersonville (22-3) takes on Warsaw (21-2).