The weather is slowly cooling off, the leaves are falling and the skies are full of fowl heading southward. In gyms across the state the squeak of sneakers and pounding of basketballs upon hardwood ring out across the Hoosier State. Yep, it's that time of year folks, high school basketball has been hibernating since last March when Pike capped a perfect season to take the boys 4A title and Chatard romped to their first basketball title in 3A. Cass became the seventh unbeaten state titlist when they won the 2A title and Lafayette Central Catholic claimed the single A championship. In girls action, Kokomo survived a scare to take the 4A title with their unbeaten year and Katie Gearlds' led Beech Grove walked away with the 3A championship. Shenandoah claimed their first title in 2A and Tri-Central knocked off defending state champion North Vermillion in single A.
While some of the state's marquee names in girls basketball have headed to high profile colleges, the cupboards are far from bare when you look at bigtime high school scorers.
Junior Jody Howell returns after finishing second to Gearlds in scoring last year with her 28.0 points per game average (ppg.). Also returning are senior Adrienne Squire of Indian Creek who scored 25.8 per contest over 22 games last year.
For Wabash Valley fans, South Vermillion's Kylee Wood is back for her senior year after ringing up 22.4 ppg. and while North Central's dynamic duo of Rebekah Forsythe (21.3 ppg.) and Megan Haag (17.0 ppg.), you can see local visits by Edgewood's Sarah Thompson (19.0 ppg/10.3 rebounds) and Brown County's duo of Mara Freshour (17.8 ppg.) and Kamady Rudd (six assists per game).
Looking down at Vigo County, Terre Haute South returns much of their height and heart from last year in Lauren Ditteon (6'0), Madison Hayne (6'1) and Mallory Kraly (5'11) despite losing both Engle's (Sarah and Laura) to graduation.
The Braves, coming off a 16-10 season in which they advanced to the sectional final game versus Mooresville before losing, will host the opening tournament for area teams on Nov. 14 and 15th as the HI-99 Clabber Girl Classic tips off.
West Vigo, Terre Haute North, South Vermillion, Northview and Fountain Central along with the host Braves will provide a good look at how area teams stack up with each other.
South and Fountain Central will be the opening game on Friday at 6 p.m. with West Vigo and South Vermillion to tipoff in the second game. The Knights will face the winner of the first game at 10 a.m. Saturday morning with North playing at 11:30 a.m. versus the winner of game two. Consolation games will then begin at 4 p.m. with the title game slated for 7 p.m. on Saturday night.
Looking ahead at the boys season, the tipoff for Clay County squads begins fittingly with a rematch of last year's thrilling Northview vs. Clay City matchup.
Last year the Knights squeaked out a 71-67 victory over the Elliott Booe led Eels on Northview's home court.
This time around the Eels get the home court despite losing a bevy of seniors, including Booe who was invited to walk-on at Indiana State University.
However, the area will still include its share of scorers led by Sullivan senior Jeffrey Moore who hit for 22.7 ppg. last year. Northview High School will be one of only to schools in the state to boast a pair of 20-point scorers.
Seniors Logan Whitman (22.3 ppg.) and Zach Keyes (20.9 ppg) return to a team that graduated two starters in guards Amos Wegner and Travis Hughes, but shouldn't have any problems lighting up the scoreboard. The Knights were the second leading scoring team in the state on their way to a 21-3 mark.
Butler recruit A.J. Graves of White River Valley will also be back for his senior season this year after averaging 20 points per contest last year.
Both the Patriots and Braves figure to be solid once more with the majority of their rotations returning to the fold.
While the Patriots lost high scoring Luke Blank to graduation, the defending sectional champions return Marc O'Leary and Dan O'Leary along with Michael Russell and some talented freshman. The Braves lost Justin Shuler and Evan Harruff to graduation but still have a lot of experience coming back.
The girls regular season will begin as Clay City visits the Union Bulldogs and the Knights visit an always tough Mooresville squad on Tuesday evening.