Times Sports Editor
Part of the fun of the Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic each season is getting the opportunity to see teams that one might never get the chance to watch during the regular season.
Northview and Clay City typically keep more or less the same opponents each year, which leaves out a few Wabash Valley teams plus the Illinois border schools as well as a few other squads outside of this vicinity.
What makes the Pizza Hut Classic so great is cramming a ton of quality hoops into a very neat, and well-organized package that includes 16 games over the first two days alone! So for anyone looking to see some great basketball, you need travel no further than Terre Haute North High School beginning on Wednesday morning at 10 a.m.
There won't be any shortage of individual talent in this year's talent as well as a pair of unbeaten squads that will square off in the first round too.
Number-five ranked Rockville remained unbeaten this season with a 59-34 win over Shakamak on Friday night. The Rox feature some pretty talented athletes who not only starred on the gridiron during the fall, but are starting to hit their stride on the hardwood too.
Rockville (5-0) features 6'7 R.J. Mahurin, head coach Dave Mahurin's son, who rang up 18 points and 11 rebounds versus Shakamak last weekend and averages more than 20 points per game and eight rebounds. The junior has given a verbal commitment to Indiana State University for 2009 so Sycamore fans could get a good look at the talented player.
Mahurin isn't alone as far as Rockville talent.
Matt King can light it up as well and had 11 points and 10 rebounds to go with four steals against the Lakers and was joined by Aaron Bridge, who had 15 points in Friday's win.
Monrovia meanwhile is looking to make a deep run into the Wabash Valley Tourney as well.
Chris Sampson, in his 13th-year with the Bulldogs, is coming off a 70-56 win over the Pat Rady-led Cloverdale Clovers.
Monrovia obviously disappointed in last year's tourney play, losing to South Vermillion, Sullivan and Crawfordsville on the way to a 7-16 mark for the year. The much-improved Bulldogs aren't likely to duplicate that result this time around and the 4 p.m. tip-off against Rockville could go a long way in washing away last year's sour taste.
Northview fans will quickly get a look at a very talented Marshall, Ill., team that improved to 8-1 over the weekend by whacking Paris, Ill. The Lions are lead by the Eitel brothers, who displayed their talents against the Tigers on Friday.
Lucas Eitel went for 25 points and five rebounds while hitting three-of-seven from long range. His brother added 16 points, hitting seven-of-10 from the field and added five rebounds and two steals. Teammate Alan Wolter could be a sleeper in the tourney after coming off the bench for 10 points and nine rebounds against Paris.
The Knights have had a long layoff and will be anxious to get back on the court against unfamiliar faces after practicing for 11 days since their last game.
Northview is always tough in the tournament, boasting two titles and a runner-up finish too.
Point guard Austin Akers will relish the challenge of facing such a talented Marshall back court in Wednesday's 11:30 a.m. tipoff.
Akers leads the Knights at more than 15 points per game and is joined by the double-double talent of senior Tyler Coltharp in the front court. Jered Timm is right there as well, scoring in double figures which gives the Knights the balance they used to get to 4-1 on the year. The challenge of improving that mark is what has lead many to consider this game perhaps the opening day's marquee matchup.
Owen Valley has also opened some eyes during the early stages of the year and improved to 5-1 this year after downing a solid Bloomfield team.
Heckman's Patriots will see an unfamiliar team on the opposing bench in the 1 p.m. game, but Bethesda Christian might be a bit overmatched in its opener. The Bethesda Christian Patriots, under first-year coach Dan Nietz, are winless this season at 0-6 and are coming off a pair of lopsided losses, 55-17 to Indianapolis Brebeuf on Saturday and 91-55 to Heritage Christian on Dec. 14.
The Linton Miners started off the season with four straight losses, but have rebounded to win their next two heading into the Pizza Hut Classic.
Coach Darren Clayton, in his fourth-year (40-35) with the Miners, has lead the team to close wins against Shakamak and Union (Dugger) coming into Wednesday's game versus Sullivan at 2:30 p.m.
Against Union, the Miners had a balanced scoring effort with Jayton Powell ringing up 11 points to lead the team and leading scorer, Jake Fender added eight. Two other Miners had eight or more points as well.
Jordan Tharp is the team's leading scorer at 10.3 ppg.
Sullivan meanwhile has struggled to a 1-6 mark heading into the holidays, coming off a WIC loss to top-ranked Edgewood.
Coach Jeff Moore, the head man with the Arrows for 18 years now, is no stranger to this tourney, competing in the Pizza Hut Classic in all seven years.
Dalton Hiatt led the Arrows in scoring against Edgewood, coming off the bench for 14 points while Thad Thompson lead the way with 11 rebounds.
The West Vigo Vikings are just 3-3 this season, but have saw some tough competition before tourney play.
The Vikings played tough in a loss to Terre Haute South in their last game and had a great tournament last year.
West Vigo dropped its opener last year, 56-43 to the Braves before ripping off three straight wins against Rockville in overtime, Turkey Run and Sullivan.
Casey-Westfield comes calling in the 5:30 p.m. game, facing off with the Vikings.
First-year South Vermillion coach, Rodney Idelwine hopes that the holiday tourney is the beginning of a turnaround for the Wildcats who are 0-6 to start the year. His Wildcats have the distinction of tipping off the tourney in the 10 a.m. game against Riverton Parke in a battle of first-year head coaches.
Matt Wadsworth is the 3-3 Panthers head coach. Riverton Parke will be familiar with several tourney teams having already faced Turkey Run (twice) and Rockville, which resulted in a split with the Warriors and a loss to the Rox.
Terre Haute South (3-2) and Bloomfield will meet in prime time at 7 p.m. in another match-up that makes the Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic unique.
The Braves are a sizable 4A school while Bloomfield is in the smallest classification, 1A.
Last year the Cardinals nearly pulled a big upset, dropping a tight 37-35 contest to the Braves and frustrating them with the Bloomfield slow down game.
The Cardinals are 5-2 after remaining unbeaten in the SWIAC Conference with a 34-24 win over Eastern on Wednesday night.
Andy Cochrane lead a balanced effort in the win, hitting three 3-pointers on the way to 11 points. For the season however, it's Rick Talley leading the way with a 12.5 ppg. Average with Cochrange at 9.7 ppg. and Derrick Held adding in 9.3 ppg. and Kaleb Mumma chipping in 7.7 ppg.
Though the Braves are just 3-2 this year, those losses have come in one-point road games against powerful Lawrence North and Center Grove.
Senior Zach Odum is a leader for the Braves and his brother Jake and sophomore John Michael Jarvis have come to the forefront after getting significant playing time during last year's tough 9-16 season. Regardless, South still reached the sectional final where they lost to the rival North Patriots.
Defending tournament champion Terre Haute North is just 2-3 this year after suffering a load of graduation losses from last year's squad. But the Patriots can't be discounted under coach Jim Jones who has 671 career wins and is 360-166 in his 23rd-year with the Patriots.
North's size could cause plenty of problems in the tourney with 6'7 freshman Justin Gant teaming with 6'6 sophomore Thomas Anderson. The pair are complements to Zach Harrison who averages over 11 ppg.
Anderson is the team's leading scorer at 13.5 ppg. while Cory Hemmings adding over five assists per game.
The Patriots will round out the day's opening round with an 8:30 p.m. scheduled tipoff against Joey Hart's Turkey Run Warriors who come in at 5-1.
The Warriors are paced by the dynamic scoring of Colin Brown and Mitchell Crum who combined for 47 points against Union in a 71-50 victory. Josh Karr added 10 points in the game for Turkey Run.
Tickets for the entire tourney are $15 while single-day passes are available at the door for $6 each day at Terre Haute North. Play begins at 10 a.m. the first three days with Saturday's final round beginning at 3 p.m. with an 8 p.m. tip