Times Sports Editor
There will be plenty on the line this evening when Northview heads to the Class 4A Plainfield Sectional to take on Terre Haute South.
At stake is each teams' playoff lives as a loss means that the season is over while the victor will be playing for a sectional championship.
The Knights have had their struggles this season with injury, illness and a lack of depth early on during the year. However, Northview has bounced back late in the season, a testament to the players' resilience to overcome a 2-12 start to the season to finish with wins in five of the final seven contests heading into the postseason.
Terre Haute South meanwhile, has gotten on a late roll as well, winning three straight, including a sectional opening win over Mooresville, 60-39 on Tuesday.
The Braves are certainly battle tested through the rigors of the MIC. Though South was winless in seven contests in the conference, the MIC also boasts a combined record of 107-47 this season with five teams having won 15-or-more games this season.
On Northview's side is familiarity with Terre Haute South coach Mike Saylor's style of offense and defensive and with the players the Knights will have to contain in Friday's sectional tilt.
The Knights nearly knocked off the Braves on South's home court back on Jan. 15. Northview held the Braves scoreless in the second quarter and lost the free throw battle down the stretch in a 48-42 South victory.
South built a 45-34 lead on the strength of 6'6 Ike Worrell's back-to-back buckets and two free throws by John Michael Jarvis. The Knights' Trent Lancaster, who had 20 points in the game, scored twice and Jonathan Bradshaw followed up an offensive rebound by Damon Hyatt with a score. However, a free throw from Bryn Schwartz with 1:14 remaining extended the gap to 47-42 and the Knights couldn't get any closer.
The Braves often make a living beyond the 3-point line, hitting 10-of-34 against Mooresville, but can just as quickly stifle a team with defensive pressure. The Knights shot just 16-of-42 (38 percent) in the first meeting between the two teams, including a six-of-20 3-point shooting performance.
What makes the Braves equally as dangerous for the Knights is the ability to spread Northview out with their 3-point shooting combined with Worrell in the post. John Michael Jarvis can get to the rim as well as shoot from deep and point guard, Anthony McGill, while small in stature (5'11) is a tough guard as well. The junior scored 14 against the Knights in the first game as did Jarvis. The Braves also get plenty of productivity from sophomore Jermaine Smith, who tallied 11 against Mooresville.
Northview counters with Lancaster, who is regaining his strength after an illness kept him out of several games. He averages a team-high 15.9 ppg. and grabs nearly six rebounds per game.
Lancaster's ability to shoot the 3-pointer and be physical while driving to the basket, is pivotal as Northview starts the postseason. Jonathan Bradshaw was held to five points in the first meeting, but his presence is equally important as he is second at 11.3 ppg. and averages a team-high 5.9 rpg. What should benefit the Knights is the emergence of Chance Talbot over the second half of the season. The 6'2 sophomore has averaged just 4.7 ppg. over the course of the season, but he averaged over 11 ppg. over a four-game stretch late in the season.
Jordan Van Horn, at 6'5, has also given the Knights some valuable minutes while giving Bradshaw and Talbot a breather against bigger clubs.
At the guard spots, Damon Hyatt, Dillon Reynolds and Caleb Mershon have also emerged as very productive cogs in the Knights' machine.
Hyatt began to get extended playing time and cracked the starting lineup during the second half of the year and comes in averaging close to six ppg. over the final seven games while dishing out over two assists.
Dillon Reynolds has averaged more than eight ppg. over the last six games along with more than two assists as well.
Mershon, a junior sharpshooter, has found his touch from beyond the arc the last eight games as well, hitting 46 percent (22-of-48) from 3-point range while scoring more than 10 points per contest during that span.
The Knights' quest for a sectional title begins tonight in the second game following a 6 p.m. tip-off between Martinsville and Terre Haute North.