Times Sports Editor
Christmas time has also come to mean holiday hoops time for area basketball fans as the Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic tips off on Wednesday with 16 teams from Indiana and Illinois on hand at Terre Haute South for four days of superb action on the hardwood.
First-year Northview head coach Clint Weddle will get his first experience at the helm at what has become one of the state's finest tournaments. The Knights open the tournament at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday against the Monrovia Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs come into tournament play with a 3-1 mark, losing only to an unbeaten Speedway squad. The team is under the tutelage of coach Micah Elliott, who is in his first season with the team following a stint at South Putnam.
The Bulldogs are hoping for better results than last year's 0-3 run in the Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic. Monrovia was blown out by Linton in a 30-point defeat and then lost a pair of squeakers to Bloomfield (54-53) and Riverton Parke (50-46).
Weddle has helped guide the Knights to a three-game winning streak and a 3-2 mark overall. The Knights were 1-2 in last year's tourney, dropping a 57-32 decision to Shakamak before nailing South Vermillion (68-35) and falling to Terre Haute South (69-46).
The Knights have one of the tallest rosters in the tourney with six players available that check in at 6'4 or taller.
The junior class brings much of that size as 6'6 Jim Mace has provided the Knights with 8.6 ppg. and better than seven rebounds per contest. His front court mate Ethan Whitson is 6'5 and has averaged 6.8 ppg. as 6'5 Daniel Kimball (6.4 ppg.) and 6'4 Christian Ellis (6.6 ppg.) come off the bench to provide valuable minutes. In the backcourt, senior Craig Peters has run the offense effectively with 4.2 assists per game to go with 7.6 ppg. and Travis Hakman gets the start and has been tough on the defensive end while giving the Knights another perimeter shooter. Joe Ball is another solid outside shooter that also gives Northview an athletic slasher that has added 6.6 ppg. Both Devin Clark and Peter Tanoos have also given the Knights quality court time this season.
The Bulldogs come into the tourney with an impressive offense that features four, senior athletes in double-figure scoring led by Chase Casteel, who tallies 17.8 ppg. He is joined by Logan Fite at 13.3 ppg., Jeremy Gray at 11.3 and Grant Burgess scoring 10.5 ppg. Ross Bolton is nearly the fifth player in double figures as he averages 9.5 ppg. and over five assists per game. Casteel has impressively knocked down better than 60 percent (61.4 %) of his two-point field goals while pulling down six boards per contest. Burgess leads the team in rebounding at nearly nine per contest. Gray is the sharpshooter, having hit 8-of-14 from long range.
The opening tourney game will see Owen Valley and Shakamak tipping off at 10 a.m. with the winner taking on the winner between the Knights and Bulldogs at 1 p.m. Thursday afternoon. The losers of the two games will also face off on Thursday with a 10 a.m. tip.
The Patriots (2-5 overall) are led by Josh Parker, who averages 12.9 ppg., but sophomore Evan Wood has provided some punch as well with a 15-point game off the bench against South Vermillion. Nolan King added 14 in that contest. Owen Valley is coming off a loss to Monroe County power Bloomington South, but got 11 points from King and nine points to go with nine rebounds from Parker, a senior forward.
The Lakers have gotten off to a slow start (2-3) despite the efforts of Brodie Crowe, who has averaged 24.8 ppg. over the five contests with a high game of 38 this season. He is joined by Patrick Green, who scores 12 ppg.
Also in that half of the tourney bracket is Terre Haute South, which will face Robinson (Ill.) in the 1 p.m. game to be followed by Turkey Run vs. Terre Haute North in what will be the final contest of the early set of games.
The Braves' record (3-5) is a bit deceiving considering the strength of schedule that South already has under its belt. With losses to Bloomington North, Lawrence North, Mooresville, Evansville Reitz and Indianapolis Arlington, which are a combined 21-13 this season, South has been tested early.
Senior combo player, Jeffrey Turner, has certainly passed all the tests as he's poured in just under 30 ppg. (29.5) while grabbing almost seven rebounds per contest.
The 2:30 p.m. match-up between the Patriots, led by Ball State football commit Calvin Blank, and winless Turkey Run looks to be a mismatch on paper. The Warriors will have their hands full with the Patriots size and pressure.
West Vigo opens tourney play with a bit of momentum coming off a Dec. 15 victory over Brown County that went two overtimes before the Vikings came away with a 55-52 victory. The Vikings get a match-up with Illinois power Marshall, which has fared well in previous visits to the tourney. The Lions come into the tourney with a 7-3 record and a Dec. 21 win over Paris, Ill. in which the team scored the first 19 points of the game and placed four players in double figures.
A lot of eyes will be on the evening games as ranked Class A Rockville comes into the tournament with an unbeaten record and draws Casey-Westfield (Ill.) in the 5:30 p.m. game that precedes Riverton Parke and South Vermillion. The final game of the night should be a dandy as Sullivan takes on Linton looking for revenge for a 60-55 overtime loss to the Miners on Dec. 15. Rarely do teams take each other on in back-to-back contests so this match-up between two talented squads shouldn't disappoint in what will likely be standing room only conditions.
Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic
First two rounds schedule
Wednesday, Dec. 26
|1||Owen Valley vs. Shakamak||10 a.m.|
|2||Northview vs. Monrovia||11:30 a.m.|
|3||T.H. South vs. Robinson, Ill.||1 p.m.|
|4||T.H. North vs. Turkey Run||2:30 p.m.|
|5||Marshall, Ill. vs. West Vigo||4 p.m.|
|6||Rockville vs. Casey-Westfield||5:30 p.m.|
|7||S.Vermillion vs. Riverton Parke||7 p.m.|
|8||Linton-Stockton vs. Sullivan||8:30 p.m.|
Thursday, Dec. 27
|9||Loser 1 vs. Loser 2||10 a.m.|
|10||Loser 3 vs. Loser 4||11:30 a.m.|
|11||Winner 1 vs. Winner 2||1 p.m.|
|12||Winner 3 vs. Winner 4||2:30 p.m.|
|13||Loser 5 vs. Loser 6||4 p.m.|
|14||Loser 7 vs. Loser 8||5:30 p.m.|
|15||Winner 5 vs. Winner 6||7 p.m.|
|16||Winner 7 vs. Winner 8||8:30 p.m.|