Sectional 8 Boys Basketball Preview — Mark Morrow
Hamilton Southeastern has defeated all but one Sectional 8 schools this season, including two-time defending champion and host Carmel.
The “one’’ was Guerin Catholic, which moves back down to Class 3A following the 2017 tournament because of the IHSAA Tournament Success Factor. The Royals and Golden Eagles did not meet in the regular season.
So, should that make the Royals favorites in the 7-team Class 4A field at the Eric Clark Activity Center? Possibly…They top the field with 19 victories, one more than Carmel….And they’ve certainly got all the necessary weapons you find in a good basketball team, along with great team chemistry.
Still, beating Carmel twice in the same season is not an easy task, let along doing it at the home of the Greyhounds in the sectional, no less.
The Royals overpowered Carmel 72-51 on Feb. 10. Yet, the Hounds went on upend top-ranked Warren Central on a 3-pointer at the buzzer. And HSE lost to Warren earlier this season.
In addition to that confidence builder, the Royals had momentum, winning 5 in a row until a 61-54 loss at Brownsburg. That cost HSE (4-2) a share of the HCC title — after Fishers HS knocked off previously unbeaten Zionsville in overtime. Carmel enters the sectional on a 4-game winning streak since the loss to HSE.
Carmel is No. 5 in the Sagarin Ratings (97.01) and HSE is seventh (94.41). The Greyhounds are 8-4 vs. Top 25 teams and 14-4 vs. Top 64 teams in the state, while the Royals are 5-4 and 11-5, respectively. The Hounds, ranked No. 8 in the IBCA poll, are 2-1 in overtime games this season, and the Royals, holding down the No. 11 spot in the poll, are 1-1.
So…The favorite? Well, it doesn’t really make a difference. All we know for sure is that the Royals and Greyhounds are clearly the best of the rest in Sectional 8 . . . And 4 teams (Anderson, Fishers, Noblesville and Westfield) have losing records.
7:00 — HSE vs. Fishers HS
6:00 — Carmel vs. Westfield
7:45 — Guerin Catholic vs. Noblesville
6:00 — Anderson vs. winner of Game 1
7:45 — Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 3
7:30 — Championship
If nothing else, Southeastern should have plenty of motivation. The last time the Royals won a sectional (2014) they defeated Carmel….But that was at Noblesville, not at Carmel. All three of the Royals’ sectional net-cutting ceremonies have come at The Mill in Noblesville. HSE also fell to the Hounds in the tourney last season, as well as the last time the sectional was contested at Carmel in 2015.
Speaking of motivation, Fishers HS has never won a boys basketball sectional…And the Tigers are 0-3 vs. HSE in sectional play.
For HSE and FHS, the rematch in the opener isn’t an enviable situation for either team. It should be an emotion-draining task. In addition to the one-loss-and-you-go-home format, bragging rights are also on the line, you know!
The Royals needed two overtimes to defeat the Tigers 86-80 on a neutral court (Indiana State Fairgrounds) on Dec. 16. FHS also defeated HCC champion Zionsville in OT, while HSE earlier lost to the host Eagles on a 3-point buzzer-beater.
Still, the HSE-Fishers winner should, in all likelihood, have the easier path to the championship game. Anderson would be the opponent in the an opening semifinal match-up.
HSE defeated Anderson 79-44 at Anderson on Jan. 14; Fishers HS topped the Indians 61-42 at Anderson on Feb. 7.
The Carmel-Westfield winner meets the Guerin Catholic-Noblesville survivor in the second semifinal tussle. The two Noblesville schools have previously met only once. Guerin was a 52-50 OT winner at the 2012 Bob Wettig Richmond Tournament.
Noblesville was assured of a losing record entering the tourney when Class 3A Hamilton Heights (8-12) upset the Millers 47-45 at Noblesville on Feb. 18.
HSE’s Zach Gunn, the most productive player in the Sectional 8 field, was a starter on the 2013-14 sectional championship team. And he’s also a potential Indiana Mr. Basketball. The 6-7, four-year starter boasts the top scoring (21.6 ppg) and (8.7 rpg) rebound averages in Sectional 8.
He’s also the 2016-17 Hoosier Crossroads Conference scoring and rebounding champion, as well as the Royals’ career scoring and rebounding leader. He surpassed 2012 Mr. Basketball Gary Harris (1,552) in points and 1977 grad Larry Raymer (660) in rebounds. Zach goes into the sectional with 1,627 points and 772 rebounds.
Carmel, too, should be motivated, though winning 3 straight sectional titles also is not an easy task, and this season will mark the final high school coaching stint after 7 seasons at Carmel for two-time CHS state-champion coach Scott Heady. He announced in mid-February that he would become the head college boys basketball coach at Marian University.
And Heady’s son Luke is a sophomore starter for the Hounds. That fact alone could provide an emotional finish — win or lose.
Regular season: HSE 9-2
Sectionals: HSE 3-0
Overall: HSE 12-2
2016-17: HSE 86-80, 2 OTs; Sect: ?
2015-16: HSE 66-58
2014-15: FHS 50-45
2013-14: HSE 80-71; HSE 62-34 Sect
2012-13: HSE 81-61
2011-12: HSE 50-47
2010–11: HSE 62-51; HSE 56-51 Sect
2009-10: FHS 49-43
2008-09: HSE 81-69
2007-08: HSE 57-50
2006-07: HSE 87-51; HSE 53-43 Sect
THE SKINNY . . .
>>>Hamilton SE (19-5); OA: 72.7, DA: 61.6
*—Royals have won 7 of heir final 9 games, including a 93-83 victory over a strong Lawrence North squad . . . They have a lot of giddy-up an are hard to slow down once they get on a roll. They also can get after folks defensively . . . In addition to his strong performance in HCC scoring and rebounding, Zach Gunn also was second with 1.3 blocked shots per game. Jack Davidson (11.7), Connor Rotterman (10.5), Aaron Etherington (8.5), Noah Smith (7.9) follow Gunn in scoring. Davidson is a 51.1 percent shooter over and 53% from 3-point range (39 of 74) and 93 percent (75 of 81) on free throws . . . Chaz Birchfield (3.5) and Etherington (3.5) follow Gunn in rebound average . . .Smith, a sophomore, was fourth in HCC assists (3.5) and fifth in steals (1.4).
Outlook: 5 solid starters and a strong bench means much balance. If there’s a concern, it’s on the boards — though the Royals out rebounded then-No. 6 Carmel 39-22. HSE has a lot of weapons and can be a very good basketball team when it hits on all cylinders.
>>>Carmel (18-4); OA: 61-8, DA: 50.8
*—Heady’s program is known for its focus, determination and defense . . . 3-point shooting and getting to the free-throw line are also important to the Greyhound attack . . . Senior Sterling does a little bit of everything for Carmel. He averages 17.4 points, 2.6 assists, 2.3 rebounds, 1.7 steals, and he shoots 43 percent from behind the arc and 77% at the free-throw line . . . Senior P.J. Baron scores at a 10-point gait; Jon Michael Mulloy, a 6-10 sophomore, averages 9.7 points and 8.1 rebounds; and Heady averages 6.2 points.
Outlook: Hounds are quick and feisty, but they have some noticeable rebound issues.
>>>Guerin Catholic (14-9); OA: 54.9, DA: 52.7
*—Golden Eagles coach Pete Smith’s program knows all about winning championships. They were Class 3A state champs in 2012 and 2015 . . . Junior Jack Hansen has had a super season, averaging 19.4 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists; senior Matthew Godfrey has averaged 11.2 points and 4.5 assists; and Zach Munson averages 9.1 points and 6.3 board.
Outlook: Guerin, like Noblesville, is patient and well coached, it and will work the ball for good shots. If there are any concerns it might be at point guard.
>>>Fishers HS (10-13); OA: 58.2, DA: 60.2
*—Tigers were up and down this season, though they they showed their grit and an ability to compete with some of the better teams a several occasions. The program has had 3 losing seasons in the last 4 years, including the past 2. This group could use more help from others that were possibly being counted on to play bigger roles this year. . . . Jamil Turner-Hill, the top scorer at 13.1, also was second in assists (4.1) in the HCC. Talented sophomore Willie Jackson, who can be explosive at times, follows at 11.9 points. Armaan Franklin and Jeremy Szilagyi averaged 8.8 and 7.9 points, respectively. Connor Washburn, a 6-8 senior, is the top rebounder at 4.7 per game.
Outlook: Tigers always play the Royals tough; records mean little whenever these cross-town rivals meet for the tip.
Noblesville (11-12); 48.9, DA: 51.6
*—Millers work the ball well and have ability to penetrate inside. They caused HSE some problems before losing by 20 points. They are also pretty active defensively . . . Max Finchum and Nolan Ginther led NHS in scoring at 13.1 and 10, respectively. Ginther also tops in rebounding (5.1) . . . McGuire Plumer finished with 5.3 assists per game, tops in the HCC . . . This marked coach Brian McCauley losing campaign (in the regular season) after 3 years at NHS.
Outlook: Millers will need a total team performance to have a chance at reaching the championship game.
Westfield (6-16); OA: 51.8, DA: 55.3
*—Shamrocks are led by Ian Kristensen (20.1 points) and (5.4 rebounds). The 6-4 senior is a good shooter from the perimeter (58%), and he can penetrate well inside. He also was third in HCC scoring. Jonah averages 10.4 points. Welch is also tops in overall team field-goal percentage at 50 percent (81 of 161). He’s 54% on 2-point goals (76 of 141), while Kristensen is at 53% on 2s.
Outlook: Tough draw doesn’t help the Rocks, who will need some timely contributions from others if they are going to cause much commotion against Carmel, a team they lost to by 55-37 on Jan. 7.
>>>Anderson (4-19): OA: 51.3, DA: 62.5
*—Indians’ wins came against Muncie Central, Lafayette Jeff, Elwood and Liberty Christian . . . They ended the season losing 12 straight games . . . Only one player (senior Z Milhouse) is scoring in double figures. He’s at 11.0. J Boyd and R Williams average 8.7 and 8.2 points, respectively, and Marquavius Beverly averages 7.1 points and 5.4 rebound. Anderson shoots 41 percent from the field, 26% from behind the 3-point line, and 64% on free throws.
Outlook: Indians lack punch . . . And it should be a one-and-done tournament for the Madison County school in all likelihood.
*—Mark Morrow, who has resided in Fishers since 1989, formerly owned Hamilton County Sports Daily. He was inducted into the Indiana Sportswriters-Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame in 2015. He now blogs for hseroyalsathletics.com(.)