IHSAA boys basketball: Sectional draws, takeaways for East Central Indiana teams

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MUNCIE, Ind. — It's that time of year, the last week of the boys basketball regular season, and teams now know their postseason opponents.

The Indiana High School Athletic Association on Sunday revealed its 2022 boys basketball sectional tournament pairings. The state tournament schedule begins with sectionals (March 1-2, 4-5), then regionals (March 12), then semi-state (March 19) concluding with the state finals (March 26).

Here's a breakdown of postseason paths for the 16 area schools, playing across seven different sectionals:

Class 4A Sectional 9 (at Greenfield-Central)

First round: Muncie Central (4-16) v. New Palestine (16-6); Pendleton Heights (7-14) v. Mt. Vernon (18-2); Greenfield-Central (14-7) v. Anderson (18-4)

Semifinals: Richmond (9-14) v. Muncie Central/New Palestine; Pendleton Heights/Mt. Vernon v. Greenfield-Central/Anderson

Takeaways: The good news for Muncie Central is they can't face this tournament's clear favorites, Mt. Vernon and Anderson, until the finals, and Richmond is a beatable second-round opponent. Yet the Bearcats are 0-4 against sectional foes this season, while New Palestine is 2-2 and been the superior team all season. This draw gives Muncie Central a decent chance of making a run, but it's unlikely unless it gets hot at the right time. It should be a competitive sectional overall, though, with Mt. Vernon getting a favorable first-round matchup. Anderson v. Greenfield-Central should be a fun one, too.

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Class 3A Sectional 24 (at New Castle)

First round: New Castle (15-4) v. Jay County (18-3); Yorktown (7-13) v. Delta (11-11)

Semifinals: Hamilton Heights (10-10) v. New Castle/Jay County; Muncie Burris (7-12) v. Yorktown/Delta

Takeaways: This is, without a doubt, the must-see first round of all the local sectional tournaments. New Castle (2018, 2021) and Delta (2019, 2020) have split the last four sectional titles, but the No. 8 Trojans (5-0 in sectional play) are the favorites this year despite not owning the field's best record. New Castle won 49-37 at home against Jay County on Dec. 11, but the Patriots are capable of a better performance, and the rematch should be a fun one. Whichever squad wins gets a favorable matchup against Burris, and the other finals opponent could be drained from a more grueling path. Yorktown edged Delta 44-43 on Dec. 10, and the two rivals should once again put on a show. Whichever squad advances will have another tough game, but the Tigers and Eagles are both capable of getting to the finals. Expect this to be an exciting sectional.

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Class 2A Sectional 40 (at Alexandria)

First round: Wapahani (17-4) v. Frankton (11-9); Monroe Central (20-0) v. Elwood (1-19); Alexandria (6-14) v. Lapel (11-10)

Semifinals: Winchester (13-7) v. Alexandria/Lapel; Frankton/Wapahani v. Monroe Central/Elwood

Takeaways: No. 9 Wapahani has won this sectional the last two years, but the Raiders got an unfavorable draw. They're 3-2 in sectional play, with the worst loss being 56-45 at Frankton on Dec. 21. Wapahani has improved since then, although the Eagles are still a tough matchup. Its other defeat was 54-53 at No. 2 Monroe Central on Feb. 11, in which this sectional's top-2 teams battled in one of the best games of the season. The Golden Bears will surely advance to the semis by drawing the field's worst team in the opening round, and a potential rematch with Wapahani is what fans want. On the other side, Winchester is 0-2 in sectional play, falling to both the top teams, so the Golden Falcons are happy they'll avoid the juggernauts while also enjoying a first-round bye. Monroe Central is the favorite and in a good position to win the program's first 2A sectional title, and first in any class since 2010.

Class 2A Sectional 39 (at Tipton)

First round: Blackford (7-12) v. Madison-Grant (12-8); Taylor (9-9) v. Tipton (14-6)

Semifinals: Eastbrook (9-11) v. Blackford/Madison-Grant; Sheridan (4-17) v. Taylor/Tipton

Takeaways: Behind the heroics of Luke Brown, Blackford has won this sectional the past two seasons, but the new-look Bruins have struggled without him in 2021-22. They were quarantined at the start of the year and didn't find a groove until the past month, in which Blackford's won five of its last eight games. The Bruins lost 51-48 at home to Madison-Grant on Jan. 7, so their draw is decent having beaten Eastbrook already. Still, Blackford will have to play its best basketball of the year to emerge victorious from this solid sectional field.

Class 2A Sectional 41 (at Hagerstown)

First round: Shenandoah (12-9) v. Northeastern (16-4); Knightstown (6-13) v. Hagerstown (6-15); Union County (5-14) v. Eastern Hancock (15-5); Cambridge City Lincoln (6-11) v. Centerville (0-19)

Semifinals: Shenandoah/Northeastern v. Knightstown/Hagerstown; Union County/Eastern Hancock v. Lincoln/Centerville

Takeaways: Shenandoah this season is not the same caliber team that has won this sectional the last five seasons. The Raiders are solid, not spectacular, and drawing No. 11 Northeastern in the opening round is probably their worst-case scenario. The Knights demolished the Raiders 58-28 on Dec. 17, and whoever wins the rematch should get to the finals. No. 12 Eastern Hancock got the best draw as it'll face all losing teams until the finals, and the Royals escaped with a 56-52 win against the Knights on Dec. 10. An Eastern Hancock v. Northeastern rematch is the most likely championship matchup, which would be one to watch, but Shenandoah could sneak in there with a better strategy against the Knights' staunch defense.

Class A Sectional 55 (at Wes-Del)

First round: Daleville (11-8) v. Anderson Prep (1-19); Liberty Christian (13-9) v. Tri-Central (11-8)

Semifinals: Cowan (2-15) v. Daleville/Anderson Prep; Wes-Del (9-10) v. Liberty Christian/Tri-Central

Takeaways: With reigning sectional champion Cowan struggling with a completely new roster, this sectional is up for grabs among the top-4 teams. Daleville got the best draw of any ECI team and will likely cruise to the title game by facing two teams with a combined three wins on the season. The other side of the bracket should be extremely competitive, but Wes-Del is lucky to draw a bye. The Warriors beat Tri-Cental 73-68 on Jan. 8 but lost to Daleville 76-72 on Dec. 18. If that's any indication, this finals should be a good one as long as the Broncos make it there. Wes-Del and and Daleville haven't won a sectional title since 2007 and 2009, respectively, and this year is as good a chance as any with both teams' star seniors eager to make history.

Class A Sectional 56 (at Blue River)

First round: Blue River (12-9) v. Union City (6-14); Randolph Southern (9-11) v. Seton Catholic (15-8)

Semifinals: Union (2-14) v. Blue River/Union City; Tri (8-8) v. Seton Catholic/Randolph Southern

Takeaways: This is an ideal draw for Blue River, which lost a heartbreaker to Seton in last year's sectional final. It's been an up-and-down season for the Vikings, but they've won six of their last eight games and are 5-1 against sectional opponents, most notably winning 78-66 at Seton on Jan. 25. Blue River also beat Union City 57-46 and Union (Modoc) 76-20, so a championship appearance should be expected. A finals rematch against the new-look Cardinals is what the Vikings want, especially for senior Brevin Hallatt, who left the 2021 championship with an injury.

Gus Martin is a sports reporter at The Star Press. Follow him on Twitter @GusMartin_SP, and contact him at gmartin@gannett.com or 765-729-4742.

This article originally appeared on Muncie Star Press: IHSAA boys basketball: Sectional draws, takeaways for ECI teams