Rob Hunt: Exciting Madison County week ahead

Dec. 29—The New Year's celebrations will barely have died down by the time Monday evening rolls around and one of my favorite weeks of the year begins.

Yes, it is Madison County basketball tournament time.

Last season's tournament was fun as a pair of programs broke lengthy championship droughts.

The Anderson boys won their first title since 2014 and did so with the largest margin of victory in both the championship game — 35 points — and in the tournament overall — 84 points — with wins over Pendleton Heights, Liberty Christian and Lapel.

The Pendleton Heights girls needed just two games to claim their first championship in five years, thanks to illness in the Anderson program that knocked out the four-time defending champions. The Arabians edged Frankton in the semifinals before pulling away from Lapel in the final. It was the third time in four years the Bulldogs had reached the title game only to come up short.

On paper, the two reigning champs are the favorites to repeat. That does not mean there won't be some drama and excitement along the way.

Three of the four sites for the opening double headers will located right here in Anderson. Anderson will host Pendleton Heights, Lapel visits Anderson Prep, while Liberty Christian will entertain Alexandria. Due to the cancellation of Liberty's girls season, the Tigers and Lions will be boys only.

The fourth location will be at the Eagles Nest in Frankton where Central Indiana Conference rival Elwood will drop by.

The action starts at 6 p.m. for the girls games — boys JV game at Liberty — with the boys games to follow.

On the boys side, the winner of the Lapel vs. APA game will host the semifinals (Wednesday) and championship (Friday) while the loser will host the consolation bracket on the same nights.

For the girls, the Pendleton Heights at Anderson game will determine sites for the subsequent rounds to be held Thursday and Saturday.

In terms of the bracket set-up, the APA-Lapel and Frankton-Elwood matchups are on the top half while Anderson-Pendleton Heights and Liberty Christian-Alexandria are paired on the bottom.

This could lead to some delicious semifinal matchups to follow.

On the boys side, there is the obvious possibility of a Frankton and Lapel semifinal, which would be played at Lapel, as well as another Anderson and Liberty Christian meeting of city rivals. These are far from a certainty, however. Elwood recently won three in a row and is improving daily, APA played very well despite missing two of their top three players at LC and Alexandria has the capability to pull off the road victory. Also, Frankton, Lapel and Liberty all play solid schedules, but all three are under .500 at the moment and seem to still be figuring themselves out. And with Anderson struggling and Pendleton Heights improving, that one could be closer than many would expect as well.

For the girls' first round, again on paper, the matchups look pretty one-sided.

If it plays out that way, we could be left with some fantastic semifinal matchups.

There is the always fun prospect of Lapel getting a second crack at Frankton, which the Eagles won earlier this year, while the upset-minded Alexandria Tigers could get an opportunity to battle the defending champion Arabians.

It would be a chance to see some of those great underclass girls players I wrote about recently, all playing under one roof on two nights. Lapel freshman Laniah Wills, Frankton juniors Emma Sperry and Amaya Collins, Alexandria sophomore Jacklynn Hosier and Pendleton Heights sophomore Kaycie Warfel combine to hold a wealth of talent.

Hey, if that's the way the tournament goes, it will be a lot of fun. With a couple surprises along the way, it could be even more so.

Here's to another great week of Madison County basketball.

Contact Rob Hunt at rob.hunt@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4886.