Tough road ahead as boys tournament begins
Feb. 26—ANDERSON — The 2023 IHSAA Boys Basketball Sectional week begins with first-round games Tuesday and Wednesday followed by semifinals Friday and championship games Saturday.
A tough Sectional 9 awaits the area's Class 4A teams from Anderson and Pendleton Heights while Sectionals 39 and 40 include teams that are currently or have been ranked this season standing in the way of success for area teams.
The computer rankings say it could be a tough week, but the players will have other ideas once they take the court.
Here is a glance at the teams as they head into postseason play, who they will face, players to look out for and an outlook on each sectional:
SECTIONAL 9 AT MUNCIE CENTRAL
First opponent: Greenfield-Central (21-1), Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.; Trending: Anderson is 4-0 vs. Sectional 9 teams; Players to Watch: Ahmere Carson (21.9 points, 5.4 assists), Ja'Quan Ingram (14.1 points, 5.4 rebounds); Key stat: Anderson seeks first sectional title since 2009.
Pendleton Heights (7-16)
First opponent: Richmond (16-6), Tuesday, 7 p.m.; Trending: Nine of PH's 16 losses have been by six points or less or in overtime; Players to Watch: Josiah Gustin (13.2 points, 7.4 rebounds), Evan Mozingo (11.7 points, 44% 3-point); Key stat: The Arabians shoot 70% from the free-throw line as a team.
Sectional Outlook: With an upset of Richmond, Pendleton Heights would meet Hoosier Heritage Conference rival New Palestine (21-2) in the semifinal while Anderson will need a strong performance Wednesday in order to advance to face either Muncie Central (15-7) or Mount Vernon (14-8) Friday evening.
SECTIONAL 24 AT NEW CASTLE
First opponent: Jay County (9-11), Wednesday, 6 p.m.; Trending: The Eagles have finished above .500 in 11 straight years; Players to Watch: Colin Gardner (11 points, 5.8 rebounds), Tyler Bates (10.8 points, 3.1 assists); Key stat: With Bates, Joey Wright, and Nate Moore, Frankton has three players shooting over 30% from 3-point range.
Sectional Outlook: With a first-round win over the Patriots, the Eagles would meet a strong semifinal foe in Yorktown (14-8) or New Castle (12-11) on Friday night at the New Castle Fieldhouse.
SECTIONAL 39 AT TAYLOR
First opponent: Blackford (8-15) or Taylor (17-5) , Friday, 6 p.m.; Trending: Elwood is seeking first nine-win season since 2014 and first sectional game win since 2009; Players to Watch: Jayden Reese (13.4 points), Hunter Sallee (10.2 points, 7.4 rebounds); Key stat: Six of Elwood's losses have been by 10 points or less, and the Panthers own a one-point win over Blackford this season.
First opponent: Eastern (10-12), Wednesday, 6 p.m.; Trending: The Argylls have had three separate winning streaks of four or more games; Players to Watch: Jase Howell (16.4 points, 6.3 assists), Peyton Southerland (12.3 points, 3.5 assists); Key stat: M-G shoots 37% from 3-point range, with Howell (44%) and Gavin Kelich (41%) above 40.
Sectional Outlook: If M-G wins Wednesday, the Panthers and Argylls will look to make it an all-Central Indiana Conference final with upset wins in Friday's semfiinals. The Argylls would likely meet Tipton (15-6).
SECTIONAL 40 AT MONROE CENTRAL
First opponent: Lapel (11-12), Wednesday, 6 p.m.; Trending: The Tigers have lost nine of their last 10.;Players to Watch: Owen Harpe (11.4 points), Carson Cuneo (8.9 points, 3.6 assists); Key stat: Alexandria has lost last five games against Lapel, including during last year's sectional.
First opponent: Alexandria; Trending: The Bulldogs suffered their worst loss of the season (66-33) in the regular season finale at Tipton; Players to Watch: Brode Judge (13.5 points, 78% FT), Bode Judge (11.3 points, 5.2 rebounds); Key stat: Lapel shoots 70% at the free-throw line as a team.
Sectional Outlook: The winner of the Madison County first-round matchup will be rewarded with a semifinal game against second-ranked Wapahani (21-1) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. The Raiders defeated both the Tigers and Bulldogs back in December by a combined 50 points.
SECTIONAL 41 AT SHENANDOAH
First opponent: Northeastern (18-5), Tuesday, 7 p.m.; Trending: Northeastern ended Shenandoah's five-year reign as sectional champions in overtime last season; Players to Watch: A.J. Demick (8.9 points), Carson Brookbank (8 points, 39% 3-point); Key stat: Shenandoah averages 21.4 turnovers per game.
Sectional Outlook: The draw was not kind to the young Raiders after drawing the clear sectional favorite Knights. Northeastern won at Shenandoah 55-41 on Dec. 16.
SECTIONAL 55 AT TRI-CENTRAL
Anderson Prep Academy (1-21)
First opponent: Tri-Central (6-17), Tuesday, 7 p.m.; Trending: The Trojans won at The Hangar 82-54 in January; Players to Watch: Ben Scott (11.2 points, 4.4 rebounds), Lincoln Fathauer (11.2 points, 77% free throws); Key stat: Three defeats during the Jets current seven-game skid were decided by five points or less.
First opponent: APA or Tri-Central, Friday, 7:30 p.m.; Trending: Broncos have advanced to the sectional title game in two of last three years; Players to Watch: Meryck Adams (15.6 points, 5.5 rebounds), Carson Buck (12.8 points, 4.6 rebounds); Key stat: Over his last five games, Buck is averaging an even 20 points per game.
Liberty Christian (13-9)
First opponent: Cowan (10-12), Friday, 6 p.m.; Trending: Lions seeking second straight sectional title and eighth overall; Players to Watch: Cedric Anderson (13.4 points, 6.2 rebounds), Kobe Watson (13.2 points, 6.1 rebounds); Key stat: Led by Anderson and Watson, LC has five players averaging better than nine points per game.
Sectional Outlook: It's a tough draw for the short-handed Jets with the host Trojans, but the bracket also sets up for a possible rematch of last year's sectional championship game between the Lions and Broncos, which LC won last year 85-50. Daleville coach Ashley Fouch seeks to add a boys sectional title to the girls title she won with the Broncos in 2020.
Contact Rob Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 765-640-4886.