Here are five things that Fort Wayne-area basketball fans will learn this weekend:
1. Can South Side win a state championship?
This week is a new experience for the Archers, competing in their first state championship game in school history. The team appears to have taken the media hype surrounding state (Media Day and constant interview requests) in stride, but there is no doubt that there will be some nerves come Saturday night in Terre Haute. However, Bedford North Lawrence is in its first state title game since 1992, so it will be having the same feelings. The key for South Side is staying close early. The Archers lost by 24 points to the Stars on January 26, can South Side make up that many points against the second-ranked team in the state? We will see.
2. Can Canterbury win a state championship?
While anything can happen, the Class A state title game between Canterbury and Vincennes Rivet just feels like a formality, with the Cavaliers set to win their fifth state title in a six-year span. Rivet was a solid opponent in the championship games of 2009 and 2010 for the Cavaliers, but eventually pulled out the victories. This has all the feelings of a similar result. A good mix of youth and experience gives the feeling that Canterbury's 1A dominance isn't going away anytime soon.
3. Who will win the Class 4A Sectional at Carroll?
The positive aspect of there not being any must-see sectional openers on Tuesday is that Friday is loaded with goodies. One of those “goodies” will be Northrop against North Side for the second time this season. In the first matchup in mid-December, North Side controlled the tempo and frustrated Northrop in a 65-59 victory. The rematch should be more exciting, with the Redskins riding a nine-game win streak and Northrop playing unselfish basketball. However, the winner likely will have to contend with Columbia City (19-3) in the finals on Saturday. Not sure how you can be considered a “sleeper” at 19-3, but the Eagles are, likely because of their “boring” style that beats you with good outside shooting and solid defense. Columbia City beat Northrop a few weeks ago and defeated North Side in sectional play last year with nearly the same roster. The hype surrounds Northrop and North Side, but the sectional favorite at this point may be the Eagles.
4. Who will win the Class 4A Sectional at Huntington North?
Several times over the last few weeks I have gotten the question, “What do you know about Jay County?” Well, besides being a tremendous defensive team and having just two losses, not much. I admit I have not seen the Patriots play in person, but I have seen Coach Craig Teagle's Jay County teams of the past lay waste to teams underestimating them. This year's Patriots appear to be a team much like the 2011 team that won the sectional at Huntington North, but on steroids. Their two losses came to Cathedral and Northrop on the same day, December 28, at the Hall of Fame Tournament. Homestead gets first crack at Jay County on Friday, with New Haven likely the opponent of the winner on Saturday. It is a three-team race here as it is at Carroll, one where the least-talked about team (Jay County) may advance.
5. Does Randon Jackson's eligibility make Bishop Luers a Class 2A title contender?
Junior James Blackmon Jr. has been incredible this season for the Knights, averaging over 35 points per game this season. But lost in the accolades has been the fact that Bishop Luers has been very un-Luers like at times this season. Entering sectional play, of the Knights' 13 wins, just three had come against teams with a winning record. But six straight wins to conclude the regular season has Bishop Luers thinking big. And with the addition of Randon Jackson, a 6-foot-5 senior transfer from Marion now eligible, Bishop Luers now is more balanced than it has been all season. Jackson is a scorer than forces defenses to account not just for Blackmon Jr. and brother Vijay all the time. Wins over Adams Central and likely Bluffton this weekend does not assure a deep postseason run, but beating two teams over-.500 on back-to-back nights will show that the Knights are stronger now with Jackson in the lineup.