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Prep hoops: Boys sectional preview capsules

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For more high school basketball coverage, follow Justin Kenny on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/jkenny_ns and the rest of The News-Sentinel crew at www.Twitter.com/prephoops_ns

The favorites and other contenders in each area sectional

Monday, March 3, 2014 - 5:48 am

More than 400 boys basketball teams in Indiana, including several dozen local squads, enter this week with visions of hoisting a sectional championship by week's end.

In the end, there will be only 64 sectional champions crowned on Saturday night. Who will be celebrating amongst the area this upcoming weekend? Who has an outside shot to surprise?

Here is a quick-hitting rundown of each area sectional:

Class 4A East Noble Sectional

Favorite: North Side (21-1)

Why: The Redskins are loaded with scorers and experience. Any of six different players can lead North Side in points on any given night. The talent level does not drop off much when the Redskins go to the bench. However, North Side is vulnerable when it is not hitting its outside shots.

Who could knock off the favorite: Snider (14-7)

Why: The Panthers narrowly lost to North Side in the championship of the SAC Holiday Tournament on a buzzer-beating shot. Snider has the length and athleticism to match up well with the Redskins. One issue that has hurt the Panthers is their lack of effort and concentration in some games this season. Snider gets a shot at North Side right away on Tuesday.

Dark horse: Carroll (14-8)

Why: Over the past few weeks, the Chargers have beaten Snider and played state-ranked North Side and North Central tough. However, Carroll lost arguably its best defender in sophomore Kelham Brown to injury. Still, when hitting shots the Chargers are a challenge to beat.

Class 4A Huntington North Sectional

Favorite: Homestead (15-7)

Why: No one in this sectional has anybody who can remotely match up with Caleb Swanigan inside. Swanigan went for 36 points in the regular season finale against North Side and Joe Ault has come alive as of late as a solid outside threat to complement 'Biggie'.

Who could knock off the favorite: Wayne (12-8)

Why: The Generals ended the season by winning six of their last nine games, including a victory over Homestead on Jan. 28. The Mitchell brothers are not going to bow out of high school without a fight.

Dark horse: Jay County (13-7)

Why: The Patriots have to just beat six-win South Side to get into the finals, where anything can happen. Jay County is known as a team that shoots well and plays good defense. With the easiest road to the title game, the Patriots may face an emotionally-exhausted foe in the championship.

Class 3A New Haven Sectional

Favorite: New Haven (18-3)

Why: The Bulldogs have not missed a beat this season without V.J. Beachem, in fact they enter the postseason with a better record than a year ago when they advanced to the regional championship. New Haven can beat you by outscoring you and by shutting you down defensively.

Who could knock off the favorite: Leo (11-8)

Why: Just over a month ago, the Lions took New Haven to double overtime before falling by seven. Leo has the confidence that it can be competitive with the Bulldogs and when Coach Cary Cogdell's team is shooting well is a threat to beat anyone.

Dark horse: Bishop Dwenger (12-8)

Why: The Saints enter sectional week on a five-game winning streak, including a victory over Leo just a few weeks ago. When Bishop Dwenger is playing blue-collar basketball and being tough on defense, it can put a scare into teams. But the focus must be there.

Class 3A Norwell Sectional

Favorite: Norwell (16-6)

Why: Of the Knights' six losses, four have come to teams in Class 4A. Norwell is disciplined and fundamentally sound and will not beat itself. The scoring is balanced and comes from both inside and out.

Who can knock off the favorite: Columbia City (9-12)

Why: The Eagles have won just three times since Jan. 11, but have been competitive in most games. Still, Columbia City must improve vastly to have a shot to win the sectional, although with a talented group and Coach Chris Benedict at the helm, anything is possible.

Dark horse: Mississinewa (13-7)

Why: The Indians will play the winner of Bellmont and Columbia City and have to win just one game to reach the finals. Mississinewa's lone defeats in 2014 have come to state-ranked Frankton, Jay County and Marion. The Indians are very patient offensively and limit possessions to opponents by doing so.

Class 2A South Adams Sectional

Favorite: Woodlan (15-6)

Why: Coach Dave Randall's team has lost to just one team from Indiana since Dec. 10, and that was a loss to Class 3A Norwell. The Warriors are deep with playmakers and offensive scoring threats that are going to be tough for anyone in this sectional to match up.

Who can knock off the favorite: Bluffton (8-12)

Why: Anytime you have Coach Kevin Leising and the Tigers in the field, you have to take notice. Bluffton lost to Woodlan twice this season, but by a combined six points. The Tigers have had only one winning streak this year, but there is no coach better in the playoffs in the area than Leising.

Dark horse: Eastside (13-8)

Why: The Blazers get no favors out of the gate in having to face Woodlan right out of the gate. But Eastside played the Warriors tough last Friday in a six-point loss and entered that game on a seven-game winning streak.

Class A Hamilton Sectional

Favorite: Blackhawk Christian (13-9)

Why: The schedule has been daunting for the Braves, but this is the time of year when that difficult slate pays off. Blackhawk Christian has the shooters and the size to surpass anyone in this sectional, provided they do not have a letdown like last week against Adams Central.

Who can knock off the favorite: Elkhart Christian (16-4)

Why: While the No. 4-ranked Eagles have not played the type of schedule that Blackhawk Christian has, it is a threat to the Braves with an exceptional defense that is allowing just 48 points per game.

Dark horse: Lakewood Park (10-10)

Why: The Panthers have an easy road to the finals with games against Lakeland Christian followed by Hamilton. Lakewood Park has been the model of consistency this year, sporting just one winning streak and one losing streak this season, each just two games.