> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
Clarksville and New Albany won sectional as the favorites and now enter Saturday as serious contenders to bring home regional titles.
Silver Creek won the Class 3A North Harrison Sectional as a serious underdog. The Dragons knocked off three ranked teams in four days to win their first sectional crown since 2000.
Now Silver Creek enters Saturday’s Washington Regional as an even bigger underdog when it faces top-ranked and defending champion Greensburg. Most expected the Pirates to roll through the state tournament to another state title and, so far, they’ve outscored three opponents 240-122.
Of course, Corydon and Brownstown expected to play each other in the sectional championship at North Harrison — and the Dragons interrupted those plans. Perhaps they have one more shocker in their bag of tricks.
Clarksville enters the Class 2A Southridge Regional is serious favorites. The Generals are making a return trip after being knocked off by eventual state finalist Linton-Stockton in the first round a year ago. The Miners could await in the regional final on Saturday.
New Albany got some help in some local sectionals. Either Castle, Harrison or Reitz was supposed to come out of Evansville, but Central had other plans, knocking off Harrison 44-42 in the final. Columbus North was the favorite at Shelbyville, but Bloomington North upset the Bull Dogs then rival South to take the crown. Franklin Central came out of a weak sectional, but the Flashes did upset Columbus North a year ago to get into the regional championship game against Jeffersonville.
Here’s a look at every game in all four local sectionals:
CLASS 4A SEYMOUR REGIONAL
• Favorite: Bloomington North. After the way the Cougars played in a 71-44 win over New Albany in the regular-season finale and in the Shelbyville Sectional, North has to be considered the favorite. The Cougars have won 9 of 11 and the two losses were against sectional opponents that they just overcame to win their first sectional in 10 years.
• Serious contenders: New Albany. This isn’t the best New Albany team ever, but it’s starting to feel like a team of destiny. Teams were upset in sectional and it has opened the door for the Bulldogs.
• Darkhorses: Franklin Central and Evansville Central. The Flashes proved last year they’re capable of an upset. After beating Terre Haute North and running the table at Center Grove, perhaps Franklin Central is playing its best basketball. Evansville Central doesn’t appear to be a team capable of winning a regional, but the same could have been said at the Evansville North Sectional.
• Player that could be the difference maker: Leondre McBirth, New Albany. As has been proven all year, when McBirth shows up and plays well, the Bulldogs win. When he doesn’t, they lose. It may be hyperbole to say New Albany’s hopes ride on McBirth’s shoulders, but not much hyperbole. He is the key. Period.
• Best first-round matchup: New Albany vs. Evansville Central. The Bears beat New Albany 47-44 in Evansville on Feb. 15, but don’t expect the same result on a neutral court. In fact, the Bulldogs may have a bit of a homecourt advantage after playing three games in Seymour last week.
• Most likely championship game scenario: New Albany vs. Bloomington North. It seems like destiny. The Bulldogs can overcame two of their worst losses of the year in one day and win their first regional crown since 2008 and their second in 17 years.
• Championship game prediction: Bloomington North 63, New Albany 59. The Cougars have been very impressive of late. If the Bulldogs play their A-game, they certainly have a shot. Beating North will not be easy.
• Probable semistate opponent: Indianapolis Tech. Tech is the best team in a great field. Honestly, Richmond, Brownsburg or Pike could also come out and would be favored to make the trip to Bankers Life Fieldhouse.