By GREG MENGELT
> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
As the sports editor — of all sports — it’s probably not a good idea to write this, but there’s nothing better than the start of basketball season in Indiana. Except maybe the Indiana high school basketball tournament.
Twenty-four teams in Southern Indiana start with a clean slate, a chance to fulfill promise, to try to reach their potential.
Honestly, there’s nothing better. College basketball is fantastic. The NBA is wonderful. I love almost every other sport. But there’s nothing — I mean, nothing — better in sports than good Indiana high school basketball.
And in Clark County, it starts with a bang.
When I moved to Southern Indiana 10 years ago, the first high school boys’ basketball game I attended was Silver Creek at Henryville. I showed up a minute or two after tipoff — and I couldn’t find a seat. Now that’s Hoosier Hysteria.
Two teams representing small communities carrying the hopes of an entire community going head-to-head for bragging rights. Growing up for me, it was Elwood and Tipton — and it was annual ecstasy. There was nothing I looked forward to more. One year I had the flu and missed the Elwood-Tipton game and it ruined my entire year.
I have always loved basketball. I had an uncle who played a decade in the NBA. I loved the trips to Indianapolis for Pacers’ games. I treasured treks to West Lafayette for Purdue games. But nothing got me more excited than Elwood basketball games.
When I was a child, my basketball heroes weren’t Chuck Person, Larry Bird and Troy Lewis. They were Elwood Panthers’ Jeff Cotton, Matt John and Trent Hicks. I remember waiting outside of their locker room for autographs and getting nervous seeing them around town. That only happens in Indiana.
So with apologies to football, swimming, baseball and track — all sports I played in high school — my greatest love in the sports world is basketball. In particular, high school basketball. And I can’t wait for it to get started on tonight.
Onto the picks:
HENRYVILLE (0-0) AT SILVER CREEK (0-0), BOYS
This is a great rivalry. One of my favorites, along with Jeff-New Albany. Schools of different sizes separated by just a few miles. It just doesn’t get any better.
The Hornets’ and Dragons’ rosters were depleted by graduation. Neither seems to be serious conference or sectional contenders this season. None of that will matter tonight.
I like Silver Creek in this matchup for two reasons — home court and a returning coach in Brandon Hoffman.
Henryville will win under Dan Carmony. One 10-minute visit with him and it was apparent that he’s a winner and he’ll have the Hornets competing for championships soon. Just probably not this year. Not with two players who have ever seen a varsity court.
Both of these teams will have a lot of proving themselves to do this year, but it should be a good start for Creek.
THE PICK: Silver Creek 59, Henryville 49.
BORDEN (0-0) AT EASTERN (0-0), BOYS
Borden may be the most interesting — and unpredictable — team in our area.
The Braves are proven winners and they have everyone of significance back except Brandon Beam. That’s a big “except.”
Beam ran the Braves last year. He always had the ball in his hands and was an excellent scorer. If there was one player in the area who made his team go, it was Beam. Needless to say, it’s a big loss.
Cody Bachman is back after missing all of last season. If he’s fully healed, that should help a lot. But he won’t replace Beam’s court presence.
If Borden can find a suitable replacement for Beam — and it may take a team effort to do so — they’ll be good. Really good. Possibly as good as last year’s 22-2 team.
Either way, they’ll open with a win, even on the road.
THE PICK: Borden 67, Eastern 58.
ROCK CREEK (0-0) AT CLARKSVILLE (0-0), BOYS
I have a feeling Rock Creek is going to have one of the most surprising teams in Southern Indiana.
In the end, the Lions may not be able to compete with Borden and Lanesville — and they won’t be competitive with Clarksville on Tuesday. But they’re going to win more games than most expect. Devin Burt has a chance to be the Lions’ next star.
THE PICK: Clarksville 80, Rock Creek 62.
SEYMOUR (2-1) AT FLOYD CENTRAL (1-1), GIRLS
If it was later in the season and the Highlanders were healthy, I probably would take them to win this game at home.
If healthy, Floyd will field a dangerous team by season’s end. It wouldn’t shock me if they take down the Owls at home.
THE PICK: Seymour 58, Floyd Central 53.
CHARLESTOWN (1-1) AT NEW WASHINGTON (3-1), GIRLS
This is one of the more interesting games of the week. It could go either way.
Charlestown has the young talent. The Mustangs have veterans who can put the ball in the basket.
The Pirates are still not quite at the level of the Mustangs. But they’ve certainly closed the gap in the past couple years.
THE PICK: New Washington 62, Charlestown 57.
NORTH HARRISON (2-2) AT SILVER CREEK (2-1), GIRLS
Here we are less than three weeks into the season and we already have a big Mid-Southern Conference game on tap.
Although Scottsburg showed it’s the league favorite with a big win over the Cats, both of these teams should be near the top of the league.
Silver Creek’s Scott Schoen and North Harrison’s Missy Voyles are two great coaches who have been rivals for a long time. It will be fun to watch them match wits.
Silver Creek is probably the favorite, but the Dragons sometimes keep teams with their preferred low-scoring “slugfest” style.
I like the Dragons with the homecourt advantage, but this is another one that could go either way.
THE PICK: Silver Creek 51, North Harrison 44.
PROVIDENCE (3-3) AT SOUTH CENTRAL (0-2), GIRLS
It’s strange to see a Randall Schoen team go 5-16 followed by an 0-2 start. The Rebels are down, but they won’t be for long as long as Schoen is on the bench.
Providence needs to take advantage of a team that may be lacking the swagger and talent of a typical Rebel team if it wants to have its first winning season in a decade. On the road, it may be asking a little too much.
THE PICK: South Central 46, Providence 42.