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March 4, 2013

HUNTER: Small schools are Hoosier Hysteria

Class tournament has been beneficial for Indiana prep hoops

SELLERSBURG — I am a small school guy. I appreciate the talents and efforts of larger schools because they usually are the elite teams not only in this area, but in the state.

But my affection is for the smaller schools. I get them.

Maybe it is because I grew up in a small-school town, and have only taught/coached at small schools, and I won’t apologize for it. I get the everyday battles of growing up being the underdog, thinking like an underdog and competing as an underdog.

In my opinion, it is the small schools and their fans that have always kept Hoosier Hysteria alive. Yes, in this area, Jeffersonville, New Albany and Floyd Central won a bulk of the sectionals and regionals during the one-class era. But if you ever went to the old one-class Seymour Regional, there were many, many people from small schools sitting in the end zones ... way up top.

And since the inception of class basketball, it is usually, not always, the smaller schools that are still passionate about the tournament.

You won’t go to any small-school areas and hear them complaining about the success the local team is having in the class tournament. You might a couple years later when that euphoria has worn off, but not while in the midst of winning.  

There are a few times I have gone to Seymour (8,000 seats) for the Class A semi-state and the place was practically sold out. That’s schools with combined enrollments of, maybe, 500 students, selling out an 8,000-seat gym. When the local small school wins, fans from many generations come out to support that team, and it catches the attention of the average basketball fan.

But you don’t have to go to that semi-state to see small schools in action.  Just attend the smallest school sectional around here at Borden.

Borden has had a nice run the last few years, but the sectional has still been competitive. Each team in that sectional has felt that with the right draw, it could possibly have some success in the postseason.

And no team has just been a giant of a team that no one felt that it couldn’t win. To me, that’s what class basketball is about that most every single team feels that most every single year it has a chance of some sort of success in the postseason.

Borden does such a great job of running its sectional. Not only are the games great on the court, but off the court things are done in a first-class manner thanks to athletic director Toby Cheatham, his assistant Amanda Cavins, principal Lisa Nale and numerous volunteers.

The facilities are first class with nice locker rooms, concessions on both sides of the gym and a nice hospitality room where the school streams the games on the court into its group presentation room.

You can eat, socialize and get back a little later because you know exactly when the game starts and what is going on while the games are being played.

Trust me, it is usually such a good game that the last place you want to stay is in the hospitality room. You want to experience true Hoosier Hysteria.

Borden has won that sectional in back-to-back years, and you will now watch as the entire town follows the Braves onto the regional at Loogootee (I’d be nowhere else Saturday, Lord willing).

And if you have the time and money, I would go to that regional as well because you will have four Class A teams playing in a 5,000-seat gym, filled, to move onto the semi-state.

Every class has its uniqueness, lure and draw (the highest crowd at the IHSAA State Finals is usually for the 4A game because it’s usually the best two teams in the state despite class).

But for me, it’s the small schools where most of the players playing are second-, third-, and maybe, just maybe fourth-generation players of their local teams.

All the while, fifth and sixth generations have their faces painted, cheering, and longing for the day they get to put on that uniform.

Perry Hunter is a Henryville High School teacher and a former coach of the school’s boys’ basketball team. You can visit his blog at coachperryhunter.blogspot.com.

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