Next week starts the best time of year in Indiana. On Tuesday night the Indiana 108th Annual Indiana High School Basketball State tournament gets underway at 64 sectional sites around the state. For Purdue fans, we have a pair of incoming recruits with legitimate state championship aspirations. In Class 1A Eric Hunter, who will be here next season, Indianapolis Tindley in search of a second consecutive state championship. Tindley is currently ranked 7th in Class A at 16-7, but they are averaging 74 points per game and all but one loss has come at the hands of larger schools. They also have impressive wins over 4A teams McCutcheon, Homestead, Fort Wayne Snider, and Richmond.
In Class 4A (the largest class) 2019 commitment Isaiah Thompson, the younger brother of P.J. Thompson, has Zionsville ranked 7th at 18-3 before one final regular season game tonight. He scored 40 for the second time this season Tuesday night when he hit 12 three-pointers in a 73-37 win over Noblesville that clinched a fourth straight conference title for the Eagles. Zionsville has won 18 games or more in four straight seasons, but has not won a sectional since 1995 when Brad Stevens was playing there.
A few other Purdue targets are out there in various games, so I will try to touch on them as I take a very quick look at each class.
Class 4A – Defending Champion: Ben Davis
The largest class in Indiana is often regarded as the true state champion and it is wide open this year. Defending champion Ben Davis with Aaron Henry (headed to Michigan State) is 18-5 and has a chance to repeat. Their road is tough, however. Two of their losses have come at the hands of No. 1 Warren Central, who is 24-0 going into tonight’s game at Fishers and one of three undefeated teams left a third meeting would occur in the regional.
Warren Central has earned its undefeated record, and with its girls team in Saturday’s 4A state championship game they could pull off the boys/girls double. they have had some close calls though, with the closest being a triple-overtime win at Zionsville a few weeks ago. Making it to Indianapolis out of the south semi-state will be difficult for anyone. For example: Sectional 15 includes No. 3 New Albany (20-1) with top 5 national recruit Romeo Langford, No. 4 Floyd Central (22-1) (who handed New Albany its lone loss) and No. 6 Jeffersonville (19-3) who has lost to both.
Warren Central has No. 9 Cathedral (19-4) and 2019 Purdue target Armaan Franklin along with usual powers Lawrence North and North Central in its sectional. The survivor then still has Ben Davis in the regional and that New Albany-Jeffersonville-Floyd Central survivor in the semi-state. No. 5 Bloomington South (22-2) is also in the regional with New Albany. 2019 target Trayce Jackson-Davis (No. 28 nationally) is also in the south semi-state with Center Grove.
The north semi-state, where Thompson is headed, is not much easier. No. 2 South Bend Riley (21-0) led by Indiana signee Damezi Anderson looms big with a mostly clear path to the semi-state. Zionsville should beat Logansport and Harrison to reach the sectional final for a third straight year, likely against another IU-signee in Robert Phinisee and McCutcheon. The last two seasons McCutcheon has beaten Zionsville in the sectional final 71-57 and 61-47, but earlier this year Zionsville beat McCutcheon 65-59 at McCutcheon. Since the two play during the regular season four of the 13 losses Zionsville had the past two seasons before this year were to McCutcheon, so they flipped the script. If you’re local in Lafayette the game would be next Saturday at Lafayette Jeff HS and the Phinisee-Thompson battle (their 6th) will have an IU-Purdue feel.
Other teams to watch in the north are Ft. Wayne North with Keion Brooks (the No. 35 player nationally and a Purdue target), who reached the state final last year and lost to Ben Davis. East Noble, Carmel, Carroll (Ft. Wayne), Hamilton Southeastern, and Chesterton are also strong.
As a final note on Langford, he is at 2,805 points, 4th all-time in Indiana, and he is chasing the record held by Damon Bailey (3,134). Since New Albany drew a bye he only has six games to get the record, meaning he needs to average an insane 47 per game on his way to the state title game to break the record. Deshaun Thomas is third at 3,018 and Marion Pierce is just above him at 3,019, so even getting to No. 2 might be tough.
Class 3A – Defending Champion: Indianapolis Crispus Attucks
Purdue has a target on the No. 1 team in Class 3A in Mason Gillis, who has New Castle at 22-2 with only a late loss at Carmel and at Beech Grove. Gillis is a solid 6’7” wing in the 2019 class and New Castle has a historically strong program playing in the nation’s largest gym.
Crispus Attucks is ranked No. 2 at 16-4 and may get a semi-state rematch with No. 3 Evansville Bosse (18-4). New Castle is in the north semi-state half and could run into No. 4 Culver Academy (14-6) with Trey Galloway, a 2020 4-star that Purdue has already looked at.
Those four teams are pretty far and away the best four and happen to be spread out that we could easily have a 1 vs. 4 and 2 vs. 3 in the semi-state. No. 5 Tri-West (18-3) and No. 6 Danville (17-4) sit in the same sectional with Beech Grove and a strong Indianapolis Manual squad. Brebeuf will be a challenge to Crispus Attucks in their sectional, too. Marion is also a team that cannot be overlooked, as they are a 4A level team masking as a 3A level team due to enrollment. They won the 3A title two years ago and are 15-6 with a high octane offense.
Class 2A – Defending Champion: Frankton
Covington (20-1) currently is the No. 1 team in this class and the lone loss was by a point at West Lafayette. Westview at (22-1) has only a single overtime loss but a win on Tuesday sets up probably the best sectional semifinal anywhere in the state when they play No. 3 LaVille (23-0). A combined record of 46-1 for a sectional semifinal is insane.
Defending champion Frankton is very good once again and has made it to Indianapolis in two of the last three seasons. They have to navigate a tough regional that has No. 8 Oak Hill (18-5) and No. 9 Tipton (16-4). The top four teams are all packed into the North Semi-State along with Oak Hill and Tipton, so the south is pretty much entirely up for grabs.
Class A – Defending Champion: Indianapolis Tindley
This is where we get to Eric Hunter. Hunter enters the tournament 9th all-time in state scoring with an impressive 2,485 points. If he leads Tindley to another state title he can possibly reach fifth place, currently held by Brody Boyd at 2,632 points. The other three names he would pass are Cooper Neese at 2,496 (recently left Butler), Trevion Bluiett at 2,568 (currently kicking ass for Xavier) and some guy named Rick Mount at 2,595. So with 111 more points over a maximum of six more games (and he is averaging 28 ppg) Hunter can come to Purdue with the most points ever for an in-state player we have gotten.
Ft. Wayne Blackhawk (20-2) is No. 1 and University (19-2) is No. 2. Tindley will likely get out of its sectional, but could run in to University in the regional final. University won the regular season meeting between them 48-46, but Tindley knocked them out of the tournament last season.
Another team to watch is Lafayette Central Catholic, who has won 19 of the last 20 sectionals they have played in since the tournament went to class for 1998. Their only sectional loss came in 2001, so they have the state’s longest active streak of sectional championships. They were in the state title game a year ago, losing to Tindley, but they have to get past No. 3 Southwood (18-3) in the sectional. Central Catholic is 13-9, but only played a single Class A school all season.
If Tindley can get past University in the regional it has a very good shot at repeating. The 1A tournament is always a crapshoot because you have a lot of private and charter schools that play a tougher schedule going against the smallest public schools in the state. In Class A a private or charter schools has won 8 times and been runner-up four more times. The most successful public team has been Barr-Reeve, with one title and four runner-up finishes. They are also good again, ranked No. 6 at 18-4.