Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse Four State Champions will be crowned. The State Finals have always been a celebration of this great game in Indiana. If you ever go you will see tons of excited fans for the 8 schools involved, but you also see people representing their hometown schools. I know of a fan that specifically keeps a notebook of the different schools represented at the state finals and regularly has over 70 each year.
And yes, I represent my beloved Kokomo Wildkats, even if they are in their longest sectional title drought in school history.
This weekend I do have a couple of rooting interests though. In the Class A game Southwood takes on Morristown in a battle of two first-time state finalists. My aunt used to teach art for years at Southwood and my older cousins, identical twins, in fact, played there in the mid-90s. In the Class 2A game Forest Park faces Oak Hill and my son’s Godparents had their kids go there. Their youngest is currently a cheerleader for the team and their oldest played basketball there a few years ago. I’ll be there to watch both teams in the morning session.
No. 3 Southwood (25-3) vs. No. 4 Morristown (27-2) 10:30am
This should be an excellent game. Both teams average over 72 points per game, which is very impressive for Class A schools. Southwood lost its first two games of the year to Wapahani and Huntington North, then won 25 of their next 26. The only loss since December 1st was in overtime 76-71 at Class 2A finalist Oak Hill. They also beat Lafayette Central Catholic in the sectional, and Central Catholic had not lost a sectional game since 2001.
Morristown is led by 6’ guard Hayden Kangkabel, who averages 27 points per game and is currently 24th all-time in state history with 2,170 points. With a 56 point game (and he had 46 in eliminating defending state champion Indianapolis Tindley in the regional final) he can reach the top 20. He will still likely pass Eric Gordon (2,178), Grayson Flittner (2,198), and Seth Colclasure (2,207) to get to No. 21. Eli Streeval (15 ppg) and Logan Laster (13 ppg) also help a lot in scoring. Morristown lost to Shelbyville and Hauser, but avenged the Hauser loss in the sectional.
Southwood has a lot of size for a 1A team. 6’4” Dallas Holmes (17.1 ppg, 8.2 rpg) and 6’4” Matthew Nose (13.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg) give them some imposing forwards. Peyton Trexler (19.7 ppg) and Carson Blair (17.8 ppg) are a strong backcourt.
My pick: Southwood
No. 6 Oak Hill (25-5) vs. Forest Park (25-4) 12:45pm
Oak Hill got this far by taking out the No. 1 (Covington) and No. 8 (Tipton) teams in the regional, then No. 2 Westview in the semi-state. Forest Park has had a slightly easier path, as this is the first ranked team they have faced in tournament play. Oak Hill also played a tough schedule, facing 4A power Lawrence North, Class A finalist Southwood, No. 1 New Castle in 3A, and a very, very good Floyd Central team that merely got in the way of New Albany.
Caleb Middlesworth, a 6’8” forward who will play at Huntington College next year, leads them at 16.3 points and 7.3 rebounds. Fellow 6’7” forward David Arens averages 11 per game, while 6’5” Spencer Ballinger (15.4 ppg) and 6’4” Tyce Frank (10.6 ppg) give them an imposing lineup of size for a 2A team. Middlesworth was receiving interest from the likes of Ball State, IUPUI, Indiana State, and Evansville, so he could be a Division I player.
Forest Park has a very promising freshman in 6’7” Curt Hopf. His older brother, Clint Hopf, won consecutive state titles in 2005 and 2006. He would have won three in a row, but tore his ACL as a senior. He later had a solid career at Evansville. Sam Englert leads the Rangers at 16 points per game, and Colling Hochgesang gives them more size to match up with Oak Hill.
My pick: Oak Hill
No. 3 Evansville Bosse (25-4) vs. No. 4 Culver Academy (22-6) 5pm
Bosse comes in as the state’s highest scoring team and one looking to conclude some business. Two seasons ago they lost a close state title game to Marion in Class 3A. Last year they lost a semi-state battle with Indianapolis Crispus Attucks. They are averaging 83.3 points per game and they certainly get up and down the floor. Former Purdue assistant Jack Owens already signed their leading scorer, Mekhi Lairy, for Miami (OH). Lairy has scored 2,209 career points (20th state-wide) and the 5’9” dynamo is scoring 26.4 points and dishing out 6.8 assists per game. Do not be surprised if he is officially a pain in the ass for some high major team in a first round NCAA game in a few years. Jaylin Chinn (15.2 ppg) and De’Angelo Ware (12.9 ppg) also provide a scoring punch.
Purdue eyes will be on Culver and 2020 prospect Trey Galloway. Coach Painter has already targeted him in recruiting and the 6’4” guard averages 14.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Culver averages more than 21 points per game fewer than Bosse, however, so something will have to give. Culver actually played Bosse on December 16 and lost 74-64, so this is the first of two state finals rematches.
My pick: Evansville Bosse
No. 1 Warren Central (31-0) vs. No. 10 Carmel (21-7) 8:15pm
Warren Central is going for history. With a win they can be the 14th Immortal champion to go perfect, and first since Princeton and Bloomington south in 2009. They would be the second team ever to win 32 games in a season (1995 Ben Davis went 32-1) and, because their girls team beat Zionsville a month ago, they would join Oregon-Davis in 2007 as the only schools to pull off the boys/girls double championships in the same year. Last week David Bell, a 2019 4-star football prospect that Purdue is recruiting heavily, beat New Albany at the buzzer to get them here. Bell averages 12 points, 6.4 rebounds,a nd 3.9 assists for them. Dean Tate and Jesse Bingham also score in double figures.
Warren Central has had dozens of close calls in keeping its perfect record. On December 8 they beat Cathedral and Purdue target Armaan Franklin 65-62 in overtime. On January 30 Isaiah Thompson and Zionsville took them to triple overtime before falling 71-67. They beat defending 4A champion Ben Davis three times, including 48-46 in the regional and Pike 48-46 on February 20th.
This game should be good because they beat Carmel 66-65 on a last second basket by Antwaan Cushingberry back on February 16. Carmel is led by Butler commmit John Michael Mulloy at 15 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. As usual, they are not flashy, but they play sound, fundamental basketball. They also have a very similar schedule to Warren since the two share a conference. Carmel has losses to Zionsville, Fishers, Cathedral, New Albany, Hamilton Southeastern, Pike, and Warren Central, but they have not lost since the Warren Central game. They got the HSE and Fishers games back in the sectional and beat Fort Wayne North in the regional championship after North had beaten Zionsville that morning. They also decisively beat previously undefeated South Bend Riley last week 63-43.
My pick: Warren Central