This weekend’s semi-state round is always a tough one. In previous rounds you often have some regular season rematches, but in the semi-state you start seeing some games where teams from far flung regions of the state play schools that not only they don’t usually play, it is hard to find common opponents. Since the IHSAA gifts Carmel by sending them north every year it often means they play a Region school. You might see Evansville teams playing Indy area teams.
This year you have some really, really good matchups.
#2 Carmel (24-2) vs. #10 Gary West (22-4) at Lafayette Jeff
Under normal circumstances if Purdue were playing close to home in the NCAA Tournament this would be a game Matt Painter might sneak away too. That’s because Gary West features Jalen Washington, ranked #24 in the class of 2022 and he holds a Purdue offer. The 6’8” forward had 16 points in the regional final win last week and has performed well after missing last season with a torn ACL. Gary West has multiple D-1 prospects, while Carmel always played tough, defensive minded, disciplined basketball. Two of Westside’s losses were by a point, to Lawrence North and Andrean. Carmel lost to both Cathedral and Fishers by a point, and they had two impressive victories last week over Homestead and Lafayette Jeff. Carmel is seeking a third straight semi-state win, as they won state in 2019. The last game they lost in the tournament was the 2018 state championship to Warren Central with some football player named David Bell. This will be an excellent game.
#3 Lawrence North (27-2) vs. Bloomington South (25-4) at Seymour
Lawrence North is a decent favorite here with multiple Division 1 recruits. This includes Indiana commit CJ Gunn. They lost by 5 to Homestead in overtime and by 14 to Carmel. They have also played one of the toughest schedules in the state. Surprisingly, Lawrence North has not been back to state since winning three in a row with Greg Oden and Mike Conley, but they were a favorite to make it last year and are always among the state’s elite. Bloomington South is another very strong program that won a state title as recently as 2011. They are on a string of seven straight sectional crowns, so they are no stranger to March. They have not lost since December 30 against Greencastle and they have an impressive win over Trey Kaufman’s Silver Creek. They can hold their own.
#5 South Bend St. Joseph (21-4) vs. #9 Leo (23-4) at Elkhart
St. Joseph features Notre Dame commit JR Konieczny, who is a 6’7” 3-star forward. They have not been to the state finals since 1993 under the old one class system, while Leo just won its first regional. Both schools have performed very well against their respective classes and St. Joseph scored a major upset last week by taking down No. 1 Hammond after trailing by 13 at the half.
#2 Silver Creek (23-4) vs. #6 Guerin Catholic (21-3) at Seymour
Silver Creek and Trey Kaufman have been averaging 75 points per game, but nearly fell last week thanks to Connersville slowing them down to a 31-30 game. Expect Guerin to try a similar strategy. Guerin, like many private schools, has played a tough schedule and has several 4A wins over Kokomo, Logansport, Noblesville, Martinsville, and more. They have not played a player as talented as Kaufman, however. Guerin last reached the state finals in 2015, while Silver Creek won the 3A title two seasons ago and is technically the defending champion. Kaufman’s teammate Kooper Jacobi is also a D-1 commit to Toledo.
#1 Fort Wayne Blackhawk (26-3) vs. #8 Blackford (25-4) at Elkhart
This is probably where the Luke Brown run ends: at the hands of Caleb Furst and Blackhawk. Brown is at 2,977 points for his career and 23 to get to become just the fifth player in state history is well within his ability. He would move into fourth place past Romeo Langford with 30 points as well, and a 43 point game (possible, he had 50 in the sectional final) would get him second only to Damon Bailey. He led Blackford to its first ever regional championship last week and will play at Stetson next year. Furst and Blackhawk have been dominant all year with losses only to Homestead, Cathedral, and something call Elevation Prep, which is not an IHSAA school. They actually won the 1A title in 2019 and were forced to move up to 2A on a success factor rating. If you want points, this is it. Blackhawk averages a state best 82.5 per game and Brown is gonna be dropping them too.
#5 Parke Heritage (26-3) vs. Southridge (17-10) at Washington
Southridge was a surprise regional winner last week, their first since reaching consecutive single class state finals in 1985 and 1986. Those teams were so good that as a small school they pushed Marion, in the midst of their all-time great run of three consecutive titles, in both seasons before falling in the Final Four. Parke Heritage is a consolidation of Rockville and Turkey Run, and Rockville did finish as 1A runner up in 2012, so there is some history there.
#3 Kouts (28-2) vs. Southwood (17-10) at Lafayette Jeff
Kouts is seeking its first state finals appearance and they are a high scoring team at 75.5 points per game. Southwood started slow at 2-5 but has since gone 15-2 to reach the semi-state. They were state runner-up in 1A in 2018, so those freshmen are now seniors. Southwood also had one of the more lopsided tourney games this year, beating North Miami 93-19. They got through by beating Lafayette Central Catholic on a last second shot a week ago.
#1 Barr-Reeve (27-2) vs. #8 Indianapolis Tindley (18-9) at Washington
How good is Barr-Reeve? Well, their two losses were both in overtime to teams (Carmel and Ft. Wayne Blackhawk) going for their second consecutive state championships. They have also beaten regional winners Bloomington South and Blackford and handed #2 ranked (and bitter rival) Loogootee two losses. Tindley is good. They challenged themselves with games against Lawrence North, Cathedral, Ft. Wayne Blackhawk, Indianapolis Crispus Attucks, Ben Davis, and Brownsburg, but lost all of them. Barr-Reeve is favored, and if we had the old one-class system they would have been a legitimate threat to win the whole thing even as a tiny 1A school. If they can take Carmel and Blackhawk to OT they can beat anyone.
T-Mill’s State Finals Picks:
4A: Carmel vs. Lawrence North
3A: South Bend St. Joseph vs. Silver Creek
2A: Fort Wayne Blackhawk vs. Guerin Catholic
1A: Kouts vs. Barr-Reeve