Years ago, Bounce had a local basketball coach drop some wisdom on your favorite amphibian.
“Class 3A is where you want to be,” this coach said. “You avoid the powers of 4A as well as the really good private schools in the lower classes.
“3A is the easiest road to a state title.”
It is a statement that has stuck with me, and seemingly every February and March I see just how true it is.
The Homestead girls basketball team entered regional play on Saturday as one of the top teams in Class 4A. This year’s Spartans may not have had a player the caliber of Karissa McLaughlin, but it was arguably deeper than the 2017 state championship team, with a D1-committed player in Rylie Parker not even in the starting lineup.
But Hamilton Southeastern, the top-ranked team in 4A, was too much in Saturday’s 57-47 victory. Junior Sydney Parrish was exceptional in dropping 27 points, but she had plenty of help with a roster that in terms of height made Homestead look downright small in comparison.
So another area 4A power goes down short of its goal. It’s been quite the trend since the adoption of class basketball in 1998. In 21 years, only two area teams – Homestead boys in 2015 and Homestead girls in 2017 – have won Class 4A state championships.
We have had other teams get close over the years, but no one outside of Homestead has been able to navigate the brutality of the 4A playoffs. Some will point to the fact that the line sending teams north and south is drawn right through Indianapolis, meaning that local teams must contend with the likes of Carmel and Hamilton Southeastern in regional play.
Years ago, the Marion boys basketball team was in some hard times. The storied program was spinning its wheels against the Indianapolis teams, unable to be a contender in a loaded class. But as Marion High School continued to bleed students to schools like Oak Hill, MIssissinewa and Eastbrook, the basketball programs were reclassified into 3A. It was just the boost the boys program needed, as it won its eighth state title in 2016 and is now consistently one of the best 3A teams in the state.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t help the likes of Homestead, Carroll, Snider, Northrop and the other local 4A teams that are not dropping to 3A anytime soon. Instead, those schools must hope for the assemblage of a super team or a hell of a lot of luck to win a state title in 4A.
This year, the SAC is once again full of some pretty darn good basketball teams. Of Homestead, Carroll, Snider, Northrop and East Noble, any of those five could make a run at a state title in 3A. Unfortunately, whomever emerges out of sectionals will run into Class 4A No. 2 Carmel at some point in the regional. Penn likely looms at semi-state.
This column isn’t to take away anything from our 4A programs. In fact, it is a nod to the pair of Homestead teams who won championships and the North Side boys team that advanced to state just a few years ago. The two teams that meet for the state title in 4A in both boys and girls hoops have survived a massive gauntlet and lived to fight for the big trophy.
Meanwhile, in the other classes, particularly 3A, you may only have to beat one or two truly elite teams to win a state crown.
Coach Rod Parker’s team failed to win a regional championship on Saturday, but that shouldn’t take away just how good his team was this year. With Ayanna Patterson, Parker and Sydney Graber all having prep eligibility remaining, the Spartans aren’t going away anytime soon.
Unfortunately, neither are the traditional powers of 4A that continue to dispatch of our teams in northeast Indiana on a yearly basis.
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