Following Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb’s decree on March 19 that all schools, K-12, in the state would be closed through May 1, the IHSAA didn’t take long to act.
That means that the 2020 IHSAA state boys basketball tournament is no more, officially cancelled, leaving 64 Sectional champions without an expected conclusion to their seasons and many seniors without a final sendoff they wanted. Locally, it means that six teams met that fate with area teams expected to participate in Class 4A, Class 3A and Class 2A regionals that would have been played on March 14 but has been delayed do to the ongoing COVID-19 issues.
Outside the Huddle reached out to each of the coaches from those six schools on Thursday to get their reactions.
Snider, sitting at 19-6, ended an 11 year old Sectional title drought by beating Northrop in the finals. Their loaded senior class was led by Rose-Hulman commit Dillon Duff. They were scheduled for a rematch of an earlier win against Marion in the Regional morning game in Class 4A. With the end of the Snider season comes the end of the high school careers of Duff, Jon Barnes Jr., Jayshawn Underwood, Isaac Farnsworth, Elijah Wimby, Alonzo Derrick and injured players Airyan Thomas and Jordan Moore. Snider was the only SAC team to win a Sectional title.
“Obviously, we wouldn’t have wanted it to end this way, but to have them rewarded with a Sectional championship, that is still something for sure,” Snider coach Jeremy Rauch said. “We wanted to leave our legacy and those guys had worked, in a lot of cases, for four years to get to that point. To see it culminate to, at least, a championship…it was still a successful season and I am super proud of what we accomplished.”
New Haven sat at 18-6 after their Sectional title win over Homestead in Class 4A. The balanced Bulldogs were set to face Regional frontrunner Carmel in the morning game. New Haven finished second in a top heavy Northeast 8 Conference this season. The Bulldogs senior class consists of Jamarr Hutchins, Quaron Williams, DaSean Morgan, Bryce DeCamp, Donovynn Lewis and Lamar Hutchins. New Haven was one of three NE8 teams to win a Sectional title this season.
“It’s very disappointing that our players lose out on the opportunity to continue in the tournament and be a part of Hoosier Hysteria,” New Haven coach Bruce Stephens said. “But it what it is and we are grateful to be able to play in the Sectionals and be crowned Sectional champs. We also appreciate the support that has been given to us.”
In Class 3A, NE8 champion Norwell finished the season at 22-2, arguably the best Norwell team to ever come through the school, certainly had the best winning percentage in the history of the program. They went perfect in conference, only losing once in the area in the final week of play. They spent the majority of the second half of the season as the top team in the OTH Power Poll. The Knights were set to face NorthWood in the morning game of the Regional round as one of three NE8 teams to win a Sectional. The Norwell senior class consists of Will Geiger, Conner Torson and Drew Federspiel.
“I do believe that the IHSAA did everything they could to try and keep it going. I think they tried to get the information and I think they tried to follow the directives of the people who were above them,” Norwell coach Mike McBride said. “It is hard for the seniors obviously to lose that opportunity that they worked so hard towards. It is a little bit of a different ending. Our guys took their jerseys off for the last time, our seniors, as a champion and you don’t really get the opportunity to do that very often.”
Joining them as a NE8 team and also part of the same Class 3A Regional was Leo. The Lions finished third in a heavy conference, but pulled off some big wins down the stretch, including to give coach Cary Cogdell his first Sectional title. Leo finished 19-7 and was set to face Delta in the Regional morning game. Leo’s senior class consists of Chase Bates and Andrew Tkacs.
“Disappointed. Obviously, we’d love to play but the safety of everyone has to come first,” Leo coach Cary Cogdell said. “I’m grateful we got as far as we did.”
In Class 2A, Blackhawk Christian looked like the frontrunners to repeat as state champions after success factor moved them up from Class 1A. The Braves posted a 23-3 record, losing just once in the area, led by Purdue commit Caleb Furst. Blackhawk Christian was considered the favorite by John Harrell’s website to claim a Class 2A state title. The Braves will graduated just one senior in Jaylen Morris.
“Obviously really disappointing news today, but understand given the circumstances,” Blackhawk Christian coach Marc Davidson said. “My heart hurts for our kids, especially our senior Jaylen Morris.”
Churubusco emerged from the loaded NECC conference as co-champions, but beat the other champion, Westview, twice this season. At 17-6, Churubusco was headed for a meeting with Blackhawk Christian in the Regional morning game that was very intriguing for a lot of fans. The Eagles won just their second ever Sectional title along the way. Churubusco’s senior class includes Noah Wolfe, Hunter Perlich, Tim Knepple and Gage Kelly.
“Very disappointing. Understandable, but disappointing. Feel terrible for our kids,” Churubusco coach Chris Paul said.