BOUNCE: Tuesday night showed what’s so right AND what’s so wrong with sectional basketball in Indiana

Homestead celebrates their win against Columbia City during January 31’s Class 4A Sectional game at Huntington North. (Photo by Leslie Palmer)

Between a pair of timeouts called by Columbia City coach Amy Shearer in a desperate attempt to rattle her, Homestead freshman Myah Epps calmly dropped a trio of free throws with 0.5 left in regulation to propel Homestead to a 46-45 win over Columbia City on Tuesday night in Huntington.

It was the culmination of a sensational, back-and-forth basketball game. Just seconds before, the Eagles had executed a brilliant play call by Shearer that resulted in an open lay-up for Molly Baker to put her team up one with 5.7 seconds remaining. It was one of those things Columbia City has used time and time again in big games down the stretch of the season yet it was still unstoppable.

After a trio of timeouts in an attempt to figure out the right call against the Columbia City pressure defense, Homestead coach Rod Parker watched his squad make magic happen in finding Epps for three, with a foul resulting in the winning free throws.

A tense and exciting game between teams with a combined 36 wins to open sectional play. It played out the exact way it should have and thats not me picking a favorite, I am just saying who couldn’t want a close game where both teams were in the drivers seat in the final 10 seconds?

What’s not to like?

The fact that the game shouldn’t have happened at all.

Entering the playoffs, Columbia City and Homestead were ranked atop the sectional field in the Sagarin Ratings. Huntington North is extremely dangerous and beat Homestead in November, Wayne has some talent and potential, but the matchup we saw on Tuesday in many minds, including this frog’s, is that this game was for the sectional crown.

And it tipped off close to 8 p.m. on a Tuesday.

Luckily, Homestead and Columbia City are both represented by phenomenal fan bases who travel. Huntington is about a 20-25 minute drive from both schools, so not too bad. Fans showed out in droves to North Arena, buoyed by the fact that at least this showdown was the second game on Tuesday, not the dreaded 6 p.m. start.

But it’s still wrong that the two best teams (yes, I see you Huntington North) take each other on on Tuesday of sectional week.

Homestead’s Myah Epps drives against Molly Baker of Columbia City during January 31’s Class 4A Sectional game at Huntington North. (Photo by Leslie Palmer)

Per Sagarin, eight girls sectionals have the top two teams playing prior to Friday. Six played on Tuesday, two tip-off on Wednesday. Among those games include the 36 combined wins of Columbia City and Homestead, 37 dubs between Eastern Hancock and Triton Central and an astounding 38 wins between Charlestown and Corydon Central

Meanwhile, the first contest we had at Huntington North on Tuesday was South Side and New Haven, teams with a combined four wins entering this week. Again, that one turned out to be a really fun one too with New Haven upended South Side in a close one. But should those two teams have been playing opening night against each other?

This state is still special for its basketball. That is not up for debate. But what is up for debate is the popularity of the sport, and why it is waning at the prep level. And trust me, it is on the decline.

I am not here to blame the decline solely on multiple classes (get off my lawn!) or lack of seeding. But what I am saying is that every effort needs to be made to make the product as entertaining as possible on days in which maximum fan turnout is at its highest.

North Arena was hoppin’ last night and it was great to see. But imagine what it could have been on a Friday? Or a Saturday night with a sectional championship on the line?

When some folks call for seeding, they include both football and basketball in the conversation. Football doesn’t need it. All games are played on Fridays (and a few on Saturdays). You may have some sectional-deciding matchups in Week 10, but at least they are on a night in which people are already used to going to games and allows the most fans to come – at the end of a work week.

Accessibility is key. It’s what drives multi-billion dollar media contracts in college and professional sports. The Indiana High School Athletic Association makes sectional basketball games difficult to access by playing some of the biggest games of the week on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Plain and simple.

When is the IHSAA going to recognize the fact that its product on the hardwood is hurt by not seeding at least the top two squads in every sectional?

Kudos to the Homestead Spartans, who made it nine wins in the last 10 against Columbia City. Kudos to Epps, who had every reason to get rattled and instead showed just how much she is one of the best players in this area as a freshman.

Too bad the game was on a Tuesday.

These opinions represent those of Bounce and Outside the Huddle. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. Follow Bounce on Twitter at Bounce_OTH

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