Regional Saturday is on the way and it sure looks different.
Gone are the morning semifinal games to try and win a regional title at night. Instead, each site is host to two games on the day where two different regional champions will be named. And those two teams will advance to a now-four team semistate.
So there is a chance of far more Regional champions coming out of Northeast Indiana this season. Who does Bounce thinks will be those teams?
Class 2A Regional at Lapel
Blackhawk Christian vs. Tipton
The Braves were expected to be here after winning their sixth straight sectional championship. The same can be said for the Blue Devils, who earned their second straight sectional title last weekend. Tipton is coached by Cliff Hawkins, who has had a number of stops around the state, including DeKalb in the late 90s and early 2000s. He led the Barons to a state title appearance in 2003.
Blackhawk has won 23 or more games for the sixth straight season. Head coach Matt Roth has done an excellent job keeping the Braves at a level that Marc Davidson established. Josh Furst has continued to ascend and is averaging just over 19 points per game. His rebounding numbers have dipped a little, but sophomore Kellen Pickett has helped in that regard. Pickett is also scoring 13.2 points per game, and Gage Sefton has been able to be more in charge of the offense while still scoring at a solid clip of 16 points per game. Sefton’s assists are up as he’s gotten his teammates more involved this season.
Tipton just breezed through the sectional at Taylor, winning by an average of 23.7 points per game, including a 58-40 victory over the host Titans in the championship game. Nolan Swan is the Devils’ leading scorer at 19.1 points per game. He’s an excellent shooter, hitting 43 percent of his threes and also a menace on defense with over three steals per game. The X-factor for Tipton will be 6-foot-5 sophomore Grady Carpenter, who averages 15.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game. He can also step out and knock down threes at a consistent rate. Jackson Money is also another capable shooter for the Blue Devils and scores 11.2 ppg.
The two teams are similar on a lot of levels, but the Braves do everything just a little bit better. They’ve played a more difficult schedule and their three losses came to teams that all won their respective sectional and are still playing this weekend. Blackhawk’s three-headed monster of Furst, Pickett and Sefton are going to be hard to stop for the Blue Devils. Tipton will keep it close, but the Braves are too good. BOUNCE PICKS BLACKHAWK CHRISTIAN
Class 2A Regional at North Judson
Westview vs. Gary 21st Century
At the beginning of the season, there were very few people who expected the Warriors to be here. They had a new coach with a roster that lacked varsity experience outside of sharpshooter Brady Yoder. Head coach Chandler Prible quickly turned Westview back into a sectional champion and are headed to a place where they’ve won their last four regional championships.
Gary 21st Century is a senior-laden team with its three top scorers averaging around 15 points per game. Senior Ashton Williamson leads the team with 16.4 ppg, shooting 59 percent and 9.6 assists per game. DJ Moss and Quinten Floyd can also fill up the stat sheet. Freshman Terrence Hayes Jr. is also very good from the perimeter, shooting 40 percent from distance. The Cougars play a quick-tempo style of offense and score nearly 71 points per contest and allow 61 ppg. Their size will also give the Warriors some fits. Williamson, Moss and Floyd are all 6-foot-4, while Westview has no one over 6-foot-2.
Westview is going to have to shoot it very well to keep pace with the Cougars. Wiley Minix and Luke Helmuth need to play at the level they are capable of for four quarters. Yoder himself can keep the Warriors in it only for so long. Role players Kamden Yoder, Jethro Hostetler and Micah Miller will all need to hit the occasional shot because the Cougars will be keyed on Brady Yoder.
Bounce would love for the Warriors to continue this ride, but there’s too much going against them. Best case scenario is for them to slow the game way down and make it a grind for the Cougars to score, because if the game turns into a track meet, that favors Gary 21st heavily. The Cougars have too much size and scoring power. BOUNCE PICKS GARY 21ST CENTURY