Some Postseason Thoughts….And a Few Other Random Things

I’m subbing in first grade today (an entertaining event in itself) so while they are writing away on their dotted lines I figured I’d take some time to write myself. Last time I had the chance to blog was in January.  The season was at the midway point, we hadn’t had any of the numerous snowmageddons yet, and I was still in search of popcorn that didn’t taste like cardboard (I found some a week later in Greensburg….thanks Theresa!).  A lot of has passed since that point and with Semi-State weekend looming it’s time for some postseason thoughts.

  • Oldenburg Academy…..Best Story of the Season- Yes I know Greensburg is one win away from another state finals appearance.  But that was expected.  Nobody ever thinks of Oldenburg Academy doing something, but they did.  Playing in the IHSAA State Tournament for just 10 years, the Twisters won the school’s first ever boys basketball sectional, defeating Hauser, Jac-Cen-Del, and Rising Sun to capture the crown.  The feat couldn’t have happened to a better group.  Gary Moorman is one of the best and most underrated coaches in the area and the kids he had were a tremendous “team.”  Clay City easily disposed of OA in the regional semifinals this past Saturday but that shouldn’t matter to a program who just turned in the best season in school history.  With sharpshooter Matt Moorman returning alongside some solid pieces, expect Oldenburg to stay in contention in 1A next season.
  • Hey Greensburg is in the Final Four…..- After another Greensburg/Batesville sectional thriller (I did not attend….the YouTube videos of me on my Facebook explain what I was up to), the Pirates took care of business in a Washington Regional that lacked the same spark and hype from a year ago.  I give Silver Creek a lot of credit, they put the Pirates on the ropes in the first half but lacking the tournament experience Greensburg has they got frantic.  The Pirates on the other hand, who remained poised despite trailing at halftime, turned up the heat and used their talent and maturity to hold off the Dragons.  I certainly did not think Greensburg played their best basketball in either game (they didn’t have to against Evansville Memorial…) but you can expect them to be at the level we expect from them when they get to face off against #2 Guerin Catholic on Saturday in Richmond.  3A’s state champions the previous two years, loads of talent on both squads, a #1 vs #2…..it doesn’t get much better than that (unless Bowman Academy was involved).  I’ll be at the game on Saturday…with Brennan and Rapp hobbled up a little for GC I’m going to pick Greensburg, but I expect it to be one whale of a contest.
  • 2A Sectional 45 Did Not Go as Planned….- First off let me say the Austin Eagles were my pick all along to win the 2A Sectional at Southwestern two weeks ago.  They nearly knocked off #2 Clarksville down at Southridge this past Saturday in the regional semifinals but the Generals clipped them in overtime.  Switzerland County was the popular pick to win that sectional championship but the 18-3 Pacers fell victim to a red hot Milan club in the Friday night semifinals.  There is no doubt that Switz was one of the area’s best teams but sometimes 18-3 overshadows personnel problems which in the Pacers case was a streaky backcourt that got exposed against the Indians.  Nonetheless it was a great season for Switzerland County (school record for wins in a season).  Milan, Southeast Indiana’s last hope in 2A could not sustain their Friday night success and fell to Austin in the title game but it was the first title game appearance for the Indians since 2004 and the school’s best season in the last 10 years.
  • Good Crowds Everywhere I’ve Been…- I spent Tuesday night of sectional week at South Decatur and was at the Washington Regional last weekend.  Both were very crowded.  I’ve had the chance to see many crowd pictures from other sectionals and regionals around the state and it appears that many were well attended (of course popular opinion is that class basketball doesn’t bring crowds).  It doesn’t matter if there is one class or four, school supporters and basketball fans are willing to go anywhere to support their local teams.  Indiana high school basketball is not dead.  Still don’t believe me?  Try finding a ticket to the semi-state games at Richmond next Saturday (I bet you a hot dog and a drink that you won’t be able to get one ticket at the door by tip off of the Greensburg/Guerin game).

Pretty basic basketball observations this week.  Hopefully there’s still some basketball to talk about next week in preparation for the state finals (And no I will not be there…..the girlfriend has the rights to me for the weekend) and Southeast Indiana will once again be represented in what could be one of the most hyped games in recent memory if it indeed is Greensburg/Bowman Academy.

I guess it’s time to take the little ones to music class.  Enjoy your week and enjoy the great game of basketball.  But in case the game of round ball is far from your mind, let me leave you with some words of wisdom……

  • If your kids can’t tie their shoes yet, teach them….if they don’t want to learn, buy velcro.  I don’t have time to tie your kids shoes when they come to school.
  • If a random child tells you that you look like, sound like, or smell like one of their parents…..do not take it as a compliment.  Odds are you’re probably going to stand there and be a little creeped out. 
  • Never trust Spinach Salad served in a school cafeteria. 
  • Never read the book If You Give a Pig a Pancake more than once in a day….you’ll suddenly crave bacon.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly…….And What’s Up With Concession Stand Popcorn?

Welcome back to the blog!  As much as I’d like to blog every week and give you my thoughts more often it’s pretty much impossible.  Calling games on the weekend, writing newspaper articles nearly seven days a week, and making sure the youth of the world doesn’t eat glue or pick boogers makes for a hectic schedule.

But with a rare day off it’s finally time to interact with the rest of you.  With January upon us and the countdown towards tournament time now in full force, here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly heading into the second half of the basketball season.

The Good

  • Local Teams Dominating 3A Rankings – #1 Greensburg (12-0), #5 Batesville (7-2) and #13 Madison (6-1) have combined to go 25-3 this season and have given this area three powerhouse teams.  I could lay on the couch and write all night about the Pirates and the Bulldogs as both were expected to receive much publicity and accolades this season but I’d just be repeating what everyone knows about those teams.  The Cubs on the other hand, have quietly dominated and made their way into the rankings.  A team with a little bit of everything (including one of the best backcourt duos around in Nick Macon and Landon Perry) that plays in one of the state’s toughest conferences (Hoosier Hills Conference), Madison is beginning to look like a potential team that could knock off Brownstown Central in the sectional and compete in the south regional at Washington.  With regular season matchups featuring Greensburg/Batesville and Madison/Greensburg still looming, there’s also the possibility that the winner of the Greensburg Sectional could play Madison in the regional, putting some local flavor inside the Hatchet House in March.
  • You Mean the Ohio River Valley Conference Has Four Good Teams? – Since about 2009 (5 years for those of you who don’t feel like counting), the ORVC hasn’t been quite what it used to be even years before that when nearly all seven teams were competitive, making the race for the conference crown a fun one.  By mid-January we’re usually talking about two teams battling for the title but FINALLY we’ve got more teams vying.  As of right now, the ORVC features four teams that will be battling for first place the next two months; Switzerland County, Jac-Cen-Del, Milan and South Ripley.  Switzerland County and South Ripley have duked it out in the past and with talent returning this season were expected to compete up at the top.  But throw in a a young yet maturing JCD team and a Milan team that might be Josh Blankinship’s best team since the 2011-2012 year and you’ve got intriguing matchups in the next two months that will decide the top four places in the ORVC.  The race begins on Saturday when South Ripley travels to Switzerland County!
  • Abundance of Talent – Greensburg, Batesville, Madison, Switzerland County, South Ripley, Milan, Jac-Cen-Del.  Go see any of these teams play and I guarantee you’ll come away impressed with one or more players.  It’s been a breath of fresh air seeing this many teams have some talented kids that are fun to watch.  Basketball is a team sport and one player doesn’t win a ballgame but even if any of these teams happen to have a rare bad game, you’ll still walk away having seen some of the best individual talents this area has seen since a stretch that lasted from about 2004-2009.  There are many on these teams that are destined to continue their playing careers at the next level.

The Bad

  • The EIAC – Once one of the best conferences in the entire state, the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference has dropped off considerably the past couple years with Greensburg and Batesville as the only teams who have had any kind of success.  With Rushville and Connersville now members, the conference has added a little flavor and more competition but it is still far off in terms of what it once was.  With the Pirates and Bulldogs losing their superstars in the next couple years, the EIAC may eventually even back out.
  • Money – Yes money and high school basketball goes together.  Why?  Because it seems like going to a basketball game costs more than most other activities do anymore.  Imagine a family of four.  It’s five bucks per person to get in ($20), then your kids who are future players want to get halftime shooting tickets ($5-$10), then you’ve got those parents who stock up their annoying brats on concession stand food then let them run all over the gym unsupervised (add another $10) and finally throw in gas money to get to a game and the various organizations selling you split the pot and raffle tickets and suddenly basketball games turns into a near $50 venture.  Luckily for me I get to sign in for free and usually get food and drink for free!

The Ugly

  • Fans – There’s nothing better than a gym packed with enthusiastic and sold out crowds watching their respective teams go at it.  But lately fans have ruined going to games (The first two rows of Greensburg fans nearly ruined the Hall of Fame Classic for me….and by the way you all were obnoxious and sounded like idiots).  Those of you who go to games and act like complete morons please realize this; there aren’t many good officials around anymore.  You want to know why the old /bad ones remains?  It’s because nobody wants to deal with a bunch of yayhoos who sound like they just got back from a Blue Collar Comedy Tour concert.  Therefore no new officials take shape and you’re left with all the bad ones.  If you know so much about the game of basketball and think you officiate better in the stands then those on the floor do, then I suggest getting your license.  Then that way when everyone realizes you know about as much as basketball as an all-state chess player then we can all sit and scream at you!
  • Concession Stand Popcorn – It’s a must for me.  If I’m at a basketball game I have to get popcorn.  If I don’t then it’d be like going to Steak and Shake and saying, “I’ll pass on the burgers and shakes but I’d love a glass of water and some grilled cheese!”  But every school I’ve been to this year has had terrible popcorn.  Folks it’s called salt and a little butter.  Sure you may burn down the concession stand attempting the right recipe but you’ve got to do something because this straight up putting kernels in the machine then serving it without putting a thing on it isn’t going to cut it.  Worse comes to worse if you put too much salt on it then you’re going to make even more money because people will need water or pop to help digest that stuff!

That’s all for tonight!  Feel free to comment, share with your friends or interact with me.  I’m on Facebook (my profile picture is Calbert Cheaney and I) and you can also follow me on Twitter (@RobLafary).  May your 2014 be even better than 2013!

New Coach Ready to Soar with Familiar Eagles

Jac-Cen-Del High School getting a new basketball coach happens once in a columbia blue moon (yes I just tried making a joke with a school color).  But for the first time in 11 years, the Eagles will have a fresh face patrolling the sidelines and in his first season at the helm of one of the most successful programs in Southeastern Indiana, he’s looking to make some serious noise!

Meet Perry Nash.  An outsider walking into the local Southeast Indiana basketball scene who is entering his first varsity head coaching job.  But don’t let that last sentence fool you because the man has plenty of experience and is unquestionably qualified to take the reigns in Osgood.  For Nash, this year marks his 14th year coaching the game of basketball, where he has led and assisted at some of the state’s top programs. and coached underneath some of the all-time best.

After a year as an 8th grade boys coach, Nash spent 2001-2004 as a junior varsity coach and varsity assistant at Winchester High School, coaching underneath Chip Mehaffey (a former East Central coach for a year back in the 90′s….fun fact for the day), who took the Golden Falcons to 3 state title game appearances in a span of nine years. In Nash’s time with Mehaffey, the program won a sectional crown in 2002.  From Winchester, he then bolted to Knightstown for three years, serving as a varsity assistant to Chad Ballenger. His first two years with the program, Nash helped Ballenger guide the Panthers to a regional crown (2005) and a sectional title the following year (2006).  From Knightstown, he joined up with legendary head coach Tom Beach at Forest Park, whom had won two state titles with FP prior to Nash’s arrival and with him there, claimed the regional crown in 2009. When Beach bolted for Shelbyville in 2010, Nash followed and the two led the Golden Bears to two winning seasons in a span of four years.  Ironically both left after this past season (Beach has since retired).

Let’s be real clear.  The history of Jac-Cen-Del basketball would not be the same if it weren’t for previous head coach David Bradshaw.  Since returning to the bench as a varsity coach in 2002 (he replaced Matt Stone that season….and yes that’s a name you haven’t seen in a long time), Bradshaw led the Eagles to seven winning seasons, four sectional titles, a regional and semi-state crown, and the school’s first ever state championship in 2009. He resurrected JCD hoops from the dead and brought glory and success.  Whether you loved David Bradshaw or simply couldn’t stand the man, there’s no arguing that his accomplishments and influence make him a tough man to replace.

But if there is one person who can make the transition and keep the tradition alive it’s Perry Nash.  While he’s never been a varsity head coach, he’s coached alongside and been taught by three different head coaches who very easily could wind up becoming Indiana Hall of Famers; not to mention he’s won four sectionals and two regionals as a varsity assistant with them.  Maybe more importantly is the fact that Nash understands the culture and tradition that is high school basketball in small-town Indiana.  All of his coaching stops have been at high schools that are enclosed inside tight knit communities who practically worship the greatest game ever invented.  That in itself was a big factor for Nash when he found the job opening at JCD.  “The tradition is what first caught my attention here at Jac-Cen-Del,” said Nash. “I was looking for a place where basketball was more important to the players, the school, and the community.  The small town feel of the school is where most of my background is from and it’s where I feel most comfortable at.”

In less than six months on the job, Nash has already been busy, with his first priority that of creating a feeder system to ensure the success of future Eagle teams.  “A big component of my philosophy is establishing a feeder program,” added Nash.  “I have been involved in creating three different feeder programs at three different schools.  For the first time ever at JCD, we will have teams competing from second grade to varsity and we have implemented our philosophy from the bottom up.”

But with the leaves changing colors and the crisp chill air settling in, his thoughts now shift to his varsity ball club, a group that finished just 9-16 last year but went on an unbelievable postseason run that culminated in a sectional championship and regional runner-up finish.  Luckily for Nash, the majority of that group, which includes a near perfect mix of veterans and youngsters, is back and predicted to contend for an Ohio River Valley Conference championship and a repeat sectional title.  And while most first year coaches might drown in the showers of such expectations, a battle tested Coach Nash has accepted such goals and is ready to pass on his knowledge and success to a team that has already impressed him in his short time in Ripley County.  “We have so much coming back from last year,” Nash added. “The biggest component that we have been working with is competition for spots.  The combination of veterans and younger talent enables us to raise the bar with our work ethic.  Competition for playing time will result in highly competitive practices.  When you can practice at such a high level you will only be getting better and better.”

Perry Nash will get his first chance to show the area what he and his Eagles are made of on November 26th, when they host county and conference rival South Ripley in the annual Turkey Shootout.  Until then, you’ll find the newest face in Osgood hard at work and enjoying his time getting to know the people and culture of his new habitat.  “JCD has been great in welcoming me into their community,” concluded Nash.  “I am really excited for the season to start and I have already met so many great people.  This community has a lot to look forward to when it comes to Jac-Cen-Del basketball!”

Treasure Chest Lies at Bankers Life…Pirates Will Set Sail to Indy

In Southeastern Indiana, it’s a rare occasion to see local boys basketball teams make a state championship game appearance, let alone win a state championship.

The Milan Indians won it all in 1954, sparking the Hoosier Hysteria craze.

Batesville made the trip in 2001 while still in Class 2A, but fell when a half court shot went in and out at the buzzer.

In 2009, Jac-Cen-Del made the trip, and cut down the nets en route to a Class 1A title.

Now in 2013, Southeastern Indiana puts its faith in a new team, a Decatur County team making its first state finals appearance since 1931 and looking for their school’s first ever title.  It’s finally beginning to sink in.  The Greensburg Pirates are playing for a 3A State Championship on Saturday night!

One word describes this Greensburg Pirate tournament run…..dominating.  During a six game stretch that has included defeating the #8, #5, #4, and #1 teams in Class 3A, the Pirates have beaten their tournament opponents by an average of 20.8 points per game, an average that has been fueled by a jaw dropping offense (71.8 ppg), and a tough as nails defense (51 ppg).  But coming back home on Saturday with no trophy on the bus will erase what Pirate Nation has accomplished this year.  The blue and white are playing at Bankers Life Fieldhouse to win a state championship, and anything other than a win will be a major blow.  Senior Tyler Burcham, who said two weeks ago that anything less would be a disappointment, reiterated the team’s mindset heading into Saturday, “I think everybody in our locker room is just focusing on finishing out this season to accomplish our goal we set on day one.”

In order to accomplish that dream, the Pirates will face off against a worthy opponent, another ball club who is looking for their first ever boys basketball state championship, the 7th ranked Fort Wayne Concordia Cadets.  At 23-4, the Cadets have put together a relatively quiet, but fantastic season.  With their only four losses coming to four 4A schools, Concordia has reeled off some huge wins throughout the season, including victories over Fort Wayne Luers, Norwell (Regional Championship), and an overtime win in the semi-state versus #3 Andrean.  And just like each opponent Greensburg has faced in the tournament, the Cadets will be a whole new opponent, with a whole new style.  Pirate junior guard Bryant McIntosh said this about Concordia, “They are an extremely athletic team and I feel they are one of the best at getting out in transition.  They are very long and athletic.” For the first time all season, Greensburg won’t have the height advantage.  The size and length of Concordia immediately sticks out as their starting lineup goes 6’3, 6’6, 6’6, 6’6, and 6’7.  Offensively, the Cadets won’t open your eyes with their perimeter shooting (only 33% beyond the arc), but their size and “run n gun” offense leads to a lot more high percentage shots from the inside (56% overall).  In the backcourt, 6’6 junior guard D.J. McCall is a slasher, averaging 17.3 ppg on 63% shooting from the field, and 6’6 senior guard Thomas Starks is averaging 12.8 points a contest, shooting 55% from the field.  On the inside for the Cadets, 6’7 senior forward Brian Germaux has averaged 10.7 points on 57% shooting while also grabbing six rebounds per contest.  Greensburg junior forward Sean Sellers was quick to point out that Germaux will be the most polished big man they’ve seen this season, “He has great footwork and he does a pretty good job of feeling pressure in the post and kicking it out to open shooters.”  Sophomore center Ryan Welage added, “We will need to get them in foul trouble and defensively we will have to front the post.  We have to have each others back to prevent passes from getting inside.” From a defensive standpoint, the size of Concordia will be a challenging match-up as the long arms and bodies of the Cadets will surely look to force the Pirates to change things up on their side of floor, especially in the Pirates backcourt.  With Macy Holdsworth and Colin Rigney at only 5’11 and 6’0 respectively, Holdsworth knows that the duo will have to switch up their style on both sides to combat the much taller Cadet guards, “We’ll have to focus more on blocking out and rebounding from the guard spots.  Offensively, we will have to make sure we are solid with everything we do.  We won’t have the straight reversal pass like we normally do.  It’s going to take a dribble and a ball fake to move the defense’s hands.”

While Greensburg has prepared for Concordia, Concordia I’m sure is well aware of what the Pirates possess.  And while the Pirates may have to make some slight adjustments, expect the boys to stick with what has got them to Indianapolis.  The offense has been the biggest spark plug.  Since the regional, Greensburg has shot 50% or better in each of their ballgames, including a 24 of 42 performance last Saturday versus Mt. Vernon (57%).  The fast starts the Pirates have had are also impressive.  In the last three games, the Pirates have jumped out on the scoreboard to take quick leads, something they feel will be a huge key against Concordia.  Bryant McIntosh stated Tuesday night, “I think it’s a big key.  It allows all of us to relax and play.  When you get off to a good start it just gives you confidence throughout the entire game.”  And offensive confidence they have had.  Sean Sellers, McIntosh, and Ryan Welage have been consistent double figure scorers throughout this tournament (Sellers and Welage consistent double double machines too) but don’t forget the fire power from three point land via junior guards Macy Holdsworth and Colin Rigney.  With Holdsworth getting it done in the regional, and Rigney going bonkers in the semi-state, these two have led a perimeter attack that has hit 21 3′s in three games.

While the Greensburg offense has been the storyline, the defense is quickly beginning to get some much deserved publicity.  The fact that the Pirates are only giving around 46 points per game should be your first indication of how good this team sits down on defense.  With their mix of size, speed, and athleticism at each spot, it has been extremely difficult for opposing teams, especially in this tournament run, to find any open space.  Tournament opponents have been ice cold from the field in large part to this and the Pirates have held each of their tourney opponents below their average points per game.  Aside from limiting the number of points, Greensburg has also used their abilities to simply wear opponents down.  Go back to the second half of the regional semifinal versus Bosse and it’s easy to see that when the Pirates pulled away late in the third quarter, the Bulldogs had no energy left to play catch up.  Fatigue was also a factor against Mt. Vernon last Saturday.  The Marauders played stellar defense in the first half only to have the Pirates continue to hit shots and step up their defensive intensity to walk out of Richmond with a 25 point victory.  For these Greensburg guys defense is more than just swatting shots away.  The Pirates are one of the rare teams who can actually sit down defensively, slide their feet, and execute a game plan on defense that makes their opponents noticeably uncomfortable on offense.

But don’t forget about Greensburg’s sixth man.  Not the guy who comes off the bench first during games, but the sixth man in the stands, better known as #PirateNation.  While players and coaches get the job done on the floor, this Greensburg fan base, made up of thousands, has been the school spirit and community support that this Pirate team has used to make every game this season feel like a home game in the Tree City.  With over 2,600 tickets sold already at Greensburg High School this week, the basketball team can expect the overwhelming support at Bankers Life Fieldhouse to take away the nerves of playing at much larger venue.  Tyler Burcham was one to agree, “We played in front of 8,000 fans in Richmond last Saturday with nearly half being our fans, I don’t think nerves will be a big issue.  We have one of the largest fan bases in the entire state.”  Macy Holdsworth added, “Everyone is excited for us.  Ticket sales have been crazy.  The support we receive in my opinion is unmatched with any other school.  We could not ask for better fans and we are so glad to have them on this ride with us.”  Inside Bankers Life on Saturday night, expect to see all seven seas of Pirate Nation! It’ll be one rowdy crowd!

Ryan Welage put it best, “This school has had several teams that have came close, but none have actually done it.  To finally have a team win it all would be a win for the entire community.”  The 2012-2013 Greensburg Pirates are 25-1.  They have set the record for most wins in a single season, they’ve won the EIAC title, they’ve won the program’s 38th sectional title, the 7th regional title, and the program’s first ever semi-state crown.  But something is missing inside the trophy cases that are displayed inside the walls of Greensburg High School, a state championship trophy, the first state championship in any sport at Greensburg.  The 1998 softball team was a state runner-up, the baseball teams have tasted the Final Four, and so have the basketball teams, but still no Pirate has ever claimed the top prize.

The opportunity the Pirates have on Saturday is an opportunity to bring satisfaction to every Pirate, to everyone who has lived in Greensburg, past or present. At 6 pm Saturday night, inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 12 young men in blue and white, who have put in the time, the blood, the sweat, and the tears, through spring, summer, fall, and winter, will have the chance to silence the doubts, to live the dream, to make history, to bask in the glory…..to forever be called a champion!

Pirates Prepare to Face Marauders and Doubters in Semi-State Clash

The doubters said two weeks ago that the Greensburg Pirates would never get past #8 Batesville and win a second consectuive sectional title.  Greensburg beat Batesville 77-65 and then went on to win the sectional championship the following night.

The doubters said last Saturday morning that the Pirates didn’t have enough fire power to even come within striking distance of superstar JaQuan Lyle and #5 Evansville Bosse.  Greensburg put six in the score column, only missed 15 shots, and used a 34-15 rebounding edge to bash Bosse in the second half for a 82-65 win.

The doubters said last Saturday night that the Pirates couldn’t duplicate their morning performance and certainly didn’t have enough left in the tank to conquer #4 Brownstown Central.  The Pirates controlled from the get go, and won 64-53 to win the regional championship.

Are you seeing a trend?  That when faced with adversity and with the propaganda from the naysayers, rather than lashing out and talking back these Pirates take the “silent but deadly” approach and silence the critics with their abilities on the basketball floor?  If you’re just now seeing the trend and still a doubter in what Pirate Nation can do, it might be time to just shut up because you’re only going to get proved wrong.  As Pirate sophomore center Ryan Welage puts it, “We’ve had doubters all season long.  It’s our job to take care of business and we are always up for the challenge of proving people wrong.”

On Saturday afternoon in Richmond, with an expected sold-out crowd and the Fox Sports Indiana TV cameras on hand, the #2 Greensburg Pirates (24-1) will not only get the chance to play for the school’s first semi-state title, but get an up close and personal chance to silence their biggest critics to date, their opponent, the 24-1 and #1 ranked Mt. Vernon Marauders.  Team leader and Marauder leading scorer C.J. Coleman was blunt when I asked him Tuesday night about what him and his gang think of Stacy Meyer and the boys, “They have some good players, but they’re nothing we can’t handle.”  Yes Pirate Nation, find the nearest sticky note and put that quote on your bulletin board.

But don’t get too crazy yet!  Any basketball fan knows that for both teams, this game is going to be one heck of a battle.  Even though Mt. Vernon might be dealing the first blow, lets not forget that 24 times this season, the Marauders have backed up their talk, and the Pirates know their in for a tough one.  Minus their seven point sectional semifinal win over defending state champion Guerin Catholic, Mt. Vernon has dismantled their tournament opponents, including a 27 point sectional championship win over Arlington and a 21 point regional championship win against Frankfort.  In addition, the Marauders also boast 3A’s number one scoring defense, giving up only 41.6 points per game.  With a dangerous zone defense and thorough slow down offense, the Pirates know this will be a unique style to face.  Greensburg junior forward Sean Sellers commented, “I think it’s another completely different game.  Mt. Vernon plays a 2-3 and 1-3-1 zone and they try to control the tempo of the game, it’s going to be a challenge for us.”  Even Greensburg’s defensive specialist, senior Tyler Burcham has made note of the work the Pirates have put in practice working on facing Mt. Vernon’s defense, “We’ve definitely been preparing for their zone and preparing our offense to look for good shot opportunities against it.”  And while the Pirates have done their homework on offense, their defense has to also be ready to go.  While the Marauders only average 57 points a contest, they do bring some scoring threats to the table.  Coleman, who was mentioned above, put up over 40 points in two combined games last weekend in the regional and Stephen Turner put up 18 against Frankfort in the regional title game.  Zach Spears and Anthony Burnett also are dangerous when unguarded, a duo who can knock down wide open shots on the perimeter.

And while the Marauders are talking up their talent and brand of basketball, I’m sure Mt. Vernon realizes that this is a much different Greensburg team than the one they beat back at the Shelbyville regional semifinal in 2010.  It was easy to see last Saturday that the Pirates have plenty of weapons in their arsenal and a different look.  As impressive as it was to watch the blue and white’s athleticism, size, and speed wear down Bosse and Brownstown, the offense Greensburg generated was just flat out “red hot.”  In two games, the Pirates shot a scorching 51 of 78 from the field, including a 12 of 20 performance from outside the 812 area code.  Bryant McIntosh (45 points in two games) and Sean Sellers (43 points in two games) were the major artillery, but the cavalry was more than just those two young “Bucs.”  Ryan Welage got physical inside to get over 20 points in two games, while starting guards Macy Holdsworth and Colin Rigney hit wide open looks left and right from downtown.  Even Tyler Burcham came off the bench to provide a couple of huge shots down the stretch.  Holdsworth believes this kind of unselfish scoring load is what sets them apart from a X’s and O’s stand point, “I think that makes us extremely effective as well as very dangerous.  All the teams are focusing on Bryant and Sean as they should, but we have given those two the confidence that when they give the ball up, we will score too.  That’s what makes us good.”  McIntosh also added, “Anytime we’re successful on offense it gives us confidence, and that confidence allows us to knock down shots.”  Anyone saying that this offensive explosion was a one time showing?  Don’t listen because the Pirates feel it’s a main stay for the rest of their run.  Burcham stated, “We don’t believe our shooting performance was a fluke last weekend.  We feel we are playing our highest level of basketball right now and that is what we hope for as we continue to advance through each tournament stage.”

How can this Saturday be summed up?  Is it about a #1 vs #2 match-up?  Don’t even bother with that theory!  As Bryant McIntosh put it best on Tuesday night, “Rankings mean nothing.  Any given day a team can be beat by anyone.  Nobody is invincible.”  Is Saturday about the Pirates just being happy about a Final Four appearance?  Greensburg might laugh whoever says that out of town.

So then what is Saturday about?  It’s simple…it’s about keeping a dream alive.  It’s about the Greensburg Pirates keeping the dream alive of accomplishing something the masses said couldn’t be done.  It’s about stepping out on the floor Saturday afternoon for 32 minutes to silence everyone who said they’d never see the day when they would be among the final four teams vying for a trip to Indianapolis.  Saturday is about Stacy Meyer and his assistant coaches, the Greensburg Pirates, and all of Pirate Nation walking into Richmond High School, listening to the Star Spangled Banner, and waiting for that orange rock to be thrown in the air silently telling their critics, “Screw you, this is our time!”

Pirates Need Both Team and Community to Battle Talented and Experienced 3A Regional Field

“We made goals like winning a state championship for a reason and anything less is not acceptable in our minds.”  A powerful quote from Greensburg 6th man Tyler Burcham sums up the Pirates plans this Saturday when they head to the Hatchet House in Washington, Indiana for a chance to claim the school’s first regional championship since 2009.  But Burcham isn’t the only one who has plans to conquer Saturday on the Pirates road to a state championship.  Greensburg starting guard Macy Holdsworth states that him along with his teammates want to make sure Pirate Nation stays in Washington all day and night, “We all have a mindset that we are going into Saturday looking to play two games.”

If Stacy Meyer’s #2 Greensburg Pirates (22-1) are aware of one simple fact in the days leading up to their regional appearance it is this……winning two games this Saturday isn’t going to be easy.  But the Pirates got a taste of how tough their tournament run was going to be last weekend.  After trailing at the half versus #8 Batesville, the Pirates pulled away in the second half to win 77-65.  But just one night later, Greensburg would face the same type of ballgame, trailing Madison at the half and once again having to dig down deep to defeat the Cubs 69-52 to claim the school’s 38th sectional crown.  Bryant McIntosh scored 20 in the contest but says it was the Pirates defense that gave them the W, “Pulling away from a very good Madison team wasn’t easy.  The key was we were able to put some stops together with rebounds and convert them to points on the other end.”  This brings Greensburg back to the Washington Regional for the second consecutive year with all four teams from last year’s regional returning, but this time rather than just being happy getting to that point, the Pirates know this year is all business.  The Pirates undefeated season was stopped in game one last season when Brownstown Central bested the blue and white 64-57.  Holdsworth who started for the 2011-2012 Pirates knows this time around is different, “We are very excited to get back to this regional but this time we are not going to be content with just being there.”

In order to make it to Saturday night’s championship game, Greensburg will have to defeat the regional’s top “Bull”dog.  The Pirates open up at 10 am with #5 Evansville Bosse (19-5), the defending regional champions who feature one of the best players in the entire country, JaQuan Lyle.  Lyle, a 6’4 point guard who is arguably the top junior in the state and the 16th ranked player in the country among 2014 talent is averaging a near triple double this season (27 ppg, 13 rpg, and 7 assists) including a 41 point 21 rebound performance in a sectional semifinal win over Evansville Memorial and a triple-double in the sectional finals versus Mt. Vernon (Posey).  The Pirates are well aware that limiting Lyle is the key.  Sophomore center Ryan Welage states, “We must limit his touches and his offensive rebounding.  It will be key to not let him be a shot blocker and for us to get him into early foul trouble.”  McIntosh, who has played AAU ball with Lyle and Pirate teammate Sean Sellers adds, “I don’t think we can eliminate him but we have to try and make it tough on him to get to his spots where he likes to score and create for others.  If he(Lyle) can’t score he is a willing passer and he has multiple guys around him who can hit shots.” And Lyle does have multiple guys.  Bosse also features two other prospective D1 talents.  Fellow junior guards Perry Fairrow and Bo Burkhart can create some havoc.  6’1 Fairrow averages around 20 ppg and the 6’1 Burkhart is averaging nearly 16 points a contest in his last 10 games (10 ppg overall on the season).  The Bulldogs also bring into the contest one of the state’s toughest schedules, having played some of the best teams in Class 4A and even a couple of Kentucky’s best.  JaQuan Lyle is one who feels this is an advantage for Bosse, “We have played some of the toughest teams 4A has to offer and played in some amazing environments throughout the season, this should be a big help on Saturday.”

While most teams would gulp in terror facing this talented Bosse crew, Greensburg counters with their own unique blend of talent and experience which has a 45-2 record in the last two years.  Having played in this regional last year, the Pirates shouldn’t have to worry about nerves, big crowds, or a bigger playing venue.  Sean Sellers is one who feels this way, “I think the trip may be a little less nerve racking in the fact that we’ve now been in that type of environment and know what we need to do to play our best when Saturday comes around.”  Ryan Welage, who was a starting freshman last year also adds, “This year I will be much more aggressive, relaxed, and clued in to what we are doing.  The experience of playing in big games since my freshman year and going through the experience once already will help me to contribute better to the team.”  On the floor the Pirates should have no problem countering Bosse’s “Big 3″ of Lyle, Fairrow, and Burkhart.  The Pirates will bring in a diverse “Big 3″ of their own in McIntosh (6’4  Junior Guard and Indiana State commit), Sellers (6’6 Junior Forward), and Welage (6’8 Sophomoe Center), a trio who is also considered major D1 talent and averaging double figures on the season.  But Greensburg is more than just three guys. Fellow starters and guards Macy Holdsworth and Colin Rigney are dangerous sharpshooters from the outside and the Pirates bring to the table a solid bench led by seniors Tyler Burcham and Shane Ploeger.  In regards to the bench’s key role, Burcham comments for both him and Ploeger, “We both know what we need to do in order to help our team and I think our bench does a nice job at creating some energy because we do play so hard when we are in there.”  And while Greensburg is well aware of Bosse, Bosse in return is well aware of the Pirates.  JaQuan Lyle made it clear, “Greensburg is a very talented group that will challenge us from the get go.  We are going to have to shoot the ball well, get with it defensively, and execute for the full 32 minutes.”

Should the Pirates advance, they will await the winner of game two between #4 Brownstown Central (23-1) and Vincennes Lincoln (18-6).  Brownstown, a winner of five consecutive sectional titles will use their tournament experience to battle a two time defending sectional champion Vincennes Lincoln who is considered the field’s sleeper after having played a brutal Southern Indiana schedule (including a five point loss to Bosse).  Brownstown’s Brett McCory, a senior who became an 1,000 point scorer in the sectional and helped the Braves prevail over Corydon Central in overtime to win the title knows how important of a role experience plays in the tournament, “It helps alot.  With this being my 4th sectional and with the other guys having 2 or 3 we know what it takes to prepare for Saturday.”  And while Lincoln isn’t a high scoring ball club, McCory knows that defense is instrumental in defeating the Alices, “If we can play defense and rebound the basketball we’re going to be fine.”

Because of talent and experience, Washington is arguably playing host to the best regional in the entire state on Saturday.  And while records, player accolades, and proven tourney winners will be the headlines heading into the games at the Hatchet House, the Greensburg Pirates feel their advantage isn’t something opposing coaches can scout and teams can’t stop, team chemistry and school spirit.  In regards to a group of Pirates who all share the true team concept, Macy Holdsworth says, “We’re best friends on and off the court.  We know each others tendencies and strengths and we go out and make the most of our strengths and use them in our favor.  Each guy on this team knows their role and executes it very well.”  However, these Greensburg kids are quick to point out that the real motor behind their powerful engines (Honda engines of course!) are the thousands in their hometown, their school, and their surrounding area who have had their back all season long.  Sean Sellers went on to say Tuesday night, “It’s one of the bigger parts in my opinion.  They’ve been supporting us through thick and thin and for them to be there Saturday just gives us an even bigger confidence boost going into it.”  Holdsworth adds, “The enthusiasm around school and around town is incredible.  It’s been crazy around school asking us if we are excited.  It’s really cool.”

Tyler Burcham best sums up the 2012-2013 Greensburg Pirates, “Our community, coaches, and team know what we have here is special.”  Love them or hate them, the Greensburg Pirates are something special, and in Southeastern Indiana, teams like this one are a rare commodity from year to year.  So if you see the group in blue and white passing through your hometown this weekend, wave your hand and honk your horns, because the Pirates are looking to make some noise on the regional road!

What Basketball Fans Can Learn From Batesville’s Win Over #1 Greensburg

A sold out game by halftime of the JV contest, and not a soul left until the buzzer sounded in the fourth quarter of the varsity contest.  After 4 ballgames and 4 heartbreaking nights in the last two years, the Batesville Bulldogs got the monkey off of their back and knocked off 3A’s #1 ranked Greensburg Pirates 72-65 on Friday night.   With the IHSAA State Tournament kicking off in about a month and a half with sectional play, this Greensburg/Batesville matchup was more than just a rivalry game and an EIAC showdown.  This game was a chance for basketball fans to learn more about these two outstanding teams who are dominating the Southeastern Indiana basketball scene and here is what they should have learned.

Batesville

1.  Batesville Deserves to be Ranked!- The fact that Batesville has not appeared in any 3A poll should change on Monday and honestly the fact that they haven’t been ranked is a shock to me.  The Bulldogs are now 9-1 (their lone loss to Greensburg) and has reeled off 7 straight wins.  Granted, this season it has been tough to crack into the 3A polls with so many good teams in the class this year but the fact that the Bulldogs have beat 3A’s debatable #1 team and also a solid win over New Castle earlier this season should put the blue and white in the mix of 3A’s best teams!  If Batesville doesn’t make an appearance then my opinion of the AP poll just went down the drain!

2.  Bryan Hoeing Can Play!-  There was no player I was happier for in this game than Bryan Hoeing.  Hoeing has taken a lot of criticism these last two years because of his missed opportunities to put Greensburg away in their last four meetings.  On Friday night Bryan shut up anyone who doubted him.  42 points, 18 of them coming in the fourth quarter and basketball fans have already put the performance up there with some of the greater performances by former Batesville greats Michael Menser and Colt Ryan.  I thought Friday night was his coming out game and he showed that he possesses the ability to take over and lead in a big time game.  He can score, he can rebound, he’s got size, and he’s as athletic of a player as you’ll find around the state.  I know there are baseball aspirations in Bryan’s mind but I hope he doesn’t count out a future in basketball quite yet.  He has the potential for the rest of this season and the next two years to become a solid D1 basketball recruit!

3.  It’s time for Batesville fans to get off Aaron Garrett’s back!-  For Aaron Garrett to follow in the footsteps of the legendary coaching career of Mel Siefert was going to be no easy task.  The fact that Coach Garrett didn’t get a sectional title in his first season with Colt Ryan as a senior was a disappointment and it was gut wrenching to see Garrett’s team to lose leads and games to Batesville the last two years.  But that doesn’t make Aaron Garrett a bad basketball coach.  Coach Garrett is 80-22 in 5 years at Batesville and the fact that there are many out there who think he can’t coach and win big ballgames have no right to even sit in a gym.  Aaron took his 2011 team, a team that hasn’t been his most talented, and won a sectional and regional title en route to a Final Four appearance before losing to eventual state champion Washington (they had a kid named Cody Zeller…anyone know what he is doing now a days?).  While 2011 was their only year advancing past the sectional (Greensburg has won the other 4 sectionals in his 5 years), the fact that he has his team in title contention every season and has continued a winning tradition at Batesville is evidence that he is the right man for the job.

4.  The Bulldogs Will Make Things Interesting Again-  Aside from Bryan Hoeing this team won’t dazzle you with talent like Greensburg can, but this Bulldog team is just as good.  They just play the game so smart and are so fundamentally sound that what they lack on the roster, they make up for with their knowledge of the game.  Come tourney time, I fully expect Batesville to be in the hunt for a sectional title, most likely having to play Greensburg a third time to claim the trophy.  And for the third time, plan on Bulldog Nation going neck and neck with the Pirates!

Greensburg

1.  The Pirates Got a Reality Check-  After 31 consecutive regular season wins, the streak came to a screeching halt on Friday night and at least for this weekend, the hype around this Greensburg team has went silent.  Granted it’s a loss and a conference loss nonetheless but in my mind this was the best thing that could happen to Greensburg this season.  I know no loss is a good loss but at this point in the season Friday night’s game I think not only brings the Pirates back down to earth but also puts back into perspective the goals this team set out to accomplish at the beginning of the season.

2.  Bryant McIntosh is the Factor-  Sellers and Welage had 19 points a piece on Friday night for Greensburg but the fact that McIntosh didn’t produce like he did the first time around versus Batesville was noticeable.  Bryant picked up 2 early fouls in the contest and didn’t have a great shooting night, only putting up 13 points against the Bulldogs.  The Pirates are no one man team but McIntosh has been the guy, especially in these past Batesville matchups, who has been the leader and taken over the game when Greensburg needed it most.  When McIntosh on that particular night couldn’t quite do what he normally does, Batesville had an easier time pulling away and getting the victory.  On a side note, congratulations to Bryant on his commitment to Indiana State.  The Sycamores got a great player and more importantly a great person.  He’ll be an excellent fit for Coach Lansing and company and should play right away!

3.  There’s Got to be More Than Just the “Big 3″-  Out of the 65 points scored by Greensburg on Friday, only 14 were scored from anyone whose last name wasn’t Welage, Sellers, or McIntosh.  For this team to be successful, especially in games against real good ball clubs, the Pirates need to have production from their role players and their bench.  Obviously Macy Holdsworth is a great three point shooter and Colin Rigney has the ability to put up points as well but neither produced enough versus the Bulldogs.  Tyler Burcham and Shane Ploeger are two other guys who also have the capability of stepping up.  The group of guys who can make the small difference in these closely contested ballgames has to get more consistent!

4.  Great Talent, Great Team…..but they’re no #1 yet.-  I have gave everyone that has asked me about Greensburg this weekend the same response.  I have said, “Does Greensburg have the talent and the tools to be #1 and win a state title?  Yes!  Are they there yet?  No!”  Most teams would kill to have the talent that Greensburg possesses and they are one of the best teams in this area and the state but there are some concerns for me when it comes to Greensburg playing teams that are just as good as them.  Again, I can’t stress enough how their schedule is their biggest enemy.  Granted, scheduling a year or two in advance does complicate wanting to add schools to the schedule but I’d like to see the Pirates have a more competitive schedule starting next year.  Aside from Jennings County, Batesville, and Indian Creek can someone give me a team on their schedule right now who will get within 15 points?  The answer should be no.  If the Pirates can get by Batesville in the sectional their regional is going to more than likely feature at least two more ranked teams.  Brownstown Central, who defeated Greensburg in last year’s regional semifinal is 10-1 this year and brings back an experienced tournament team and Evansville Bosse, led by highly touted recruit JaQuan Lyle is 11-3 and has knocked off Cahokia out of Illinois and solid programs Evansville Reitz and Castle.  The North Decaturs, Hausers, and Franklin Countys of the world won’t be awaiting Greensburg if they can make deep tournament runs.  Teams just as good will be ready to compete and the Pirates will have to beready!