BY DEAN HOCKNEY
KOKOMO, Ind. – Boys basketball in Howard County set a new record in 2019 with a three-peat. But it was not a good one.
For the first time in the 105-year history of the current IHSAA sectional postseason format, Howard County is without a sectional champion for a third consecutive year. Not since 1921-1922 had a county squad not won a sectional title in back-to-back seasons – until now. Hoosier Hysteria has slammed the door on the five county squads for three straight years – the last teams to do so were Eastern and Western in 2016.
Prior to the current draught, Howard County squads had only gone eight seasons without a sectional title over the course of a century-plus. Now they have gone four out of the last five years and five of the 10. Kokomo’s last title came in 2014, Western last won in 2012 and Taylor has not cut down a sectional championship net since 2006.
Playing in the Class 3A Sectional 20 at Frankfort, No. 7 Northwestern had the best chance of ending the streak, but someone forgot to tell two-time defending sectional champion West Lafayette, which pulled-off a 45-42 upset at Case Arena.
Formerly ranked No. 1 in Class 3A, the Purple Tigers drew a bye and took a 19-2 record into the postseason, which included a 6-0 record against the sectional field. They had already knocked-off the Red Devils in the Hoosier Conference title bout on Feb. 15 and won a regular season game on Jan. 31. But it is hard to defeat the same team three times in the span of 30 days.
“I cannot express enough the sincere love I have for this team,” said Northwestern head coach Jim Gish after the game on a Twitter post. “They did everything I asked of them and more. I am very sad for the way it ended but I am grateful for the journey. Thanks, fellas, for an amazing season.”
Tayson Parker led the Tigers with 29 points and 10 rebounds.
Western (13-10) also fell in its sectional opener – a 45-38 loss to Maconaquah. The Braves hit two 3-pointers in the first 90 seconds for a 6-0 lead, and they never trailed the rest of the way. Blake Constable scored 14 points to lead the Panthers while Burkely Seekri netted 10.
Class 4A Sectional 7 at Kokomo: Kokomo (11-13) started its sectional run with a sensational 62-54 upset win over previously-ranked Logansport (17-5). In a back-and-forth battle, Logan led 15-10 after one stanza and 29-26 at halftime before Kokomo knotted the game at 41 after three. Through the first 24 minutes of action, the two teams had accounted for seven lead changes and seven ties.
Logan surged back into the lead at 50-46 with just under six minutes remaining. Deonta Chamberlain then hit a shot in the paint, Jackson Richards canned a 17-footer and Chamberlain gave the lead back to the Kats with a short jump shot near the three-minute mark – a lead they never relinquished. Bobby Wonnell then seemingly put the game away with a 3-pointer just under the three-minute mark.
Richards led the offense with 12 points while Wonnell added 11 and Chamberlain 10.
After the win, Kokomo had the inside track to the sectional finals, only to get stunned on its home court 44-43 by McCutcheon (7-14). It was a game Kokomo will not soon forget as they hit only 11 of 23 free throws, including a miserable 5 of 13 in the final stanza with the game on the line. Kokomo also committed 17 turnovers.
“Wildkat Nation will be back,” said Kokomo head coach Bob Wonnell after the game. “This is a resilient group of young men. We will be back.”
Jayveon White led Kokomo with 15 points while Chamberlain had eight points and 13 rebounds.
Class 2A Sectional 39 at Eastern: Eastern (13-11) battled Alexandria in a sectional quarterfinal, only to be turned away on its home court 59-53. The game was tied at 29 at intermission, and again at 36 middway through the thirt quarter. But an 8-0 Alexandria run helped the squad take a 48-41 lead into the fourth stanza – a lead that Eastern could not overcome.
Ethan Wilcox and Matthew Arcari each had 12 points to lead the Comets while Antonio Matthews scored 11; Dontae Nolder grabbed 10 rebounds.
Taylor (3-20) drew a bye and battled Alexandria (18-7) in the semifinals, only to suffer the same fate as Eastern with a 57-47 loss. But the Titans gave everything they had, and then some, in its only sectional game of the year as they were tied with Alexandria at 43 midway through the fourth quarter. Alexandria then went on a 14-4 run to close the game and end the Titans season.
Tyler Hall led Taylor with 12 points and 10 rebounds, Drew Smith had 11 points and Toric Spires and Jayden Davis each dropped in 10 points.