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HOWARD COUNTY IS FIVE AND OUT IN BOYS BASKETBALL SECTIONALS, TIPTON HEADS TO MARION REGIONAL

Eastern's Nolan Smalley plays in championship game of the Class 2A Taylor Sectional against Madison-Grant. (SJ photo/William Gibson)

Eastern’s Nolan Smalley plays in championship game of the Class 2A Taylor Sectional against Madison-Grant. (SJ photo/William Gibson)

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

For just the ninth time in the 103-year history of the IHSAA boys basketball sectional tourney format, and second time in three seasons, Howard County did not have a team hoist a championship trophy. Eastern and Western both earned title game berths but came up empty-handed as the underdog squads. In Tipton County, the Blue Devils earned a berth in the Marion Regional this coming Saturday.

Class 4A Sectional 7 at Lafayette Jefferson:

The Kokomo Wildkats had an uphill battle to add to its state-record 74 sectional titles as they played in the best win-loss bracket in the state (104-34). The six-team field had a winning percentage of .754, more than 100-points higher than the Crawford County Sectional of .647 (88-48) and Michigan City Sectional of .640 (105-59).

The Kats took care of business in its quarterfinal game at the Marion Crawley Center with a 56-51 win over the host Bronchos. In the semifinals, Kokomo faced the defending state runners-up and No. 5-ranked McCutcheon Mavericks – a squad that handed the Wildkats its worse loss of the season, a 77-53 thrashing in game four at Memorial Gymnasium. Unfortunately, round two against eventual-champ McCutcheon had the same results with the Mavs winning 78-56.

Kokomo got down early, trailing 16-8 after one quarter and 36-17 at the break. Anthony Barnard led the Wildkats with 25 points and Ty Sparling ended his career with 13 points. Brevin Beard grabbed a game-high eight rebounds. Kokomo finished the season 18-7, its best outing since a 22-3 season in 2012-2013.

Class 3A Sectional 20 at Maconaquah:

The Western Panthers started the season 0-16, but in the sectional championship game, they gave a favored West Lafayette Red Devils (16-9) a major scare before falling 51-37. Early in the fourth quarter, Western trailed WL 31-28 but missed a shot to tie the game. Luke Touloukian then connected on a pair of 3-pointers to put the game away and claim its 11th sectional title and first since 2013.

In the quarterfinals round, West Lafayette upset No. 13 Northwestern 64-50 and then defeated Maconaquah 55-49 to advance to the finals. Western drew a bye and upset Peru 63-50 to earn a title berth. The Panthers finished the season 4-19 while Northwestern ended its campaign 13-8.

Class 2A Sectional 39 at Taylor

One year ago, the Eastern Comets were celebrating its first sectional championship in 60 seasons. History was on the line in the Taylor Sectional, but a first-ever back-to-back sectional championship did not happen as the Comets went ice cold in the title game. Playing Madison-Grant, Eastern shot 30-percent from the floor in a 50-34 loss.

The championship game was close as Eastern trailed the Argylls 32-26 after three quarters, but the poor shooting continued as the squad hit just two fourth quarter baskets and were outscored 18-8 in the final eight minutes.

The Taylor Titans (7-19) defeated Elwood 47-41 in the quarterfinals before falling to Madison-Grant in a 49-46 thriller in the semifinals. Eastern (8-17), which drew a first round bye, defeated Eastbrook 47-38 in the semifinals.

TIPTON COUNTY SCHOOLS

Class 3A Sectional 24 at Marion

Tipton’s ride to a sectional championship was one of the most thrilling in the state with a pair of overtime wins. In the quarterfinals, the Blue Devils dismissed the defending state champion Marion Giants 67-66 in overtime. They followed that with an easy 42-17 win over Yorktown in the semifinals before defeating Hamilton Heights 46-37 in an overtime championship contest.

The win was the 25th sectional title in program history and first since 2014. The Blue Devils (16-8) will now battle for its seventh regional title when they play New Haven (19-7) in the second game of the Marion Regional on March 11. The 10 a.m. first game features Fairfield (13-12) against No. 13 Fort Wayne Luers (17-7) with the winners to play in the Elite Eight at 8 p.m.

Class 1A Sectional 54 at Tri-Central

The Tri-Central Trojans (2-19) ended its season with a 61-38 loss to Clinton Central in the sectional quarterfinals. No. 1 Lafayette Central Catholic defeated No. 4 Clinton Prairie 59-53 to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

HOWARD & TIPTON COUNTY RESULTS FOR IHSAA BOYS BASKETBALL SECTIONALS

IHSAA

4A Sectional 7 at Lafayette Jefferson

Feb. 28 at 6:00

  1. Zionsville def. Harrison 81-57
  2. Kokomo def. Lafayette Jeff 56-51

March 3 at 6:00

  1. Zionsville def. #3 Logansport 66-57
  2. #5 McCutcheon def. Kokomo 78-56

Championship Game – March 4 at 7:30

  1. #4 McCutcheon def. Zionsville 61-47

Kokomo finishes season 18-7

 

3A Sectional 20 at Maconaquah

Feb. 28 at 6:00

  1. West Lafayette def. #13 Northwestern 64-50
  2. Peru def. Benton Central 65-44

March 3 at 6:00

  1. West Lafayette def. Maconaquah 55-49
  2. Western def. Peru 63-50

Championship Game – March 4 at 7:00

  1. West Lafayette def. Western 51-37

Northwestern finished season 13-8

Western finished season 4-19

 

3A Sectional 24 at Marion

Feb. 28 at 6:00

  1. Tipton def. Marion 67-66 OT
  2. Hamilton Heights def. Blackford

March 3 at 6:00

  1. Tipton def. Yorktown 42-17
  2. Hamilton Heights def. Delta 51-33

Championship Game – March 4 at 7:30

  1. Tipton def. Hamilton Heights 46-37

Tipton advances to the Marion Regional

 

2A Sectional 37 at Oak Hill

Feb. 28 at 7:00

  1. Manchester def. Lewis Cass 57-56

March 1 at 6:00

  1. #3 Oak Hill def. Wabash 52-29
  2. Southwood def. Northfield 72-52

March 3 at 6:00

  1. Manchester def. Rochester 59-36
  2. Southwood def. #3 Oak Hill 60-52

Championship Game – March 4 at 7:30

  1. Southwood def. Manchester 54-49

 

2A Sectional 39 at Taylor

Feb. 28 at 6:00

  1. Taylor def. Elwood 47-41
  2. Eastbrook def. Alexandria 67-57

March 3 at 6:00

  1. Madison-Grant def. Taylor 49-46
  2. Eastern def. Eastbrook 47-38

Championship Game – March 4 at 7:30

  1. Madison-Grant def. Eastern 50-34

Taylor finished season 7-19

Eastern finished season 8-17

 

1A Sectional 43 at Tri-Central

Feb. 28 at 6:00

  1. Clinton Central def. Tri-Central 61-38
  2. #4 Clinton Prairie def. Frontier 60-51

 March 3 at 6:00

  1. #1 Lafayette Central Catholic def. Clinton Central 83-43
  2. #4 Clinton Prairie def. Faith Christian 60-52

 Championship Game – March 4 at 7:00

  1. #1 Lafayette Central Catholic def. #4 Clinton Prairie 59-53

COUGARS FALL IN RSC WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, WILL PLAY ST. XAVIER IN NAIA NATIONAL TOURNEY

Abby Scott makes a move in the paint for IU Kokomo in the RSC championship game. (SJ photo/William Gibson)

Abby Scott makes a move in the paint for IU Kokomo in the RSC championship game. (SJ photo/William Gibson)

UPDATE: Story now includes information on NAIA tourney draw.

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

RICHMOND, Ind. – It may not have been the ending to conference play like Indiana University Kokomo would have liked, but Cougar players could still hold their heads high as they walked off the court as River States Conference women’s basketball tournament runners-up. In a hard-fought clash against NAIA Division II No. 20 Indiana University East, No. 31-ranked IU Kokomo fell 71-59 after a furious second half rally.

In the end, the Cougars were never able to overcome a red-hot Red Wolves team out of the gate – IU East drained four 3-pointers in the first five minutes. IUE led 18-4 after an IUK timeout and seemed to be running away with the game, leading 27-14 after one stanza.

“I told them we had to have some urgency on the floor,” said IUK interim head coach Carlee Cottrell. “That has been a big word for us, coming out with energy – tonight, we came out flat. And this is a game you cannot come into like that.”

But Kokomo did not back down, and despite being outscored 16-12 in the second quarter, kept the game within range, trailing 43-26 at the break.

The Cougars got off to a much better start in the third stanza. Dejianna Butler hit a bucket, then Whitney Williamson scored the next six IUK points and the lead was trimmed to 11. Following a Red Wolves timeout, Abby Scott hit a pair of free throws and Butler scored again to cut the lead to 45-38 midway through the stanza. IU East regrouped and led 51-42 after three.

The Cougars again cut the lead to seven on baskets by Butler and Williamson, but with five minutes to go, the rally started to fade. Bailey Dreiman scored twice for IUE, followed by a Payton Thomson jumper for Kokomo – but the 60-51 score was as close as Kokomo would get in the final three minutes as the Red Wolves hit nine consecutive free throws to seal the win.

“I told them in the locker room that we cannot have the ‘woe-is-me’ attitude,” said Cottrell. “We had a good second half, and if we can put together four good quarters, we are going to be hard to play against.”

Felder led Kokomo with 19 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Williamson added 11 points, Scott chipped in nine and Butler scored seven. Kristen Miller led IU East with 22 points while Mackenzie Campbell added 17.

Despite the loss, IU Kokomo will join IU East as the RSC representatives in the 26th Annual NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship at the Tyson Events Center – the same venue the IUK women’s volleyball team played during its NAIA run last fall. The Opening Banquet is scheduled for March 7 and the Opening Ceremonies with a Parade of Champions takes place on March 8.

The 32-team, single-elimination tournament starts with first round action on March 8. IU Kokomo earned a No. 8 seed in the Duer Bracket and will play No. 1-seed St. Xavier University (Illinois), which is ranked No. 3 in the final coach’s poll with a 30-2 record. The Saints defeated No. 1 University of St. Francis (Illinois) 88-64 to capture the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament championship. The winner plays the winner of No. 13 (4 seed) Friends University in Kansas and No. 19 (5 seed) Hastings College in Nebraska.

Cottrell is no stranger to the NAIA national tourney, having played in Sioux City four times while at Indiana Wesleyan University. One year ago she was a starting guard on the NAIA Sweet Sixteen Wildcats squad and as a freshman played on the 2013 NAIA DII national championship team. Since taking over IU Kokomo (21-12) in December, Cottrell has led the Cougars to 14 wins in 22 outings and the RSC West Division title.

“This was a good game for our girls as we prepare for nationals,” she said. “We are going to go out there and be the biggest underdog possible. I told them we have to go out and play and have fun because you don’t know if that will be your last game of the season.”

For the Cougars to make the national tournament is a minor miracle. The program started three seasons ago and had records of 9-21 and 10-20. Expectations were not high going into season three.

“I am proud of the girls,” said Cottrell. “I can’t take any credit – the girls come out and have fun and are playing hard. Confidence is a big thing for us right now. But more importantly, they are having fun and enjoying the season.”