Archive for Basketball


BY DEAN HOCKNEY KOKOMO, Ind. - The cloud that has hovered over the Indiana University Kokomo basketball team has been lifted as school administrators announced Tom Church was hired as the new head coach of the Cougars men’s basketball program. Church replaces interim head coach Alex Birge. Church is currently ending his four-year reign at NCAA Division II Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, which recently announced it is ceasing operations.   (Editor’s note: Neither Church or IUK administrators were available for comment prior to the Sports Journal deadline.)   Church will be the third coach in IUK history and second on a full-time basis. While he replaces Birge, Jace Thompson coached the first five-plus seasons before suddenly resigning midway through the 2016-2017 campaign. Church takes over a team that was 10-20 this season – it marked the first double-digit win mark in the short six-year history of the Cougars program.   Church was the 18th coach at St. Joseph’s and led the team to a 31-82 mark in his four seasons, but had improved the Pumas record each year. He followed a 4-24 inaugural season with records of 6-22, 9-19 and 12-17 this year while playing in the Great Lakes Valley Conference.   Prior to his time at St. Joseph’s, Church spent three seasons as an assistant coach at Florida Southern College (2010-2013) and St. Joe (2007-2010).   During his time as the top assistant coach for Florida Southern, the Moccasins were 70-25 with two Sunshine State Conference Tournament championships (2012 and 2013). The program made three NCAA Division II Tournament appearances, winning the South Regional in 2013 for an Elite Eight appearance.   He had similar success during his time as an assistant at St. Joseph’s - the Pumas held a 53-37 record with two NCAA Division II Tournament appearances in 2008 and 2010.  In 2010 the Pumas won the Great Lakes Valley Conference North Division and won three straight games as the eighth seed in the Midwest Regional to advance to the Elite Eight.   According to his official SJC bio, Church attended Ashland University for four years, where he was twice named to the Academic All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Team and was a team captain as a senior in 2003. He started all but one game that year, averaging 8.9 points and 4.3 rebounds, and was second on the team in both three-pointers and three-point shooting percentage (40 for 105). In his collegiate career, Church made 104 three-point field goals and shot 38 percent from behind the arc.   He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Education in 2003, and later earned his Master's of Education in Administration from Ashland in 2006. Church and his wife Jennifer welcomed their first child, Harrison, into the world over the summer of 2015 and have a second child on the way.   IU Kokomo is still working on filling its vacant women’s basketball coaching position.


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)


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.


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.


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