South Knox and North Knox prepare to face two of the best teams around today, while it’s a two-game weekend for Rivet.
The Spartans (8-9, 4-1) visit Class A No. 1 Barr-Reeve (17-2, 6-0) for a Blue Chip Conference tilt, while the Warriors (9-9) travel to Class A No. 5 North Daviess (14-3).
Both game have 6 p.m. junior varsity starts today. The Patriots (3-8, 1-5) are home today for a league game against Shoals (8-8, 2-5) at 7 p.m. and are at Bloomington Lighthouse (3-14) at 6 p.m. Saturday.
It’s a difficult week to prepare for all schools involved, as school cancellations Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday have prevented the boys teams from practicing.
Prior to the start of the season, this year’s Barr-Reeve team was said by many to be the most talented the program has ever head. The Vikings have lived up to that, with their only losses coming consecutively in December to two of the best in the state, 4A No. 2 Carmel and 2A No. 1 Fort Wayne Blackhawk.
Since then, the Vikings have won 11 in a row and they clinch an outright Blue Chip title with a win over South Knox.
The Spartans are coming off their best win of the season, dropping then-Class 4A No. 10 Evansville Reitz, 38-36, holding the Panthers 30 points below their average.
“I’d like to continue where we are from Reitz, and a lot of that is just making the simple plays. We did a better job of finishing layups and handling the moment late in the game,” South Knox coach David Burkett said. “I liked the leadership (5-10 senior Garrett) Holscher showed. Last year it was Justin Fickling making the big shot. Both (6-1 junior Brennon) Robinson and Holscher made big shots late (Saturday).”
Holscher (12.0 points per game) and Robinson (8.2) lead a South Knox lineup that also starts 6-4 sophomore Dakota Candler (7.6), 6-0 junior Tristian Wirth (6.4) and 6-1 sophomore Dylan Maeder (5.3). Candler is new to the starting lineup. He scored 12 against Reitz, his second start of the year.”
Leading the Vikings in scoring is 6-8 senior Curt Hopf (19.8) with 6-3 junior Hagen Knepp next (11.5), but 6-3 senior Brycen Graber runs the show with a state-leading 7.7 assists to go with 7.3 points.
A key for South Knox is slowing down Barr-Reeve’s up-tempo offense, which averages 63.1 points per game. It’s just the third time in the last 20 seasons the Vikings have averaged over 60 per game. Barr-Reeve and South Knox rank fifth and 11th in the state in points allowed, with the Vikings eighth (22.5) in average point differential.
“Barr-Reeve is good in transition. Their big three are good, but when their supporting cast are making shots, that makes them difficult to guard,” Burkett said. “Our defense last Saturday was played as hard as it’s been all year. It’s important for that game to carry over to this game.”
The Spartans last beat the Vikings in the 2A Eastern Greene Sectional championship in 2017.
The Warriors are coming off a disappointing 49-45 loss at Northeast Dubois last weekend. Not only did North Knox handle the Jeeps 49-33 in December, but they also led most of the way last Friday.
Some of the culprits in the loss were 1-of-9 shooting and five of the team’s 12 turnovers coming in the final stanza. Adding to those woes were 6-0 senior Reece Hammelman battling foul difficulties all game.
“Those aren’t winning recipes, and we also had three or four missed opportunities to break it open (in the third),” North Knox coach Daniel Crabtree said. “Instead, we allowed them to hang around, and our foul trouble was a big reason for that. We had several defensive lapses late and panicked when they got within two. The learning experience has to be about making the other team earn everything, avoiding the fouls that we can, and that every possession matters.”
The Warriors start 6-0 junior Holtman Doades (15.3), Hammelman (8.5), 6-0 senior Isaiah Collins (6.9), 6-5 junior Ian Kixmiller (4.7) and 6-0 junior Rhett Sheren (4.6).
The offense will be tested today as North Daviess presents the top scoring defense in the state, yielding 38.0 points per game. The Cougars have lost only three games by a combined four points, including one in overtime.
“North Daviess is about as good of a defensive team as you’ll find in southwest Indiana,” Crabtree said. “They shoot it extremely well, and they take care of the ball. (Jaylen) Mullen (a 5-10 sophomore) and the Wilson twins (5-11 sophomores Lance and Logan) are their big three, but they are solid all around. We haven’t practiced since Monday, so this certainly isn’t an ideal way to prepare for one of the best teams on our schedule.”
Not only have the Patriots not practiced since Monday, but they also had a game cancelled Tuesday as they were slated for a non-league contest against Washington Catholic.
“We were looking forward to the Tuesday-Friday-Saturday schedule, as a kind of simulation for sectional week,” Rivet coach Mark Bezy said. “Now having to play Friday and Saturday after three days off, it’s not good timing. I’m a little nervous because they boys haven’t had any consistency this week. They haven’t been able to get shots up, and they haven’t been in their normal routine.”
Rivet also had a game cancelled two weeks ago against Dugger, as the Bulldogs were in quarantine. The Patriots have played just once in the last three weeks, a 51-32 loss at Wood Memorial last Friday.
A bit of good news is that 6-4 sophomore Tommy Herman is expected back from a foot injury that’s sidelined him all season.
But Bezy said his minutes are on a tight restriction.
His starters are 6-3 senior Peyton Catt (12.5), 5-10 senior Charlie Niehaus (7.9), 5-10 senior Sam Hinkle (6.7), 5-7 freshman Isaac Kotter (4.0) and 6-2 senior Drake Dunn (2.9).
Shoals is led by seniors 6-5 Reece Sherrill and 5-11 Levi Pendley. The Jug Rox are on pace for their fourth straight season of double-digit wins under coach Bryson Able, but they’ve dropped their last three.
“They’re a nice team, and Bryson has had a nice stretch of good guards,” Bezy said. “They don’t make many mistakes, they’re a good shooting team and they’re good defensively. They’ll throw a lot of defenses at us, so we have a lot of work to do before the game. We’ll get in the gym early for a walkthrough and go through everything Shoals does.”
Bezy admitted to not having studied Bloomington Lighthouse much yet, but he knows it’s an opponent his team can’t take lightly. Rivet also made the trip to Bloomington last season and won, 43-32.
“It’s a 50-50 game for us. It’s a long drive,” Bezy said. “I know their record isn’t great, but they’ve been in some dog fights and have some similar scores against teams that we’ve played. We didn’t play well last year, but we were lucky to get out of there with a win. They probably have us circled as a game they can win. Considering our circumstances right now I probably give them a slight edge.”
Blue Chip standings
Last Thursday's results
Wood Memorial 52, Rivet 31
Linton 47, South Knox 40
Northeast Dubois 49, North Knox 45
Barr-Reeve 56, Jasper 54
Loogootee 78, Orleans 47
North Central 78, Washington Catholic 33
Paoli 53, Shoals 46
Last Saturday's results
South Knox 38, Evansville Reitz 36
Northeast Dubois 53, Cannelton 26
Wood Memorial 65, Bloomington Lighthouse 40
Shoals at Rivet
South Knox at Barr-Reeve
North Knox at North Daviess
Loogootee at Wood Memorial
Northeast Dubois at Perry Central
Rivet at Bloomington Lighthouse
Barr-Reeve at Rock Creek Academy
Wood Memorial at Washington Catholic
Pike Central at Wood Memorial
Bedford North Lawrence at Loogootee
Bloomington Lighthouse at Washington Catholic
Evansville Christian at Barr-Reeve
Northeast Dubois at Evansville Day