BENNETT'S MINUTES: County primed for tourney success

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Girls’ sectional basketball champions will be determined on Saturday night at 64 sites around the state, and the boys’ tournament is set to kick off later this month.

Last year, Putnam County emerged with two champions as the Cloverdale boys and the South Putnam girls were both victorious. From my research, that is an outstanding year for local teams according to history.

This year could be even better.

It’s not impossible that Putnam County teams could sweep all four sectional tourney titles in which they will be involved.

Greencastle needs to beat Southmont tonight, something it has already done, in order to meet pre-tourney favorite Benton Central (19-6) in Saturday‘s Class 3A Crawfordsville championship game. Are the 15-8 Cubs a guaranteed, or even likely winner? Maybe not, but have learned to never count out a Bradley Key team when it needs a big victory.

South Putnam is the only local team left alive in the Class 2A Cascade Sectional, which it won last year.

The Eagles are paired against a good Western Boone team tonight in the semifinals, and the winner will likely play the host Cadets in the finals on Saturday.

Western Boone has one of the top individual players in junior guard Madison Jones, but the Eagles have something even better in their favor – experience and senior leadership. I will be at Crawfordsville tonight, and will leave as soon as possible afterwards to get to Cascade for the end of the South Putnam game.

The Eagles have the best record left in the sectional, the only winning one among the final four teams, but as coach Brian Gardner reminded his team after its win over Cloverdale last week – everybody is now 0-0 (if you got a bye).

Western Boone’s record was affected by a tough regular-season schedule, and Cascade – which plays Monrovia tonight in the first semifinal game – has been well above .500 since a 0-6 start.

Both tourneys should be good ones.

On the boys’ side, county teams are also in good positions to cut down the nets.

The Class 3A sectional involving Greencastle had originally been scheduled for Crawfordsville, but has been moved to Lebanon. Southmont joined the sectional grouping after moving up from Class 2A and Benton Central was also added to join holdovers Greencastle, Western Boone, Crawfordsville, Lebanon and North Montgomery. Frankfort and powerful Tri-West left the sectional grouping.

Of the seven teams in the field, Greencastle has the best record to this point at 11-5 after Thursday night’s victory. Southmont is close behind at 11-7.

However, the Mounties do have the edge in the head-to head matchup, haviing topped the Tiger Cubs 50-49 in December in the second game for interim coach Jake Turner, who took over after Jon Sparks resigned.

Senior guard Cam Chadd, who will play collegiately at Bethel College, recently became Southmont’s career scoring leader. He is not the only good player for the balanced Mounties, though. The Mounties are significantly better-coached after that change was made, and are a formidable threat.

Crawfordsville (8-7), Western Boone (6-9), Lebanon (5-12), Benton Central (4-11) and North Montgomery (5-11) round out the field.

Southmont has gone 7-0 against teams in the sectional field, while Greencastle is 2-1 (with wins over Western Boone and Crawfordsville.) There are still several regular-season games yet to be played, but the tourney is much more winnable for a much-improved Greencastle team than a year ago.

At South Putnam, the Class 2A Sectional has Covenant Christian replacing Southmont in the six-team field after the enrollment classification adjustments.

Cloverdale has the best record to date at 13-4, while Monrovia is 10-8 – but possesses the kind of player in 6-7 junior standout Max Newman who can pose problems for the smaller Clovers. The Clovers won at Monrovia 48-45 on Dec. 9.

The other four teams each have a bigtime scorer – North Putnam’s Elliot Gross, Cascade’s Dalton DuBois, Covenant Christian’s Jordan Webb and South Putnam’s Allen Plunkett. None of those teams has a winning record to date, but none can be counted out in the sectional if the supporting players have good nights simultaneously.

Should be a wild ride to the end, and there would be nothing better than having four county teams to cut down the nets.

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