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In a recent eight-day period, I saw six of the seven teams in the Class 2A Southridge boys basketball sectional play.
The only team in that sectional I have not seen is North Posey, which had a good team last year but entered Friday’s games 0-3 as it adjusts to a first-year coach.
So I likely have seen all the serious contenders for the sectional crown. But I can’t really tell you who the favorite is, as there doesn’t appear to be a clear favorite.
Perry Central is definitely in the mix. This might be the Commodores’ best chance to win the sectional since the Adam Etienne-led squad lost a close championship game to Mater Dei in 1999.
Mater Dei beat the Commodores 57-56 in double overtime at Mater Dei Dec. 8 when the Commodores hit only 4 of 16 three-point shots over the Wildcats’ zone.
If the Commodores had hit 5 of 9 from three-point range, as they did last year in a win over Mater Dei at Perry Central, they would have won the game.
Last year they lost to Mater Dei in the sectional after beating the Wildcats in the regular season, so this year it could easily be reversed.
The Commodores will have to figure out a way to contain talented Mater Dei post player Tyler Walsh better than they have in their last two meetings, though.
In last year’s sectional game and the Dec. 8 game combined, Walsh has averaged 30.5 points and 14.5 rebounds and hit 72.7 percent from the field.
The Commodores could also beat Mater Dei by shooting free throws better than they did Dec. 8, when they hit only 10 of 18. They hit 24 of 32 in their regular-season win over Mater Dei last year and they have the talent to hit them even better than that.
Maybe the Dec. 8 game was a wakeup call for them to start concentrating harder on free throws.
One thing in the Commodores’ favor is opponents can’t focus their defense on one or two players.
As Mater Dei Coach Kurt Wildeman noted after their recent meeting, “According to the stats we’ve seen, they’ve got four or five guys probably averaging between 8 and 13 points. They’re not one of those traditional teams that has one or two guys you can key on.”
But the sectional isn’t just a battle between Perry Central and Mater Dei.
Forest Park has won the last four sectionals. The Rangers graduated all five starters from last years but they start three seniors and two juniors who have been key players on highly successful JV teams the last two years.
“I think Perry Central and Forest Park are the sectional favorites,” said Wildeman. “I’m not counting Forest Park out, because they’ve won four in a row and they have that senior leadership.”
He disingenuously did not include his own team as one of the favorites even though this was right after the Wildcats had beaten Perry Central.
One other team I think should be considered in talk about the sectional favorite is the host Southridge Raiders.
They were 3-0 going into Saturday’s game and have tremendously quick hands to intercept a lot of passes in the full-court press they like to use most of the time.
In 6-foot-6 forward Chad O’Bryan, they also have a big man who has improved tremendously since last year.
So this should be one of the most wide open sectionals in years, and a joy for fans to watch.