Quite a sight, the Tiernan Center nearly full.
It’s been awhile, at least eight years in fact.
Not since the 2005 sectional have the upstairs corner bleachers been brought out of storage and Saturday’s estimated crowd of well over 7,000 kept the concession stands humming.
Four teams descended on Tiernan for spots in next weekend’s state finals at Indianapolis. Two advanced, two didn’t.
The first game of the day turned out to be the showcase of two semistate boys basketball classics.
Linton-Stockton outlasted Speedway 76-75 in overtime of a Class 2A tournament thriller before Greensburg won a surprisingly easy 62-37 Class 3A decision over top-ranked Mount Vernon of Fortville.
Speedway lost even though the Sparkplugs scored six more field goals than their opponent. The difference was a 23-8 edge in free throws.
The Greensburg-Mt. Vernon game was a highly anticipated No. 1 against No. 2 match-up but the end result was more than disappointing. Mt. Vernon never led and was down as many as 23 points at the end of three quarters.
The Pirates, who start four juniors and a sophomore, put four players in double figures, led by Sean Sellers with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
“This is the first time our boys basketball program has gone to the state so this means a lot to the community,” said Greensburg coach Stacey Meyer.
“We shot the ball extremely well early, which opened everything up. I was most proud of how we defended and rebounded. That was probably the difference.”
The Pirates obviously loved the Richmond venue as well.
“You couldn’t ask for a better one,” Meyer said.
“We were at Seymour a few years ago and this is better than that. Great crowd support from all four teams.”
Richmond is listed as the fourth-largest high school gymnasium in the state, and nation, for that matter, with its 8,100 seats, trailing only New Castle (9,314), East Chicago (8,296) and Seymour (8,110).
The opener was a true nail-biter. In fact, the lead changed hands 13 times in the fourth quarter alone.
Even though Speedway put four players in double figures, the Sparkplugs had no answer for the dynamic duo of Dess Fougerrousse and Austin Karazsia of the Miners.
The seniors combined for 30 of their team’s 32 points at halftime and Fougerrousse ended with 33 points, Karazsia 28 plus 12 rebounds.
Karazsia, who stands 6-8, is the son of the school’s athletic director and nephew of the superintendent.
“We’re still getting better,” said Linton coach Joey Hart after his huge crowd of supporters flooded the floor.
“These guys are special guys,” he said of Fougerousse and Karazsia. “And it’s special for a high school kid to even be here. We weren’t happy about the three-hour drive but when we walked into this place, the kids were extremely excited. Chad (Bolser) and his group do a fabulous job.”
Garry Donna, owner and publisher of Hoosier Basketball Magazine for the past 43 years, was in attendance Saturday and had some thoughts on the state tournament series.
“The IHSAA should call it the Class Championships instead of the State Championships because that’s what it is,” he said.
“I don’t think the tournament is played as well as it was years ago. Now there’s too many ‘eyeball’ players — I get it, I dribble it, I shoot it. With the emergence of AAU, there’s more runners, jumpers and dunkers. I don’t think the game is as basic as it used to be. A lot of the games are track meets in tennis shoes.”
In 1975 his publication had 54 pages, before the start of girls basketball. Now it’s 300.
IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox was in the house and spoke highly of Richmond’s role as semistate host.
“I’ve been here many times and this is a wonderful venue,” he said.
“The folks here at Richmond work so hard to put on such good events. I couldn’t be more pleased than to host a semistate here in Richmond. Geography is your only obstacle. You experience the same thing as our friends in Terre Haute experience. It takes a little effort to get there but once you’re there you have a great experience.”
RHS Athletic Director Chad Bolser was the Red Devil head coach in 2005 when Dominic James was a senior. The Devils were shaded by Muncie Central in the sectional final here.
“It wasn’t a sellout but it was a close as you can get,” he recalled. “Today’s crowd was very similar in size.”
Bolser and his army of 50-some volunteers hosted two girls semistate games Feb. 23. And they learned valuable lessons from that experience.
“We had a plan today for parking that worked well,” he said.
“We expanded parking to Earlham College and other places outside of Richmond High School with shuttles. The IHSAA needs to know that you’re good representatives of them, that you’re willing to do this and that you have the facility and staff that does that.
“The thing that separates us from other places is our over 50 volunteers that literally get here at 11 in the morning and don’t leave until the games are over.”