I should be used to it by now, but the glass half-empty crowd was well represented again this year at Bankers Life Fieldhouse for the high school basketball state finals.
The complaints are usually go along these lines:
- The tournament will never – can never – be the same because of class basketball (never mind the last all-in tournament was in 1997);
- Private schools have an unfair advantage;
- The champions (this can apply to public or private) are somehow cheating to do it
One man was particularly insistent that private schools win 80 percent of the high school basketball championships. A quick glance through the state finals program shows 14 of the 68 state champions (21 percent) since the start of class basketball in 1998 have been private schools, including Park Tudor (2A) and Michigan City Marquette (A) this year.
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Class sports have opened the door for private schools to win more championships. Is 21 percent an egregious number? It depends on your perspective, I guess. The Indiana High School Athletic Association has dealt with it on some level by adding the tournament success factor, which bumps dominant teams up in class. We’ll need a few years of gauge its impact.
But this is me taking a long route to the point: I wish, and hope most did, appreciate what was in front of our faces on Saturday. There was Ryan Fazekas, a 28-percent 3-point shooter, pouring on seven 3s and 34 points in Marquette Catholic’s overtime win over Barr-Reeve in the Class A game. There was Greensburg and its rabid fans winning a second consecutive 3A title. There was Park Tudor rolling to its third 2A title in four years. There was Tech winning its first title and first for Indianapolis Public Schools since 1980.
The night session attendance was 18,165, the first sellout in three years.
In particular, I hope we all enjoyed the individual talents of Park Tudor’s Trevon Bluiett and Tech’s Trey Lyles. Players of this caliber don’t come along often. In the interview room after Park Tudor’s 84-57 win over Westview, teammate Alex Mack was nearly brought to tears describing what it’s been like to play alongside Bluiett, who had 38 points and 12 rebounds in his final game.
“When he was a freshman people said Yogi (Ferrell) got him a lot of baskets,” Mack said. “But he took this team over. There were games you’d look up, look back and the ball is in the hole and you’re like, ‘How did that happen?’ It’s going to stink not playing with him again.”
Bluiett, headed to Xavier, finished his career sixth on the all-time scoring list with 2,568 points and 986 career rebounds. He was an offensive machine with remarkable efficiency, shooting 65 percent from the field as a senior.
“He’s an elite player,” said Westview’s Jordyn Bontrager. “There were times, honestly, where I couldn’t do anything to stop him. Everything he shot went in. He’s going to be a great college and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the NBA.”
And what else can you say about Lyles? Maybe he’ll never be the state’s favorite son because his breakup with Indiana and commitment to Kentucky. But his combination of power and skill at 6-10 is stunning. He fills up the stat sheet with assists, steals, blocked shots and rebounds, but he truly became a team-first guy this year.
Both Bluiett and Lyles could have followed the trend of other touted prospects and gone to a prep school. Instead they stayed four years at their respective high schools. I hope people enjoyed it.
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It might not have been that humorous for Ryan Welage, but there were a lot of Greensburg fans chuckling when the 6-8 junior came back in the game in the fourth quarter of his team’s 89-76 win over Bowman Academy with a makeshift, taped headband after suffering a cut on his forehead. Among those laughing was teammate Sean Sellers.
“He just looked at me and shook his head,” a laughing Sellers said after the game.
With 27 points in the state final, Sellers finished his career with 1,901 career points.
I’ll be disappointed of Tech’s Jeremie Tyler hasn’t wrapped up a spot on the IndyStar Indiana All-Star team. The Ball State recruit had another excellent performance in the 63-59 win over Lake Central with 19 points on 8-for-10 shooting.
Welage wasn’t the only one with a headband Saturday night. Lake Central senior Tyler Wideman, a 6-7 Butler recruit, suffered a cut above his eye and returned in the second half with it heavily bandaged.
“It was a bad cut above by eyebrow,” he said, adding that it would likely require stitches when he returned home.
Wideman helped key a second-half rally, finishing with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
I tweeted this late Saturday night: “Tournament of Champions next weekend? Tech vs. Marquette Catholic; Greensburg vs. Park Tudor. Championship that night.”
The IHSAA tried this format for two years after going to class basketball with poor results. I’m not really a big fan of it either as it seems a bit anticlimactic after the state finals, but think it would be fun this particular year.
IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox apparently doesn’t agree, as he tweeted back: “Extremely bad idea. No attendance, bad behavior by coaches and patrons on spring break. #moveon #enjoyyourmoment”
Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.