The Marion County tournament gets underway on Tuesday with eight first-round games at eight sites and runs through Saturday. Here’s a look at the games, players to watch and predictions:
First-round games tonight (all 7 p.m.)
Lawrence Central (12-3) at North Central (10-0): This is the first of at least two meetings between these teams as they will play again on Feb. 4 at the Fairgrounds and potentially in the sectional as well. North Central is led by junior standout Kris Wilkes but is far from a one-man team. The Panthers are averaging 85.2 points a game and haven’t really been tested in any game other than a 48-46 win over Carmel. The schedule is about to get a lot tougher, however, beginning with this game. Lawrence Central, ranked sixth in 4A, has lost three games by a combined 10 points and two of those in overtime. The Bears are led by senior guards Kyle Guy (24.7 ppg, 6.1 rebounds) and Mehki Biffle (17.1 ppg, 5.9 rebounds). The pick: This is a championship-level game played in the first round. I’ll take North Central in a tight one.
Roncalli (6-4) at Southport (5-5): Raise your hand if you thought Southport would be 5-5 right now. Hard to believe. The Cardinals have lost three in a row, including a 75-55 setback to Franklin Central on Friday. Junior Paul Scruggs (20.5 ppg) and senior Joey Brunk (16.2 ppg) are still one of the state’s most dangerous combos, however, and Southport is plenty capable of making a run to the title this week. Roncalli senior guard Christian Stewart is having a big season (17.3 ppg, 4.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists). The Rebels have won three of their last four. The pick: Roncalli has some size with 6-9 junior Collin Sonderman (10.0 ppg, 6.8 rebounds) but will probably have trouble matching up with Scruggs. I’ll take Southport.
Warren Central (8-6) at Brebeuf Jesuit (6-4): These teams haven’t met since the county quarterfinals in 2010. The Warriors snapped a three-game losing streak with an impressive 68-66 win over Hamilton Southeastern on Saturday. Junior Mack Smith had 25 points in that game for the Warriors and has emerged as a player to watch, along with senior guard Bishop Smith. Brebeuf Jesuit, a 3A team, has lost four games to 4A programs. The Braves are a balanced scoring team, led by senior Matt Broderick (11.5 ppg, 5.5 rebounds), junior Kobie McNeal (10.0 ppg, 3.3 rebounds) and freshman Simon Banks (9.4 ppg, 3.3 assists). The pick: This is another game that should be competitive. I’ll pick Warren Central in a close one.
Decatur Central (6-6) at Lawrence North (8-2): Decatur Central has lost big to Pike and Bloomington South but also has good wins over Mt. Vernon and Martinsville. Senior Antoine Divine (19.4 ppg) and sophomore Damani McEntire (10.4 ppg) lead the way for the Hawks and first-year coach John Ashworth. Lawrence North has won eight in a row going into the tournament, led by senior Djimon Henson, junior Ra Kpedi and sophomores Kevin Easley and Antwaan Cushingberry. The pick: These teams haven’t played in the county since 2004. Lawrence North is the pick.
Beech Grove (4-6) at Ben Davis (7-5): Beech Grove is 0-3 against 4A opponents so far this season but did notch a nice win over 3A Tri-West recently. The Hornets are led by juniors Dylan Allen (15.0 ppg) and Chase Andries (10.1 ppg). Ben Davis started strong but has lost three of its last four and four of six overall. Juniors Datrion Harper and Josh Brewer lead the Giants, who played in the county title game last season. These teams haven’t met since 1999. The pick: Ben Davis.
Pike (9-2) at Lutheran (6-4): Pike is the defending Marion County champion and has a chance to reclaim the crown, led by senior Justin Thomas (19.3 ppg, 4.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists), junior Justin Roberts (16.9 ppg, 4.0 assists) and senior Derek Hawthorne (12.8 ppg, 5.1 rebounds). Pike is one of the highest-scoring teams in the state, averaging 72.4 points a game. Class A Lutheran has been traditionally overmatched in the county against the 4A programs. Senior Tommy Miner (14.9 ppg) leads the Saints. The pick: Pike.
Park Tudor (9-2) at Franklin Central (9-1): After Lawrence Central-North Central, this may be the best first-round game of the night. Park Tudor has had a tumultuous season with the resignation and investigation of coach Kyle Cox one of the more stunning stories of the season. Park Tudor remains one of the best 3A programs in the state, however, led by juniors Jaren Jackson Jr. (16.1 ppg, 9.2 rebounds) and Kobe Webster (15.9 ppg). Freshman Isiah Moore (10.6 ppg) and junior Isaiah Rice (9.2 ppg) are also talented players. Franklin Central has been one of the surprise teams of the season and can make a bigger splash with a run to Friday’s semifinals. Senior guard Marcus Burk (23.2 ppg) is worthy of a long look for the IndyStar Indiana All-Star team. The pick: Give me Franklin Central in a good one.
Perry Meridian (5-6) at Speedway (3-6): Perry Meridian won the Shelbyville tournament over the holiday break as junior Nate Mills was named MVP and junior Brandon Perry made the all-tourney team. The Falcons also notched a solid win over Whiteland during a four-game winning streak (ended Friday with a loss to Terre Haute South). Speedway has been inconsistent through nine games. The pick: Perry Meridian.
Those predictions would result in these Wednesday quarterfinal matchups: North Central vs. Southport; Warren Central vs. Lawrence North; Ben Davis vs. Pike; Franklin Central vs. Perry Meridian.
I’ll take North Central, Lawrence North, Pike and Franklin Central. North Central over Lawrence North and Pike over Franklin Central in the semifinals on Friday night at Southport. North Central over Pike in the championship on Saturday at Southport.