INDIANAPOLIS – There were times — several times — late in the regular season when Manual basketball coach Donnie Bowling questioned his scheduling philosophy. Games in January and February against Class 4A opponents like Connersville, North Central, Brownsburg and New Albany took a toll on Manual’s record and Bowling’s patience.
“I told my wife after the Brownsburg game (a 63-46 loss) that I’m not playing anymore of these 4A teams,” Bowling said. “I’m tired of getting beat up. But those games did help us.”
Manual went 0-4 against those teams, but pushed North Central (a 62-61 loss) and New Albany (a 76-72 overtime loss), holding leads late in both games against the pair of state title contenders. Those tense, late-game moments prepared the Redskins for games like Tuesday night’s 59-51 win over Brebeuf Jesuit in 3A Sectional 27 on the Braves’ home floor.
Courvoisier McCauley, a senior and one of the state’s top scorers (27.7 ppg), made two of his biggest plays without scoring. His drive and low-post feed to Jalen Johnson gave the Redskins a three-point lead with less than 2 minutes left, and his offensive rebound off a missed free throw with 45 seconds left kept the Braves from getting a potential tying shot.
“I think our schedule helped us,” Bowling said. “When we were taking those losses, I questioned it. But it’s helped us.”
Eighth-ranked Manual (18-6) takes on No. 4 Crispus Attucks (18-4) in the second Sectional 27 semifinal at Brebeuf on Friday night. It’s a rematch of Manual’s 80-78 win in the City tournament semifinals when McCauley drained a buzzer-beating 35-foot shot. The winner will face either Bishop Chatard (3-19) or New Palestine (7-16) in Saturday’s sectional championship.
It is two-for-one night Friday with sectional semifinal games all over the state. Some legitimate state title contenders — Warren Central, Pike, South Bend Riley, Valparaiso in 4A; Brebeuf Jesuit, Park Tudor, Andrean and Marion in 3A; Linton-Stockton and Henryville in 2A; and University and Arlington in Class A — are already home for the season.
Here’s a glance at some of Friday’s other best matchups:
>> Sectional 2 at Michigan City: Merrillville (17-7) and Michigan City (19-6) are two of the better teams in 4A. The winner will likely get Crown Point (21-3) in Saturday’s final.
>> Sectional 3 at South Bend Washington: Michael Green made two free throws with 0.2 seconds left on Tuesday as South Bend Adams knocked off South Bend Riley 73-72. Next up for South Bend Adams (19-4) is LaPorte (19-6). The winner is the sectional’s clear favorite.
>> Sectional 4 at Elkhart Central: It’s a battle of attrition. Elkhart Central (20-2) survived for a 75-73 triple-overtime win over Penn on Wednesday. The Blue Blazers rallied from a 17-point deficit and won it on a last-second shot by Cornell Conner. Next up is Warsaw (15-9), a 36-33 winner over Northridge on Wednesday on a last-second 3-pointer by Kyle Mangas.
>> Sectional 5 at Fort Wayne Carroll: Malik Williams and Fort Wayne Snider (16-6) play Carroll (13-9) with the winner likely to see Fort Wayne North Side (22-2) on Saturday.
>> Sectional 7 at Lafayette Jeff: It’ll be plenty heated in Lafayette where Logansport (23-1) faces Zionsville (17-6) in the opener, followed by defending state runner-up McCutcheon (21-2) and Kokomo (18-6).
>> Sectional 8 at Carmel: Carmel (19-4) is short-handed with leading scorer Sterling Brown out, and will take on a Noblesville team (12-12) riding a high after a last-second 41-39 win over Guerin Catholic on Wednesday. Hamilton Southeastern (20-5) is on the other side.
>> Sectional 9 at North Central: Can Cathedral (15-8) give North Central (21-4) a run? That game follows Tech (5-16) vs. Lawrence North (16-9).
>> Sectional 11 at Plainfield: This one seems to be heading toward a Brownsburg-Terre Haute South championship, though Brownsburg (16-6) has to knock off Plainfield (14-9). The Bulldogs won 62-44 two weeks ago.
>> Sectional 12 at Franklin Central: Two good games here. Franklin (14-8) plays four-time defending sectional champion Franklin Central (10-12), followed by Center Grove (15-7) and Whiteland (15-7). Whiteland is 2-0 vs. Center Grove this season.
>> Sectional 22 at Garrett: New Haven (17-7) meets Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger (12-10) in the opener of this 3A sectional. Dwenger won the first meeting 54-50 in overtime.
>> Sectional 25 at Greencastle: Tri-West (20-3) faces Crawfordsville (16-7) in the opener on Friday. Tri-West won the first meeting 76-63.
>> Sectional 28 at Danville: Beech Grove (17-6) meets Cardinal Ritter (15-8) in the nightcap, following Danville (17-8) and Northwest (8-14). Beech Grove defeated Ritter 75-61 in early February.
>> Sectional 32 at Boonville: Evansville Bosse (16-7) is looking for another run to the 3A state finals, but has to get past Evansville Memorial (13-9) on Friday. Bosse won the first meeting 75-60.
>> Sectional 37 at Oak Hill: Oak Hill (20-3) has a chance to go a long way in the 2A tourney, but figures to face a challenge against Southwood (19-4). Oak Hill won the first meeting 83-61 in January.
>> Sectional 40 at Lapel: The winner of Frankton (17-6) and Monroe Central (22-2) likely will play defending state champion Lapel (16-8) on Saturday.
>> Sectional 41 at Hagerstown: Can Hagerstown (17-7) pull the upset of Northeastern (19-5)? Northeastern won the first meeting, 47-40.
>> Sectional 42 at Triton Central: Irvington (18-5) plays Shenandoah (18-4) in the opener Friday night. The winner likely will get Howe (17-8), which was last year’s state runner-up.
>> Sectional 43 at Speedway: Scecina (16-9) vs. Heritage Christian (13-9) should be a good one, with the winner likely facing Broad Ripple (17-5) on Saturday.
>> Sectional 46 at Crawford County: Good field here. Crawford County (17-6) plays Clarksville (13-10) in the nightcap, with Paoli (15-8) facing Providence (21-2) in the first game.
>> Sectional 57 at White River Valley: Shakamak (13-10) plays Bloomfield (11-13) in the nightcap. Bloomfield made it to the state finals a year ago.
>> Sectional 59 at Edinburgh: It took overtime for Morristown to get past Edinburgh, 54-47. Can Central Christian keep the good vibes going after Josh Clanton’s 75-foot shot in a 64-62 win over Arlington? Morristown (16-8) plays Greenwood Christian (7-16), followed by Lutheran (9-12) and Central Christian (18-6).
>> Sectional 63 at North Daviess: Loogootee (19-7) hasn’t won a sectional in five years. The Lions face defending sectional champion North Daviess (13-10), a team it defeated 48-35 in January.
Call IndyStar reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649. Follow him on Twitter: @KyleNeddenriep.
Go to indystar.com for our live sectional blog, which will feature instant in-game video highlights and updates from 15 games around Central Indiana.