IHSAA cancels boys basketball tournament

Photo by Kayla Renie/The Herald
The Indiana High School Athletic Association cancelled the remainder of the boys basketball tournament. Heritage Hills won its final game of the season — the sectional championship for the first time since 2003.

By COREY STOLZENBACH
sports@dcherald.com

If somebody told Heritage Hills coach Nate Hawkins back in November that his Patriots would win their last game of the season, he’d come to the belief that they’d be the Class 3A state champions.

The 2019-20 Pats did win their final game of the season, but their story ended on Thursday without a chance for it to continue. The Indiana High School Athletic Association cancelled the remainder of the boys basketball state tournament in the wake of Gov. Eric Holcomb announcing all schools would be closed until May 1.

“It is with great sadness and disappointment that we inform Hoosiers of the cancellation of the remaining games of the 2020 IHSAA boys basketball tournament series,” IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox said in a news release published Thursday. “While the Association maintained every hope of continuance, it is now evident those hopes are now unreachable. Albeit there will not be regional, semi-state and state champions crowned across our four classifications, the health and safety of our public remains paramount and our primary focus.”

Heritage Hills ended the season with a 17-game winning streak, a 22-3 record and won its first sectional championship since 2003.

“I think the biggest thing for us is we’re just really disappointed that we’re not able to continue playing and going forward just from the standpoint that this group of guys at Heritage Hills is going to go down as one of the best in school history,” Hawkins said.

The Pats went a combined 44-5 these past two seasons. The formidable trio of Murray Becher, Simon Scherry and Blake Sisley came to an end not because of something they could control, but because of something they couldn’t. Hawkins said it will always be a matter of what ifs.

Becher leaves as the team’s all-time leader in points (1,703), field goals (663) and free throws (282). Scherry departs as the career leader in 3-pointers (158) and assists (415). Scherry also has the season records for 3-point percentage (52.5%) and assists (195). He also holds the single game record with 16 assists. Both Scherry and Sisley scored their 1,000th career point this season, while Becher broke the team, school and North Spencer scoring records.

Heritage Hills is bidding goodbye to five seniors: Becher, Scherry, Cole Sigler, Cayden Kratzer and Mark Doyle. The five of them scored a combined 3,348 points.

“It’s just really tough because I just know what these guys meant to this community, to our coaching staff, to their other teammates,” Hawkins said.

Ethan Ziegler cried after he heard the news.

The Northeast Dubois senior had dreamt of this moment since he was a kid, recalling his mini goal in his bedroom. Ziegler envisioned himself winning a sectional and regional championship in his career. The sectional championship came, the first time the Jeeps won one since 2014. They finished the season at 16-10 and on a four-game winning streak.

Photo by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
The Northeast Dubois senior duo of Reece Bauer (left) and Ethan Ziegler (right) hoist the sectional hardware high March 7 at Springs Valley after a 55-51 win against Evansville Day in the title game. It turned out to be the final game of their high school basketball careers after the Indiana High School Athletic Association cancelled the remainder of the tournament Thursday.

He probably would’ve felt like he was the happiest man in the world if he knew he was going to win the last basketball game of the season and in his career. Now, even though he figured this was going to happen, it’s a hard pill to swallow. He reflected on all the hard work he put into this, and Ziegler, who also plays baseball, realizes he might have partaken in his last sporting event ever.

“Never, ever did I dream that it would come to this,” Ziegler said.

Ziegler looked at the positive, too. He is going out as a sectional champion at Northeast Dubois — a feeling he wouldn’t trade for the world. The 2019-20 Jeeps were the first team under coach Terry Friedman to start a season 4-0. They overcame a five-game losing streak to win five of their final six games between the regular season and postseason. Ziegler chalked the team successes up to the basketball IQs the players had, their love of the sport, how well they bonded and the coaching staff.

“It’s definitely been special,” he said.

Brett Bardwell preferred to downplay it, but the outgoing Southridge athletic director won’t get a chance to oversee a regional tournament at Huntingburg Memorial Gym one more time in his career.

Memorial Gym hosted the sectional tournament, and regionals were supposed to happen there, too, until the March 13 postponement due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I would’ve certainly liked to have been involved in one more regional,” Bardwell said. “I was very excited about putting it on. We had everything in place, some great teams coming in and was really looking forward to it. It’s one of the things I’ve always enjoyed doing is running tournaments, especially the big basketball tournaments — the regionals and sectionals at Memorial Gym.”

Photo by Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald
Outgoing Southridge athletic director Brett Bardwell (center) understands the Indiana High School Association cancelling the remainder of the boys basketball tournament on Thursday. Huntingburg Memorial Gym hosted sectionals, and was scheduled to host regionals before the postponement and cancellation.

Bardwell added that he’s more disappointed for the players, the teams and the parents of those who were still playing. He’s had his opportunity to run these tournaments, but the seniors won’t get this chance again. There’s also no guarantee that the players who have remaining eligibility will win another sectional championship in their careers.

He was on the verge of sending out an email for new rules for the regional following teams being limited to 75 fans each, but then the postponement happened. Memorial Gym still had its media table and scorer’s table in place, though. Things were still ready to go if the regional ever transpired.

Now, it’s time to close up shop. Bardwell noted that candy and drinks are in the concessions that might be redistributed in some fashion, while other stuff gets put away. The gym is also closed to walkers who frequent the venue for exercise.

“There’s a much bigger picture than basketball or sports right now,” he said. “I understand that. We at Southridge understand that. We certainly don’t take light the heartbreak and disappointment of not being able to play the basketball regional and the state tournament has had on a lot of athletes and coaches and fans. It’s sad and unfortunate, but...we want to follow what the experts tell us to do in terms of cancelling events and taking actions that keep people, especially our student-athletes, safe and healthy. That’s our main goal right now.”




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