Where is the toughest gym for a basketball road win?

Marlena Sloss/The Herald
If you’ve been a member of a visiting team when Forest Park is on the basketball schedule, you probably know how difficult it is to win at Buechler Arena. In 20 seasons, Forest Park owns an impressive 80 percent win mark (156-38) with five perfect marks. “Ferdinand is a basketball town,” said North Posey coach Heath Howington, who is 0-4 at Forest Park. “Their fans eat, sleep and breathe Ranger basketball. Not only do they have a rowdy student section, but their adult fans are into the game, as well. We always embrace the challenge to travel up there. They are well coached and have outstanding fan support.”

By KYLE SOKELAND
Evansville Courier & Press

This has the potential to be a fun exercise. It could also incite an argument among high school basketball fans. And no, it’s not about adding a shot clock.

A couple of years ago, I had a story idea. It mostly stemmed from my editor asking for a list of things to do in the summer. But I was also curious about something.

There was just never enough time to do it. Until two months ago, that is.

So it’s time to finally ask the question: Which gym in the Evansville/Southwestern Indiana area is the toughest for a visiting team to win a game?

There are a few ways to interpret this. Is it possible to determine who has the best fan support or the rowdiest home environment? I’m not kicking that hornet’s nest.

But one thing is possible: Math.

That means wins.

So thanks to John Harrell’s website, I crunched the numbers using the past 20 years which seemed like a decent data spread. I counted any boys basketball game played during the regular season at a team’s home gym (i.e., SIAC Tournament, holiday tournaments, shootouts) for teams in the SIAC, Pocket and Big Eight.

Here’s what the numbers revealed.

Southern Indiana Athletic Conference

It should come as no surprise that the eight-program (soon to be 10) conference around Evansville has the best top-to-bottom home marks. The SIAC has been the deepest conference during the past 20 years.

Every program has at least one sectional championship since the turn of the century. Bosse, Reitz and Mater Dei have each advanced to the state championship game in that time frame, too, with the Wildcats winning it all in 2004.

But none of those programs have the top home record. For that, you have to look to Warrick County.

Castle is the toughest place to win in the SIAC during the last 20 years. The Knights have won nearly 77% (143-44) of its home games, and were perfect in back-to-back years during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons.

They’ve had talent with five Indiana All-Stars during this time, a good coach in Brian Gibson and a large fan base, being the biggest school in the SIAC.

“Their student section is one of the biggest and most loyal around,” said Bosse coach Shane Burkhart, who is 2-6 at Castle. “They have had such great talent over the last 12 years that night in and night out you have your hands full. You know walking out if you got the win you earn it. You never feel good walking out with a loss. It’s a tough place to play.”

The other top home court advantages in the SIAC came as no surprise. Mater Dei has won at a 69.4% clip, followed by Harrison (68.37%) and Reitz (68.59%). Memorial came in fifth and Bosse sixth. The latter was a bit surprising, but there were some lean years prior to Jeff Hein and later Burkhart arriving.

Seven of the eight teams have a winning home record during 20 years.

Pocket Athletic Conference

Pop quiz: Who has the most trips to the state championship game from the Pocket since 2000?

It’s not Heritage Hills, who might have had a chance this year. Scratch off Southridge or Gibson Southern. Think of a small powerhouse in Dubois County.

Forest Park has been one of the top programs in Southwestern Indiana for quite some time. Four trips to the big game with back-to-back state titles in 2005 and ’06. Throw in 10 sectional titles and six regionals, too.

It should come as no surprise then that the Rangers have been the best in the PAC at home. In 20 seasons, Forest Park owns an impressive 80% win mark (156-38) with five perfect marks.

Basketball is king in Ferdinand. It wasn’t until 2008 when the school played a full football schedule. There have been several talented kids and coaches come through that gym. Forest Park fans sitting directly behind the opposing bench helps, too.

“Ferdinand is a basketball town,” said North Posey coach Heath Howington, who is 0-4 at Forest Park. “Their fans eat, sleep and breathe Ranger basketball. Not only do they have a rowdy student section, but their adult fans are into the game, as well. We always embrace the challenge to travel up there. They are well coached and have outstanding fan support.”

There is a considerable drop off after the Rangers. Heritage Hills has the second-best home winning percentage in the Pocket at 63.1% and two perfect years. Next is Southridge (61.9%), Gibson Southern (55.7%) and Tecumseh (55.6%).

Big Eight Conference

This one should have been obvious. But not even opposing fans could pinpoint it.

Several folks pondered on Twitter it must be Jasper, Vincennes Lincoln or Princeton. All quality guesses. To be fair, a couple got it right.

Who has been the king in Daviess County for years? Washington.

The Hatchet House is hands down one of the best gyms in Indiana. It seats nearly 7,000, and boasts an incredible atmosphere in the postseason. But that’s not what makes it a tough place to win. It’s Washington.

The Hatchets have won 76% of their home regular-season games (178-55) since 2000. Sure, it’s easy to win when you had a trio of Mr. Basketball winners (Luke, Tyler and Cody Zeller). But the team kept winning after the brothers grew up.

Washington has won eight sectional titles in this era, and four state championships between Dave Omer and Gene Miiller. There were three unbeaten marks at The Hatchet House.

“Washington being such a large open gym I’m sure it throws off certain shooters with the background being different,” said Southridge coach Mark Rohrer, who has won his last two at both The Hatchet House and Forest Park. “It seems their student section is right on top of the court with how close they are on the floor.

“I think the biggest advantage both (Forest Park and Washington) have is how talented of players those two programs have produced over the past 20 years.”

It wasn’t a slam dunk, though. Vincennes Lincoln is one of the top five toughest places to play in Southwestern Indiana with a 71% winning mark at home. Jasper was the third-toughest in the Big Eight (rest in peace) at 65%.

Bonus numbers

The final school I’ll give you doesn’t come from any of the three local conferences. But I was interested in them, and I knew somebody would bring them up.

Barr-Reeve could stake a claim to being the true home-court kings. The Vikings are 149-30 (83.24%) at Kavanaugh Kourt since 2000, with 10 perfect seasons. They’ve only lost one home game in seven years, and since the ’08-’09 season are 96-4 at home.

Barr-Reeve plays in the Blue Chip Conference, a nine-team league that includes Shoals, Northeast Dubois and Loogootee, among others.

 

Home-court winning percentages past 20 seasons


SIAC

Castle 143-44 (76.47%) best mark: unbeaten twice (16, 17)

Mater Dei 143-63 (69.42%) best mark: unbeaten twice (00, 01)

Harrison 134-62 (68.37%) best mark: unbeaten twice (02, 13)

Reitz 131-60 (68.59%) best mark: unbeaten three times (05, 07, 15)

Memorial 130-68 (65.66%) best mark: unbeaten three times (08, 18, 19)

Bosse 110-73 (60.11%) best mark: 10-0 in 19-20

Central 124-84 (59.62%) best mark: 10-1 in 03-04

North 92-111 (45.32%) best mark: 8-2 in 99-00

Pocket

Forest Park 156-38 (80.41%) best mark: unbeaten five times (00, 07, 11, 16, 18)

Heritage Hills 140-82 (63.06%) best mark: unbeaten twice (19, 20)

Southridge 138-85 (61.88%) best mark 10-0 in 12-13

Gibson Southern 132-105 (55.70%) best mark: 9-0 in 02-03

Tecumseh 114-91 (55.61%) best mark: 8-1 twice (04, 07)

South Spencer 117-102 (53.42%) best mark: 10-1 in 19-20

Tell City 113-124 (47.68%) best mark: 8-1 in 99-00

North Posey 88-110 (44.44%) best mark: 6-1 in 09-10

Pike Central 53-137 (27.89%) best mark: 7-1 in 15-16

Big Eight

Washington 178-55 (76.39%) best mark: unbeaten three times (05, 10, 11)

Vincennes Lincoln 166-67 (71.24%) best mark: 10-1 in 04-05

Jasper 134-72 (65.05%) best mark: 9-2 in 19-20

Princeton 122-119 (50.62%) best mark: 12-0 in 08-09

Boonville 88-111 (44.22%) best mark: 8-1 twice (01 and 10)

Mount Vernon 70-124 (36.08%) best mark: 7-2 in 12-13




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