Featuring some of the state’s premier basketball teams and Division 1 recruits, the third annual Forum Credit Union Tipoff Classic gets underway at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Southport Fieldhouse.
Six of the 12 squads are ranked in the top 16 of the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association Poll, with New Albany holding on to the No. 1 spot; Southport fell from No. 1 to No. 7 after losing to Merrillville 53-52 Nov. 28 but jumped to No. 5 in the latest poll after defeating Ben Davis 58-52 Saturday.
The Cardinals, ranked No. 1 much of last year and earlier this season, are led by Butler recruit/Mr. Basketball candidate Joey Brunk and junior Paul Scruggs, who scored 22 and 20 points, respectively, against the Giants.
The opening game pits No. 7 Park Tudor against Tri-West. The Panthers, led by juniors Jaren Jackson Jr. and Kobe Webster, are coming off back-to-back Class 2A titles and moved up to 3A this season. They trounced Roncalli 69-47 Dec. 4 behind Jackson’s 24 points. Tri-West was 21-5 last year and played in a regional championship game against eventual state champion Guerin Catholic.
Warren Central and Indiana University recruit Grant Gelon will battle Crown Point at 1:15 p.m. Criss Beyers, the Warriors’ new coach, will have his hands full as the Bulldogs went 19-9 last year before losing a Class 4A regional final.
Brebeuf Jesuit and Fort Wayne Snider will tip at 3 p.m. Snider features one of the country’s top players in the Class of 2017 Malik Williams, who has offers from Indiana and Purdue. Brebeuf is looking to build off last year’s 12-11 season under second-year coach Todd Howard.
Five-time defending sectional champion Pike, No. 9 after losing to Ben Davis 77-66 Dec. 4, will face New Albany at 5 p.m. The Red Devils are led by guards Justin Thomas and Justin Roberts. The Bulldogs, 23-3 last season, have one of the top sophomores in the country in Romeo Langford, who has offers from Indiana and UCLA.
The fifth game will feature Lawrence Central battling Cathedral at 6:45 p.m. Both teams enjoyed lopsided victories Dec. 4. The Bears, No. 4 in Sunday’s poll, defeated then-No. 2 Carmel 75-51 behind the 27 points of Mr. Basketball candidate/Virginia recruit Kyle Guy. The then-No. 9 Irish rolled past 2A No. 1 Howe 88-72 as Eron Gordon, another Mr. Basketball candidate, also scored 27 points.
The 8:30 p.m. nightcap will showcase Southport and East St. Louis (Ill.). East St. Louis has one of the country’s top juniors in Jeremiah Tilmon.
Ray Moistner, a 1981 graduate of Southport, said the classic is a great way to kick off the high school basketball season. “It’s six games in one day. No question about it, we are expecting the largest crowd yet. The fans love it, and it’s a one-stop shopping for recruiters. Teams look forward to being selected for the classic.”
Moistner, who volunteers to help coordinate the event, said he got involved because he was certain that the classic would wake up the echoes of Southport Fieldhouse. “There is a lot of history here. This place used to be packed on Fridays and Saturdays, and we expect it will be Saturday.”
Tickets are $10 at participating schools and at the door. Proceeds will benefit youth basketball programs.