Senior staff writer
Rejuvenated No. 11 Southport (16-6) collides with two-time reigning sectional champion and No. 10 Pike (16-7) in Tuesday’s opening round of the 4A Southport Sectional.
Pike, coached by former Perry Meridian and Center Grove coach Bill Zych, has had Southport’s number during the last two sectional championship duels, defeating the Cardinals 49-48 last year with a late-game rally at Perry Meridian and in overtime, 73-65, in 2014 at Ben Davis.
The Cardinals were picked No. 1 in the statewide coaches preseason poll but had difficulty putting things together as several football players began their transformation on the basketball court. The Cardinals dropped to 5-4 Jan. 8 when Franklin Central pounded them 75-55 in historic Southport Fieldhouse.
Since then, coach Kyle Simpson’s team is 11-2 and is on a nine-game winning streak that includes back-to-back wins against Terre Haute South and Evansville Reitz.
The rivals collide at 6 p.m. Tuesday, with Perry Meridian (8-13) facing Ben Davis (12-9) in the second game. The Southport-Pike winner meets Roncalli (13-7), and the Perry Meridian-Ben Davis winner goes against Decatur Central (8-12) March 4.
No. 15 Franklin Central (16-5) has won three consecutive sectional championships by overcoming the underdog role, but now goes into the Martinsville Sectional as the favorite. The Flashes drew a bye and wait for the Martinsville-Greenwood winner. The host Artesians could threaten the Flashes, provided Martinsville escapes defensive-minded Greenwood.
In 3A, Manual and Beech Grove are dark horses and easily could spring upsets in separate sectionals.
Sectional host Beech Grove (12-8) will meet Ritter (11-9) or Park Tudor (15-4) in a rematch of Indiana Crossroads teams.
Manual (14-7) is having its best season in decades and is in the same bracket as favored Crispus Attucks (16-5) and host New Palestine (5-16).
All sectional championship games are March 5.