Disappointment. That is the only way to describe the events on March 13-14 related to college and high school basketball. The cancellation of remaining NCAA men’s basketball conference tourneys and the national tourneys at all three levels was a shocker, but necessary. Earlier in the week, we saw the impact of COVID-19 on the National Basketball Association and other sports worldwide.
As ESPN’s Jay Bilas said, “It’s time we become responsible world citizens.” King basketball in Indiana took a back seat to the fight against COVID-19. With no more college championships, it left most Southside seniors winning their very last game.
Ex-Greenwood star Holly Hoopingarner ended her four-year college career by leading the IUPUI Jaguars to the program’s first Horizon Conference tourney championship and first berth in the women’s national tourney. She was the Jags only senior. She bowed out with 16 points and four assists as the Jags defeated Green, 51-37, on March 10 and being named the tourney’s most valuable player. ‘It’s been a journey; this team has grown so much,” Hoopingarner said in the post-game press conference. “This is an unreal experience. Having the students and our families around us makes this (championship) special.”
Hoopingarner, a 5-4 guard, bowed out by averaging 9.8 points per game and a team high 116 assists.
At nearby Marian University, women’s coach and Beech Grove native Katie Gearlds guided the Knights to a 93-75 Crossroads League tourney championship March 2. The Knights won their NAIA national tourney opener in Sioux City, Iowa against Voorhees College, 77-55, on March 11.
Former Beech Grove standout Katie Giller scored eight points and grabbed four rebounds against Vorhees, and former Franklin Central player Rachel Titzer had four rebounds, two points and one assist. Giller, a sophomore, will play again. Titzer, one of three seniors, and coach Gearlds learned two days later that it was their last game of the season. Two days later the tourney was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. Gearlds paid tribute to the seniors on Twitter:
“My heart is in a million pieces for you and our team. I wish it would have ended differently for you. The three of you mean the world to me. Your records, wins, and championships speak for themselves – but the fact that you’re leaving our program better than it was before says it all.” T
he MU men’s basketball season was cut short, too. The Knights defeated Keiser University, 71-60, as senior Christian Stewart, a former Roncalli standout, scored eight points in his last college game. Former Roncalli star Jimmy King wrapped up his college career for the University of Indianapolis in the semifinals of the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) tournament.
King scored 17 points and had six assists and six rebounds in the Greyhounds loss to Truman, 88-77, March 7. The Greyhounds finished 24-6 and were the top seed in the regional tourney at UIndy’s Nicoson Hall. However the tourney was among all tourneys canceled by the NCAA.
King winds up second in program history with 542 assists, five short of the record. The 6-4 guard averaged 13.3 points per game and 3.8 rebounds per game in his final season as a Hound. His average of 6.7 assists per game led the GLVC.
At Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indiana University’s men’s team won, what turned out to be, their last game against out-manned Nebraska, 89-64, as 6-11 Joey Brunk scored eight points and freshman Trace Jackson-Davis, the 2020 Indiana Mr. Basketball from Center Grove, grabbed 17 rebounds and scored 11 points.
Brunk, who previously played at Butler University, is a redshirt junior at I.U., where he has another year of eligibility. Brunk is a former Southport High School star.
In high school competition, three Southside teams were among the 64 IHSAA boys’ sectional champions before the tournament was suspended by the IHSAA. Greenwood (4A), Beech Grove (3A) and Greenwood Christian Academy (1A) were primed for regional tourney trips when the IHSAA suspended the tournament on March 13.
The IHSAA had informed athletic directors that the games would be played in front of only 75 spectators from each school, along with teams, coaches and immediate families. However, more stringent recommendations from health authorities forced postponement.