Senior staff writer
On the day before last week’s Battle of Perry Township boys basketball game, Perry Meridian acknowledged that the Falcons would leave Conference Indiana and become members of the Mid-State Conference beginning with the 2018-19 school year.
The Mid-State league becomes eight members with Perry Meridian, Decatur Central, Franklin, Greenwood, Martinsville, Mooresville, Plainfield and Whiteland.
“This presents new opportunities for our athletes and teams,” Perry Meridian athletic director Doug Schornick said in an exclusive interview with The Southsider Voice. “We’ll be working with each conference for a smooth transition.”
PM’s departure leaves Southport, Franklin Central, Bloomington North and South, Terre Haute North and South and Columbus North in Conference Indiana.
This is the second shakeup in Conference Indiana since 2013, when Lawrence Central and Pike bolted to join the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference with former MIC members Terre Haute South and North joining Conference Indiana.
“We leave the conference knowing that we had great success and that our teams were competitive,” Schornick said. “We had many great battles with teams in the conference.”
Schornick and Southport athletic director Pete Hubert said that the Falcons’ departure would not diminish the township rivalry.
Perry Meridian expects to open its on-campus football stadium Aug. 18, with the Cardinals no longer sharing Perry Stadium, which already has been renamed Cardinal Stadium.
The Feb. 2 contest between the boys basketball teams at Southport Fieldhouse proved to be one of the Southside’s most competitive games this season even with the squads’ combined records of 8-21.
The Falcons were in control most of the game and never let Southport get closer than five points (54-49) in the second half to win 78-68.
Falcons senior TJ Comer sparked the Falcons with 19 first-half points and a 41-36 halftime lead; sophomore Semaj Danley II scored 10 of his 16 game points in the second half.
“This is huge; the first time in my four years that we beat them,” said Comer, who scored a game-high 24 points. “I just wanted to give my team a boost so we could win. My guys battled and played hard all the way.”
The Comer-Danley duo came through mostly when the Cardinals tried to close. They each scored after the Cardinals cut the lead to 37-34 in the second quarter. In the second half Danley went back door to increase the lead to 58-50 and later provided the Falcons with their biggest lead, 66-53.
The Falcons stood 6-10 after the win but had lost six games by a total of 16 points.
“You could easily flip-flop our record,” Perry Meridian coach Brent Keck said. “The kids have played hard all season. This (game) was the best the kids have shot – we put the ball in the basket. I’m really happy for the kids; I hope this is a shot in the arm for us.”
Southport cut the lead to 72-66 with two minutes left in the game but PM senior Nate Mills hit two free throws.
Southport coach Kyle Simpson said, “This was a good township rival game tonight. Their senior guys played like senior guys and that was the difference in the game.”
The Cardinals reached the semistate last year and have not recovered from graduation losses that included 6-10 Indiana All-Star Joey Brunk.
Southport’s youth movement is underway.
“Like I said at the start of the season, next year becomes this year,” Simpson said. ‘For us it’s a matter of learning now so that way we don’t have to learn next year. They’re getting the experience now.”
Freshman guard Ryan Lezon scored 12 points and 6-7 sophomore Chaz Hinds scored 10 points.
“The first half of the season was tough mentally, but they’re learning,” Simpson observed. “When they saw they could compete they gained some confidence. They’re a fun group to coach … we’ll be fine.”