One of Indiana's powerhouse boys basketball programs is scheduled for an early exit from the state's Class 4A tournament.
Michigan State-bound senior Gary Harris
will lead Hamilton Southeastern (Fishers)
against North Central (Indianapolis)
on Tuesday in the opening round of Class 4A Section 8 play in Noblesville, the first postseason contest for each program – and the last for the loser.
Hamilton Southeastern (20-2) is ranked No. 1 in MaxPreps.com's Indiana Freeman Rankings
while North Central (19-5) is No. 3. Jeff Sagarin's Indiana High School Boys Basketball Ratings
have the teams slotted in the same position.
"It's two really good teams with some really good players," Hamilton Southeastern head coach Brian Satterfield said. "There's a lot of excitement around the game and I think it's going to depend largely on who can come out and weather the storm. And I think the benches could be really important."
The early matchup is the result of a blind draw conducted (as opposed to seeding teams based on regular season success) prior to the sectional phase of Indiana's postseason. That's just the way it is in Indiana, according to Satterfield.
"I think it's part of the tradition a little bit, but there has been some discussion about doing something in the way of seeding," Satterfield said. "The football coaches (in Indiana) are talking about that, but that's the way it's always been."
"The blind draw has created more controversy of late," Indiana high school basketball expert John Harrell said. "In fact, football coaches are requesting sectionals be seeded, and that might happen as early as next season."
The schools have already met twice this season. North Central notched an 81-76 victory Dec. 17 at home. Hamilton Southeastern turned the tables two weeks later in the final of the City Securities Hall of Fame Classic as junior Michigan pledge Zak Irvin
went for 26 points in an 89-80 victory.
Hamilton Southeastern and North Central have been two of the top programs in the greater Indianapolis area over the past few seasons.
"Certainly, a tough draw diminishes a good team's chances of winning the tournament, and that doesn't seem fair," Harrell said. "But with a seeded draw, an average team has almost no chance, because it would have to beat better teams all the way through; why should only the good teams get the breaks?"
Harris has helped Hamilton Southeastern go 57-10 over the past three years and will be looking to cap his career with the school's first state title. The Royals are ranked No. 20 nationally in this week's Xcellent 25.
North Central – the alma mater of New Orleans Hornets guard Eric Gordon – is 89-13 over the past four seasons with a state title in 2010.* John Harrell is the operator of johnharrell.net, which documents past and present Indiana high school basketball (boys and girls) and football seasons.