FORT WAYNE – Welcome to the world of Class A girls basketball where teams with sub-.500 records, sometimes well under the mark, are winning sectional titles.
Not only that, but it is a Class A without Canterbury, as the five-time 1A state champion moved up to 2A this year because the Cavs were winning too much and their school is growing.
Around these parts, Southern Wells (10-10) and Hamilton (5-14) won sectional titles. Now, the Marines face No. 5 West Central (17-2) in the first round of the Caston Regional on Saturday, while Southern Wells has No. 7 Lafayette Central Catholic (17-5) in the first game at Tri-Central.
For the Marines, they won their first-ever sectional championship in a field dominated the last decade-plus by the Cavaliers, who had won the sectional the last 13 years. Hamilton won only two games during the regular season but won three in the sectional. At one point, the Marines lost 11 straight games. In the Hamilton Sectional, there wasn’t a team that had a record over .500.
The Raiders, who finished fourth in the ACAC at 2-5, are no strangers to this kind of postseason success. They have won eight sectional titles in a row. For Southern Wells, it boils down to strength of schedule.
The teams that we play in the sectional, strength of schedule is a big deal, playing the competition we play during the course of the year, Southern Wells coach John Fouts said. It gets us prepared for tournament play. We have been exposed to some things those other teams haven’t. Over the years that’s been a big part of our success.
I put some stock in the Sagarin Ratings and just see if we are making progress there. If we are doing things better week to week regardless of the competition we are playing on our schedule, it’s possible to be getting a lot better, and not for it to show up.
The Raiders were tops in the Southern Wells Sectional with strength of schedule of 59.06 but entered the postseason 8-10 and had lost four of five.
We go long stretches where we play some pretty good teams, and the scores may not reflect it but you just have to keep encouraging the girls when you see progress and tell them sometimes that will may off, Fouts said.
Fouts knows a little something about the frustration of playing a program like Canterbury in the postseason, losing in the semistate to the Cavaliers in 2008 and 2009.
That team that has been a monster for so long, that hurdle is not there, Fouts said of Canterbury’s absence from 1A. It gives some other teams a chance. Unfortunately, it may have come a few years too late.