The girls high school basketball sectionals begin around the Indianapolis-area tonight. Here are five things to watch during the postseason:
1. Will Hamilton Southeastern win its first sectional since 2006-07?
The unbeaten Royals were upset by eventual Class 4A state champion North Central last season. The Class 4A No. 7 Royals (18-3) drew the bye and will play the winner of tonight's Zionsville-Noblesville game in the Westfield sectional Friday night. Class 4A No. 10 Westfield (18-2) and North Central (12-7) will meet in a first-round game Wednesday.
"Since Christmas we've been able to play better than we did early on and hopefully we're able to take that into the tournament," Royals coach Chris Huppenthal said. "There is a sense of urgency. I thought we were very tight going into the sectional last season. Our girls have to treat it like any other game. The same as last year, the coaching staff is going to try to prepare like it's any other game. We just need to relax and play the game and see what happens."
Senior forward Taya Reimer, the school's all-time leading scorer and a Notre Dame recruit, leads the Royals with a 21.2 average.
2. The Franklin sectional figures to be one of the toughest in the state.
Franklin Central coach Brian Hacker is quick to point out the sectional includes three teams in the top 20: No. 4 Franklin Central (16-4), No. 7 Center Grove (15-5) and No. 20 Greenwood (16-4). One will make an exit tonight as Franklin Central opens against Center Grove in a rematch of last season's sectional opener, which the Trojans won 40-38.
"This year we hope to avenge that and hopefully we've grown from it," Hacker said. "But it definitely will be a very good game."
Franklin Central won the regular-season game 68-57 in the Flashes' holiday tournament on Dec. 27. The winner would potentially face Greenwood in the championship game Saturday.
3. Can Speedway end its long dry spell?
The Sparkplugs are seeking their first girls sectional title since 1984-85, when it was a one-class system. The Sparkplugs (12-9) and Cascade (13-7) are the only teams with winning records in a 2A sectional at Speedway, though Covenant Christian and Monrovia should be competitive as well. The Cadets, who last won a sectional in 2006-07, beat the visiting Sparkplugs 49-41 on Jan. 26.
4. Can Mt. Vernon make another run to the 3A state championship game?
First, the Marauders have to survive a strong sectional, which includes a possible matchup against Guerin Catholic (15-7) in semifinals and host Bishop Chatard (15-7) in the final. The status of Erica Moore is in question after she suffered a knee injury on Dec. 29 and later had surgery. With her -- Moore is averaging 18.9 points and 7.7 rebounds -- the Marauders are a serious threat for a deep tournament run.
5. Will Brownsburg finally overtake Ben Davis (and Pike)?
The Giants have won seven consecutive 4A sectional titles, but are just 11-10 this season. Brownsburg hasn't won a sectional since 2001-02. If Brownsburg (17-3 and 11th in the Sagarin Ratings) and Ben Davis win their first-round games, the teams would meet in Friday's semifinals at Brownsburg. One of the Bulldogs' three losses was a 47-43 decision at Ben Davis on Nov. 10. The Giants play Decatur Central (7-13) on Wednesday's first game while the Bulldogs play Southport (9-10) in second game.
Ben Davis eliminated Brownsburg 49-33 in last season's sectional opener after the Bulldogs had won the regular-season meeting. The Giants also beat the Bulldogs in the 2011 sectional final. Pike, 15th in the Sagarin Ratings, would likely be waiting in the title game. Brownsburg is led by senior Stephanie Mavunga, a North Carolina-bound post player who is averaging 23.2 points.