Hamilton Southeastern's 52-49 victory over Class 4A No. 1 Carmel on Thursday may have been a win-win for both teams.
For HSE, the benefits are obvious: a comeback win in the final minutes on Carmel's home court is a confidence boost going into the sectional (also at Carmel) for a team with a star player in Zak Irvin but a lot of question marks coming into the season.
For Carmel, the loss may offer a chance to hit the reset button at the end of an 11-game winning streak. Carmel coach Scott Heady wasn't exactly pleased with his team's execution in coughing up a late three-point lead, but I got the sense he was already moving on to Tuesday's game against Warren Central. A win will give the Greyhounds the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference title outright.
"In the big scheme of things, we have more important games down the road," Heady said.
Recent history shows a late loss isn't detrimental to a tournament run.
It should be noted that Carmel lost to both HSE and Warren Central last February before running the table and earning the program its first state title since 1977.
Four of the previous five Class 4A champions also lost a regular season game Jan. 28 or later, the lone exception the 26-0 Bloomington South team in 2008-09. The 2007-08 Brownsburg team was on a two-game losing streak going into the tournament.
In other words, don't write off Carmel because of Thursday's loss. Not that anyone was about to.
"Every game is a learning experience," Heady said. "Six of our last nine games were against ranked teams so we've been tested. You learn from this and you move on."
Mt. Vernon rides defense
Chew on this stat: In 17 games this season, the Mt. Vernon boys basketball team has allowed 50 points only once. That was in a 70-50 win over Shelbyville in December.
Class 3A No. 1 Marauders -- broadcast as such by the public address announcer before Saturday afternoon's 51-46 home win over Lawrence Central -- get it done with a physical defense that makes opponents pay even on made baskets, and an efficient, smart offense.
You might call it a throwback team. All the way back to three years ago, when seventh-year coach Steve Lynch's team won the Hall of Fame Classic, went 22-3 and won the school's first sectional in 11 years.
"I came to all the games that year," said junior guard C.J. Coleman, Mt. Vernon's leading scorer. "They were long and athletic. We're a lot like that team. Hopefully we can go farther than their team did."
One step at a time, as Coleman pointed out. The Marauders will have to navigate a tough sectional that also includes defending 3A state champion Guerin Catholic and Brebeuf Jesuit.
The program's last regional title came in 1991. But that talk can wait for a bit. The Marauders can clinch a share of the Hoosier Heritage Conference with a win at New Palestine on Friday night.
"(A state title) is always in the back of your mind, but we have things we have to get done first," Coleman said.
The tournament success factor installed by the Indiana High School Athletic Association will likely have a bigger impact in football than any other sport. However, with girls basketball regionals this week, there are some area teams eligible to bump up a class next year.
Under the new IHSAA system, if a team accumulates six points over a two-year period, it moves up a class for the next two-year cycle. A state title is worth four points, a semistate worth three and a regional worth two.
Mt. Vernon won a semi-state in 3A last year, so it would move up to 4A next year if it wins a semistate again. The sixth-ranked Marauders (19-4) play No. 1 Lebanon (21-3) in the regional semifinals at Danville on Saturday.
Triton Central won a regional in 2A last year and would bump to 3A if it wins a state title. It's the same scenario for Southwestern of Shelbyville in Class A.