By BRYAN GASKINS
The Big House on the corner of Apperson Way and Superior Street is ready for a throwback party.
The second annual Coca-Cola Old School Sectional boys basketball tournament kicks off tonight at Memorial Gym. It brings together the old Kokomo Sectional’s six primary participants — Eastern, Kokomo, Maconaquah, Northwestern, Taylor and Western.
“I enjoy the tournament. It’s nice to bring back those schools that used to be in the Kokomo Sectional,” said Western coach Bart Miller, who was a starting guard on Western’s 1990 Kokomo Sectional championship team. “The timing of it this year is difficult for us being during finals week, but I’m sure all the schools are having that. Other than that, it’s a nice tournament to be a part of.”
Class 4A No. 8-ranked Kokomo (6-0) is the defending champion and the team to beat, but Western (5-2) and Northwestern (5-1) enter the tournament with momentum and Maconaquah (3-2) has a winning record, too.
“It’s a big week, a challenging week,” Kokomo coach Brian McCauley said. “There are six teams playing for a championship. It will be a good preparation for [an IHSAA] sectional-type week.”
Tonight, Eastern (2-4) and Taylor (0-6) meet in the 6 p.m. opener with Kokomo vs. Maconaquah to follow. Western and Northwestern are in the bye game and will join the fray Friday. Western beat Northwestern 64-62 in a Mid-Indiana Conference game on Nov. 30.
“In terms of competition, I think the matchups [tonight] are really good. Our matchup with Northwestern is another really good one,” Miller said. “Once teams start advancing forward, it’s anybody’s game.”
The following are looks at tonight’s games.
Eastern vs. Taylor
Eastern suffered a lopsided loss in its season opener, but has gone 2-3 since with its three losses during that stretch coming by a combined 10 points. Last weekend, the Comets dropped a 43-38 decision to Peru, then bounced back to thrash Clinton Central 92-63.
“It’s hard to tell what to expect [tonight] because we played Peru so disciplined and didn’t get the win, and then we took care of Clinton Central and I felt like we were sloppy,” Eastern coach Kyle Bedwell said. “I think part of it is we’re kind of playing to our competition’s level right now. Taylor is 0-6, but they’re a very good 0-6 team and it’s going to be a tough matchup for us. We talked to our kids [ Monday] about how important this game is going to be.”
The Titans are looking for a breakout game.
“We want to be in a situation where we’re there at the end with a chance to win,” Taylor coach Andy Lewman said. “We want to play 32 minutes of basketball. I think that is what we have been missing so far. We’ve put together some decent stretches of play. We’re looking for that four-quarter performance where we’re putting things together on both ends of the floor.”
The squads split a pair of games last season. The Titans took a 68-63 win in overtime in Mid-Indiana Conference play, and the Comets took a 78-70 win in OT in Class 2A Sectional 39 play.
“I think [tonight] will be a lot like last year. I think it will be a close game,” Bedwell said. “I know they’re going to scratch and claw until the end and we have to match that intensity.”
Eastern is led by 6-foot-4 forward Josiah Marx, who is averaging 16.3 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. The Comets’ other top scorers are 5-9 guard Braden Gibson (12 ppg), 6-4 forward Grant Cole (9.8) and 5-8 guard K.J. Myers (9.5).
Taylor is led by 5-10 guard Challen Hodson (11.8 ppg) and 6-4 forward Nick Hoover (9.7).
Lewman said his squad remains upbeat following its 0-6 start.
“We’re trying to take it one day at a time,” he said. “I don’t think any of us envisioned this being the case. However, this is what we’re confronted with. We just have to take it one day at a time and build on the fundamentals.”
Kokomo vs. Maconaquah
The Class 4A No. 8 Kats feature a strong defense which is holding opponents to 44.7 points per game and 39.7 percent shooting from the field, and forcing an average of 16.8 turnovers per game.
McCauley is looking for another determined defensive effort tonight against the Braves, who feature 6-10 center Micah Pier.
“Maconaquah has size, athleticism and scoring so we’re really going to have to come with a lot of energy. They have been playing well,” he said.
Pier is scoring 21.2 ppg. He is shooting 62.7 percent from the field and 97 percent from the free throw line.
The Braves’ other top scoring options are 6-3 wing K.J. Walton (12.2 ppg) and 6-3 guard Tyler Bradley (9.2). Walton leads the squad in rebounding with 7.4 per game.
Kokomo is led by the 1-2 punch of 6-2 guard Tayler Persons and 6-2 swingman LaBradford Sebree. Persons averages 17.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 5 assists and 3.8 steals per game. Sebree averages 16 ppg and 4.8 rpg. Also for the Kats, 6-6 forward Erik Bowen offers 10 ppg and 7.7 rpg.