By GREG KEIM
THE GOSHEN NEWS
The NorthWood Panthers are defending champion in this 3A high school boys basketball field as the site shifts to Wawasee.
NorthWood and the Tippecanoe Valley Vikings are favorites.
Tuesday is opening night as the Panthers (14-6) and West Noble Chargers (15-5) clash at 6 p.m. followed by the host Warriors (5-15) and Tippecanoe Valley (17-3) around 7:30. Semifinals are on Friday with the Fairfield Falcons (11-11) facing the NorthWood-West Noble at 6 while the Lakeland Lakers (6-15) meet the Wawasee-Valley winner around 7:30.
The championship is scheduled for Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
The winner moves on to the Blackford regional on Saturday, March 9. The Wawasee champion squares off with the winner from Norwell in the second game around noon. The first game at 10 a.m. matches the winners from Garrett and Muncie. The championship tips off at 7:30 p.m.
NorthWood topped West Noble 58-45 in the sectional finale a year ago.
The Panthers defeated Fort Wayne Dwenger 51-48 in a regional semifinal before losing to Norwell 62-51.
West Noble was a 63-60 winner over NorthWood on Jan. 29 at Ligonier. One thing has changed for the Chargers since then as leading scorer 6-3 junior Drew Schermerhorn is out of action due to a season-ending ankle injury. He netted 14 points for West Noble in the regular season game with NorthWood.
In addition, three other Chargers have been suspended for disciplinary reasons and won’t be in uniform Tuesday.
The Panthers are paced by a pair of 6-5 juniors — Jonathan Wilkinson and Zach Zurcher. Others are 5-11 senior Spencer Culp, 5-10 senior Nick Graber, 6-2 senior Tommy Klem, 5-9 junior Tanner Farmwald, 5-7 junior Kyle McCoy, 6-5 junior Will Stueve and 5-10 freshman Braxton Linville.
Other West Noble leaders are 6-0 senior Johnny Miller, 6-2 senor Armando Rosales, 5-7 senior Nick Thomas and 6-6 junior Phil Miller.
Tippecanoe Valley was a 78-48 winner over Wawasee in a regular-season finale on Friday night.
The Warriors are led by 5-11 senior Jake Hutchinson, 6-5 junior Chase Myers, 6-2 sophomore Stori Bright, 6-1 sophomore Alex Clark, 5-9 sophomore Gage Reinhard, 5-9 sophomore Aaron Voirol and 6-0 freshman Jeffrey Moore.
Top players for the Vikings are 5-11 senior Nick Kindig, 5-10 senior Jacob Ritchey, 6-3 junior Tanner Andrews, 6-4 junior Logan Britton, 6-1 junior Ben Shriver, 5-11 sophomore Alex Thacker and 6-5 sophomore Chainey Zolman.
Fairfield dropped a 65-37 decision to NorthWood on Dec. 8 at Fairfield and a 68-57 decision at West Noble on Jan. 25.
Top players for the Falcons are 6-5 senior Brad Lantz, 6-3 senior Alex Miller, 6-2 senior Garrett Scott, 6-2 junior Marcus Rodes, 5-8 junior John Stack, 6-2 sophomore Joe Line, 5-7 sophomore Josh Stephens, 5-8 freshman Mitch DeWitt and 6-1 freshman Brock Geoglein.
The Lakers dropped a 63-55 decision to Wawasee at LaGrange on Jan. 26. Lakeland and the Vikings did not play during the regular season.
Lakeland is paced by 5-11 senior Mitch Herber, 6-1 senior Spencer Mortola, 6-1 junior Brant Betts and 6-3 junior Chandler Mynhier.