There is no lottery to get a sectional ticket any more. The sectionals are grouped by school size making drive time to the sectional sites often longer.
But the Indiana High School Athletic Association boys high school basketball tournament is still the crown jewel of the prep sports calender each year. This year’s version opens tonight.
The naysayers might long for the good old days with packed gyms and all of the teams competing in a central location within easy driving distance for teams and fans. Yet those were also the days where some middle-age fans of large teams couldn’t remember the last time their team didn’t win a sectional. Those days had some teams scoring three or four times as many points as their smaller foes.
These are the days when teams have greater chances at a level playing field as schools with similar enrollment numbers oppose each other.
The competition on the court is as good as ever and some argue it is better. Teams are more likely to be competitive against one another and the players are as skilled and sometimes better conditioned than their counterparts from 30 or 40 years ago.
The quarters are still eight minutes, the goals are still 10 feet high and the free throw line is still 15 feet away from the rim. Even the 3-point shot has gotten so ingrained into the game as to not feel new any more.
What is also the same is the opportunity for an entire community to rally together for a common cause — to root for the local high school team. It is a game where, for the most part, people will talk for days about the contest, more likely focusing on the game-winning shot or the spectacular performance instead of the missed layup or free throw at a critical juncture.