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March 8, 2013

Arabians blazing own path

Third straight regional trip is unique for PH

PENDLETON, Ind. — It has taken at least one extra period to eliminate the Pendleton Heights boys basketball team in each of the past two postseasons.

In 2011, the Arabians lost as an underdog, 58-55, in double overtime against Kokomo in the Class 4A regional final at Marion. Last year, a team ranked No. 2 in the state was upset 46-43 in overtime against Terre Haute North in the opening round of the regional at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Senior guard Brogan Gary is the only member of the current team who started in both of those contests. But he’s reluctant to draw comparisons to this year’s version that opens regional play today at 10 a.m. against No. 7 Cathedral (22-5) in Southport.

“It’s weird, kind of, to think about it,” Gary said earlier this week. “Especially with that team and this team, totally different teams. It’s just weird. I don’t know how to put it into words really.”

The current Arabians (15-9) probably share more in common with the team from two years ago than last year’s juggernaut. But Gary is right in saying each team is unique.

The 2011 squad sneaked into the regional with four-point victories against Connersville in the sectional semifinals and Richmond in the title game. Pendleton Heights roars in this year off a 12-point semifinal dismantling of Richmond and a 14-point domination of New Castle in the final.

The Arabians also have a 63-57 victory against then-No. 9 North Central in the regular-season finale. So there’s not likely to be a great deal of intimidation when they step onto the court today against a Fighting Irish team that is ranked as the state’s second-best team by Jeff Sagarin’s computer formulas.

“When you get to this point, when you get to regional and particularly in (Class) 4A, everybody’s good,” Pendleton Heights coach Brian Hahn said. “You’re talking about teams that are all good, good, well-coached basketball teams. To get to this point in 4A, you can’t get here if you’re not playing at an exceptionally high level.”

Revenge isn’t likely to be a factor either. Players like Gary and fellow seniors Kurt Talbert and Peyton McCardwell welcome another chance to bring home a regional crown, but last year’s disappointment at Hinkle will remain buried in the past.

“To me it’s a completely different team,” Hahn said. “We’re playing a completely different team. This is about this year’s group of kids and what they’re trying to accomplish together.”

It’s also a completely different gym.

Butler is hosting Xavier in its regular-season finale today, making its historic fieldhouse off limits. Instead, the regional shifts to a recently remodeled facility in Southport.

Hahn is fine with the switch, noting the floor at Hinkle had to be adjusted to fit the high school game’s shorter length. No such handiwork is needed at Southport.

“It’s another new experience for everybody,” Hahn said. “Southport is a beautiful gym. I think people are really going to be impressed by the facility. It’s an historical facility. It’s had a remodeling on the court. So the court’s beautiful.”

The regional field, as usual, is pretty impressive in its own right.

Defending state runner-up and fifth-ranked Pike (22-3) battles Martinsville (13-9) on the other side of the bracket. The afternoon session’s winners will meet in the championship game at 8 p.m. with a spot in the Final Four on the line.

“We know we can compete,” Hahn said. “We just know that we have to have a game plan in place and that we have to stick to the plan and give ourselves a chance to win in the end.”

 

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