By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
The Indians once again find themselves in a very familiar situation.
They will head into this week’s 44th District Tournament as the clear favorite to capture yet another title.
And they are set to face a team in the semifinals that would seemingly pose little threat of pulling an upset.
But, just as he does every year, Madison Central coach Allen Feldhaus is quick to remind his team of the importance of the opening game of the postseason.
“We always tell our kids that there are probably more upsets in the first round of the district tournament than in any other round throughout tournament play,” Feldhaus said. “We have to be ready to play.”
For the sixth-straight year, Central (23-5) is set to take on Berea Community (8-21) in the semifinals of the 44th District Tournament at McBrayer Arena.
Game time is set for 8:30 p.m.
The winner advances to Friday’s championship game to take on either Madison Southern (16-10) or Model (23-6), which play Thursday in the other semifinal.
The girls 44th District also begins today at McBrayer Arena with Madison Central (24-4) taking on Berea Community (19-10).
Madison Southern (11-18) and Model (5-22) will meet Thursday in the other girls semifinal, with winner advancing to Friday’s championship game.
Indians vs. Pirates
Madison Central has won 17 straight 44th District Tournament titles and heading into the postseason are the one of the favorites to win an 11th Region championship.
Led by eight seniors, including Mr. Basketball candidate Dominique Hawkins, the Indians have had a tremendous season. Central has the best record in the 11th Region and is ranked in the Top 5 in most state-wide polls.
The Indians wrapped up the regular season with three impressive wins, rolling past South Laurel (77-52), Woodford County (68-40) and Covington Catholic (78-58).
“We are really more concerned about ourselves right now,” Feldhaus said. “Just our frame of mind and being sharp in practice.”
Hawkins has set the pace for an offense that averages almost 74 points a game. The senior point guard averages 20 points a game, while senior guard Ken-Jah Bosley is averaging almost 19 points a game.
Senior forward Quan Taylor is also averaging 11 points and seven rebounds a game.
Berea Community graduated basically its entire starting lineup last year and has struggled at times this season.
Under first-year coach Cameron Jackson, the Pirates are 0-6 against 11th Region opponents, 0-3 against district opponents and have lost 10 of their past 12 games heading into the postseason.
“They had a lot of seniors last year,” Feldhaus said of Berea. “They are not quite as experienced as they have been when we’ve played them in the past. But, we’ve still got to come ready to go.”
Senior center Daniel Hubbard leads Berea in scoring (10.1 points a game) this year and is second on the team in rebounding (6.1 a game). Sophomore point guard Andy Allen is averaging 9.5 points a game and team-leading 6.6 rebounds a game.
Trey Terrill averages 8.9 points a game, Eli Woodie is averaging 7.1 points a game, while Nolan Sweet adds 6.7 points a game.
Two years ago, the Pirates were able to give Central a battle in the district semifinals. Berea trailed by just two points at halftime and lost by nine points (57-48).
Still, the Indians have dominated Berea in recent years in the district, out-scoring the Pirates by an average margin of almost 30 points in the past five meetings. (69.6 to 40.6).
In last year’s district tournament, Central rolled to a 79-30 win over Berea.
Lady Indians vs. Lady Pirates
Madison Central has won five-straight 44th District Tournament titles and will once again be considered the clear favorite again this season.
Led by the senior duo of Larryn Brooks and Ashton Feldhaus, the Lady Indians have the best record in the 11th Region and are ranked in the Top 10 in most major state-wide polls.
Still, Central isn’t looking past its opening-round opponent.
“It’s a district game,” Central coach Robbie Cooksey said. “You don’t take anything for granted. We will prepare for them just everyone else. Our approach doesn’t change.”
Central and Berea have met in the district semifinals in each of the past five years and most of the games were very lopsided. The Lady Indians have won each game by at least 29 points and have out-scored Berea Community 355-168.
Last season, Central beat the Lady Pirates, 81-38, in the district semifinals.
The Lady Indians have once by led by their Division I signees Brooks and Feldhaus this season.
Brooks (Indiana University) is averaging 18 points a game, while Feldhaus (Butler University) is averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds a game.
Berea heads into the postseason with some momentum. The Pirates have won six of their past seven games, including a five-game winning streak.
Berea has just one senior — Hannah Haycraft. The senior missed several games with a knee injury, but recently returned to the lineup.
Eighth-grade point guard Jordan Sandefur and junior guard Chase Fain lead an offense that has helped the Lady Pirates win the third-most games in the 11th Region.