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Gorches: Conference tourneys draw big buzz

Boone Grove's ClaudiCooper holds 'kup' after defeating Hanover Central during PCC quarterfinals Tuesday January 15 2013 Morgan Township. | Mark

Boone Grove's Claudia Cooper holds "the kup" after defeating Hanover Central during the PCC quarterfinals on Tuesday, January 15, 2013, at Morgan Township. | Mark Smith~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 19, 2013 3:14PM



This is one of my favorite weeks of the basketball season.

You can have your sectional weeks for boys and girls — those have become watered down since class basketball was implemented. I’ll take conference tournaments any day.

It’s just a shame only two Northwest Indiana conferences have annual tournaments that run a whole week and attract fervent crowds on days of the week when there usually aren’t that many people coming to a game.

Take Tuesday night, for example. It was a good crowd at Morgan Township for the second session of first-round games of the 41st annual Porter County Conference girls tournament. There were even players from some of the schools’ boys basketball teams watching their respective girls squads.

Do you really think that would happen for a normal Tuesday night girls basketball game anywhere, let alone in the PCC? I doubt it.

The PCC Tournament is a huge deal. Nothing like it. Many of the players and coaches might tell you — off the record, more than likely — that winning the PCC Tournament trophy is more important than winning the round-robin crown or even winning a sectional.

I heard that gasp coming from some of you.

Boone Grove coach Candy Wilson begged to differ slightly, but that’s only because the Wolves have captured just two sectional titles in the last 10 years, while winning PCC titles galore.

Sorry, but a conference tourney is cool, especially if it’s run right.

The PCC with all its small schools and long-standing rivalries — dare I say a bunch of Hatfield-and-McCoy feuds going on — is definitely run right.

The Greater South Shore Conference Tournament that’s also going on this week has a confusing and headache-inducing schedule (especially for an assigning editor who’s trying to get everything covered). But it’s not bad either. At least there’s an extra consolation game for teams so they don’t go the rest of the week without playing if they lose in the first round.

So what’s wrong with the other Northwest Indiana conferences?

The Northwestern Conference in Gary used to have a great holiday tourney that served as an annual conference affair. Not anymore. Not for years. When school after school closed — Horace Mann and Wirt just in my time as a sportswriter — and there’s only three Gary public schools left, it greatly diminishes the event. When out-of-state teams win it in recent years, well, that just makes it a joke. Thank goodness for the West Side boys and girls winning in December to keep the title in the city.

Until city athletic director Earl Smith can convince every Gary school — only 21st Century was among the competitive charter schools competing in the holiday tourney — and maybe add other schools such as East Chicago to the fold, it will never be the same.

What about the Duneland or the Northwest Crossroads? Why can’t they have an in-season conference tournament? It can’t be about the money since the events would generate revenue. Some may not believe that, but as a lifelong region basketball fan, I’m convinced they would be among the most popular tourneys around and have good attendance.

For the record, yes the DAC will start a pair of east-west four-team tourneys next season, but that’s not good enough. It’s a start, but not close to what the PCC and GSSC have.

There’s one excuse going around that teams don’t want to face each other a possible three times in a season.

Who exactly is complaining about this?

Coaches? Maybe, but I doubt it.

Media? We don’t matter that much and not all of us think facing the same team multiple times is a bad thing.

Athletic departments? Again, doubtful because one of the repeat matchups would be in a conference tournament that would generate revenue (and if any ADs or principals don’t think it will make money, they can call me and we’ll sit down and go over the math).

Players? Absolutely not. Anyone who believes the majority of players would dislike facing teams multiple times just doesn’t know kids and hasn’t coached them. They just want to play. And they like winning stuff. In this case, “stuff” refers to the chance to add a cut-down-net and conference tournament trophy the school’s trophy case, and medals around their necks.

And have you ever heard PCC schools complain about facing a team three or sometimes four times when you include the four schools that competed in the South County Tournament that was discontinued last season?

In the 2007-08 season the Kouts and Morgan Township girls played four times, and the Fillies won all four, leading to four trophies. Do you think the Kouts girls cared? Maybe the Morgan Township players cared, but only because they couldn’t win one of those games to prevent their Indiana 49 rival from winning a title. In 2001-02, the Morgan boys faced Kouts four times and the two teams split the contests, though the only title won by either was the Mustangs winning a Class 1A sectional.

My point is that those teams didn’t complain about four meetings, so why would bigger DAC or NCC teams complain if they faced each other three times? Wouldn’t Kankakee Valley relish the chance to face Andrean three times? Chesterton and Valparaiso don’t like each other, so getting the chance to face off three times would be great for those kids.

The DAC already has a double round-robin, which is going away. With seven conference games disappearing, why not fill a week of the schedule with an exciting boys and girls combined DAC Tournament, not just separate east-west events that are just window dressing?

The answer is simple: It hasn’t happened because people are letting egos and ignorance get in the way of logic and what’s best for the kids.



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