2017 Renegade Boys Basketball 'Magnificent 7' Week-13 Poll

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


The Merrillville cheerleaders, who made Michigan City home for two weeks while the Pirates won sectional and regional titles, will take the big trip to Huntington North Saturday for the semistate championship game against Summit Athletic Conference (SAC) champion Fort Wayne North. (Photo by Mark Smith)

CROWN POINT (03-17-2017) Sectional week eliminated a lot of the ranked teams as it usually does in Northwest Indiana. With Crown Point, Valparaiso, Andrean and Michigan City dropping out, a lot of the big winners were on to the baseball season. But I don't know if East Chicago, Merrillville and Griffith advancing was a rash of upsets.
The regional championship teams: Merrillville (21-7), Marquette (19-9) and Gary's 21st Century Academy (19-8) also were not shocking.

21st Century, a charter school, defeated five Class 1A public schools to win the regional, including a 76-73 victory over Oregon-Davis (21-7). Marquette, a Catholic school, topped Gary Roosevelt in the 2A regional final, completing a five-game run against public schools.

To win five playoff games is a major season-making accomplishment. Marquette could win the 2A state title. All of the Top-15 ranked 2A schools have already been eliminated. Marquette is playing 'up'. They are truly a 1A school, but because of their success in 2014 (20-6) and 2015 (24-7) they are in 2A. Coach Donovan Garletts, a Crown Point graduate, has produced winning teams for six years in a row now since a 4-16 record posted in 2011.

21st Century has won the regional for the second consecutive season and they did it after a 9-8 start. I would not want to diminish their achievements so far. But it is an example of private schools beating small public schools. I have no problems with Marquette, which is winning in 2A when they are 1A in enrollment. But 21st Century should beat tiny 1A public schools. They just should.

The Cougars take on a private school powerhouse in 1A No.1 Lafayette Catholic (21-6) in Lafayette. So if it's a tad unfair for small depth-challenged public schools to have to beat a private school from Gary, it's also a little unfair for 21st Century to have to play Lafayette Catholic in Lafayette. It is what it is.

East Chicago's season ended ugly with a double-overtime 61-59 loss to Warsaw. No season where a team wins a sectional is ever a disappointment, but that's a hard sell in East Chicago where they think they invented Indiana high school basketball. The game-winning play for Warsaw came when Kyle Magnus, who scored 37 points, was fouled on a half court pass in the final seconds. EC fans thought the foul was on Mangus and they were not happy. EC coach Pete Trgovich suggested after the game that the Cardinals, an all-black team, were cheated by white referees. He said it a little more bluntly than I'm stating it here. I'm just short-handing it. Let's be clear. You can say the referees are dummies. You can say they don't know the rules. You can say that the refs favored the home team. But you can't say that the refs cheated your all-back team because the refs themselves were white. You cannot say that. Trgovich resigned this week and it's just as well. He would have been suspended and rightfully so. If you even suggest that white refs can't be fair to black kids and that statement isn't punished, the school might as well cancel all future games because you're embarrassing yourself.

I wish the semistate games were on TV this Saturday. They are in others parts of the state of Indiana. Merrillville fans will have to drive three hours to see their team play in Huntington against Fort Wayne North at 5 p.m. Saturday night. Happy trails. Back here, we get to snore through some overrated, over-hyped major college (pick one, there's a few) losing to 'Dog Chow State' in the second round of the NCAA tournament in a game immediately dubbed an 'instant classic" by ESPN.

One more thing. I know what it's like to do radio broadcasts where the announcers have a 'home team'. It's obvious who is following what team. But think about the person hundreds of miles away (also me) driving around in his car listening on AM radio trying to follow the same team you are. Please stay calm when the ball is in play and the game is close. I can't understand what's going on if you get too excited.

1. (4A) Merrillville (21-7)
2016 (22-2), 2015 (18-9), 2014 (4-16), 2013 (22-4)

MERRILLVILLE: Merrillville followed up their 71-60 sectional title win over Crown Point with regional victories over South Bend Adams and Warsaw. The four playoff victories put them at the top of this poll for the season. Cameron Wilbon scored 32 against Crown Point and the Pirates just dominated Adams 75-49. Merrillville's 50-46 regional championship victory over Warsaw was the second time they had defeated the defending 4A regional champs this season. There was a quote or two from Merrillville folks saying the Pirates went 'under the radar' this season. No way. Merrillville people (and East Chicago people) expect Merrillville to win the sectional EVERY year. The semistate will be a tall order. The Pirates head to Lafayette to take on perhaps the most talented team in the state, 4A No. 4 Fort Wayne North (26-2) for the right to go to the state championship game.

2. (4A) Crown Point (22-4)
2016 (19-9) 2015 (19-9), 2014 (12-9), 2013 (5-16)

CROWN POINT: Crown Point lost the 4A Sectional 2 championship 71-60 to Merrillville when they shot 2 of 23 from 3-point range, a season-low. Drawing sub-.500 Hobart in the quarterfinals of the seven-team sectional was beneficial to the cause, but the Bulldogs seemed tired against Merrillville, which drew a first round bye. The Bulldogs' lack of bench caught up with them as they used largely just five players in significant and extensive roles all season. But CP did win 22 games, a school record and Sasha Stefanovic, who will play at Purdue, became the school's all-time leading scorer. The Bulldogs, who graduate five seniors including four starters, will be a much different team by the time the 2018 state tournament begins.

3. (4A) Valpo (21-4)
2016 (18-6), 2015 (20-4), 2014 (12-10), 2013 (10-11)

VALPARAISO: Valparaiso lost the sectional opener 72-55 to Michigan City, bringing a quick end to another very strong season. The Vikings lost only to Penn, MC (19-7), Crown Point (22-4) and Merrillville (21-7). The Vikings are 59-16 the last three season and have not won 4A Sectional 2 in any of those years, a stat which probably says more about 4A Sectional 2 than it does about the Vikings. Valpo graduates seven seniors, but they figure to win big again soon, led by 6-foot-3 sophomore Brandon Newman, a very athletic two-way prospect. Valparaiso has won 51 sectionals all-time, but since class basketball began in 1997, they have won seven. That also probably says more about 4A Sectional 2 than it does the Vikings.

4. (4A) Michigan City (16-6)
2016 (12-11), 2015 (14-9), 2014 (14-9)

MICHIGAN CITY: Why is Michigan City ranked ahead of Griffith, who won a sectional title? Michigan City defeated the top three teams in this poll: Crown Point (22-4), Merrillville (21-7) and Valparaiso (21-4). They didn't win any titles this year, but MC won more games (19) than they have since the merger of Elston and Rogers in 1995. The previous high was 16 victories. Is this to be the start of a wining wave? The future is unclear. Michigan City will graduate nine seniors who were on the playoff roster. Some size returns, but the Wolves, as most of the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC), have major rebuilding to do.

5. (3A) Griffith (24-4)
2016 (25-4), 2015 (19-4), 2014 (16-7), 2013 (11-11)

GRIFFITH: I thought Griffith won a lot more games than their talent said they should this season. The Panthers were 44-8 the last two seasons, but they lost the top players on that team. This season, Griffith again posted a 20+ victories, which ended with a 69-64 overtime loss to a superior Twin Lakes (24-3) team in the final game of the Class 3A Kankakee Valley Regional. Griffith didn't play the schedule the DAC teams do, so the best win they recorded was probably the sectional victory over Hammond (15-10), a team that topped them earlier. I'm not sure why this team doesn't travel more to play better opponents. But 49 wins in two seasons is the most in any two-year period in the history of Griffith high school.

6. (4A) Lake Central (15-12)
2016 (13-12), 2015 (13-10), 2014 (22-4), 2013 (16-8)

ST. JOHN: Lake Central made a good run late in the season with wins over Lowell, Munster and 1A power Marquette, which won seven of its last eight games. Lake Central has as good a future as anybody in the DAC. They only played three seniors this season and 5-foot-11 freshman guard Derek Hobbs made his debut. Forward Justin Graciano (10 ppg.) returns as a solid player close to the basket. With no one taller than 6-foot-3 (how does that happen at a 3,000-kid school?), it's an accomplishment to be 15-12 against a schedule that included McCutcheon (23-3), Crown Point (22-4), Valparaiso (21-4), Warsaw (18-10), New Haven (19-8), LaPorte (19-7), Michigan City (19-9), Huntington North (17-8) and Merrillville (21-7). LC should be as good or better by the 2018 playoffs but, to be much better, they'll have to find a couple of big players.

7. (4A) LaPorte (19-8)
2016 (13-10), 2015 (6-17), 2014 (16-8), 2013 (5-16)

LaPORTE: The Slicers didn't get the one win they wanted, the sectional victory over South Bend Adams (21-5). LaPorte lost 66-63 in two overtimes. The Slicers lost only to Adams, Crown Point (22-4), Merrillville (21-7), Valpo (21-4), Lake Central, Lowell and 2A power Northeastern (22-4). The Slicers graduate six seniors, but they had two freshman guards on the varsity in Garret Ott-Large and Tommy Moore. Here's another team in search of big boys for next winter, but the DAC is going to be a small league in 2018. The 19 victories was the most for LaPorte since they went 21-4 in 2004.

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Revised: March 17, 2017 .