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What we learned from the first night of boys basketball sectionals in SW Indiana

EVANSVILLE — One of the more anticipated weeks on the high school calendar gave us plenty to discuss.

The IHSAA boys basketball sectional commenced on Tuesday. You can't win the championship on night one but a positive result can give you a jolt heading into the weekend. What did we learn this time? Here are a few thoughts from the opening round across Southwestern Indiana.

More: Scores, schedule for IHSAA boys basketball sectionals across Southwestern Indiana

Castle offered its best version against North

The scoreboard said it all late in the first quarter: 21-0. Yes, a lot of basketball remaining. Those first eight minutes still set the tone.

Castle opened the Class 4A sectional with a 68-39 win over North. A shocking result considering the Knights lost to the Huskies by 18 on Feb. 16. Even when ignoring the previous result, this could've been a toss-up. It wasn't because of what transpired in the first quarter.

Castle (13-9) scored the first 21 points of the game. North burned two timeouts and still couldn't stop it.

"That lit a fire under us," senior Adler McAtee said of the regular-season loss. "We wanted this win so bad. Losing on Senior Night to them by 18 points, I just couldn't lose to them again. We got real hot at the beginning and got done what we should do."

Good defense paired with can't-miss shooting. The best the Knights have looked all season, zero question. Just as impressive was how they didn't relent. Castle led 36-12 by halftime. The Huskies (11-13) found some success in the third but couldn't get within 20.

Xander Niehaus (15 points), Ayden McAtee (13) and Adler McAtee (13) were all in double figures. A tough task lies ahead against No. 17 Harrison in the semifinal. But maybe, the Knights found a spark on Tuesday?

Watch out for Jasper this week

Does anyone else think the performance in the other Class 4A opener felt familiar?

Jasper defeated Reitz 49-38 to advance to the semifinal against Castle. Balanced scoring? Check. Tough defense inside? Double check. No wasteful possessions in the second half? Triple check. The Wildcats (14-9) did to the Panthers what they've done to so many opponents under John Goebel.

It was the lowest-scoring output from Reitz (8-13) all season. Jaylan Mitchell, the super-talented freshman, was limited to eight points.

The Jasper Wildcats play the Reitz Panthers during the first round of the 2024 IHSAA 4A Boys Basketball Sectional at North High School in Evansville, Ind., Feb. 27, 2024.
The Jasper Wildcats play the Reitz Panthers during the first round of the 2024 IHSAA 4A Boys Basketball Sectional at North High School in Evansville, Ind., Feb. 27, 2024.

"I don't think many people can beat us if we play defense like that," said senior Will Wallace. "We're playing well right now. We (also) have to go one game at a time. We have to stick to our game plan and play defense like we did."

Andrew Noblitt (14 points) and Brayden Giesler (nine) carried the scoring in the first half. Wallace added eight points and seven rebounds. Jasper (14-9) may not have the pure talent of teams like Reitz but controlled the game from start to finish.

One big key is the return of forward Griffin Hile. The senior injured his knee on Aug. 18 during football against Memorial. Five months after surgery, he was cleared at the start of February. His presence inside gives the Wildcats an additional dynamic. Hile had nine points and six boards in the first-round victory.

Jasper has won seven eight going into the semifinal against Central.

Mount Vernon earned its first sectional victory in seven years

Tip of the cap to Joe Newcomb and the Wildcats. The 43-36 win against Gibson Southern in the Sectional 32 was the program's first postseason victory since 2017. It's another positive step in year five for Newcomb, who also saw Mount Vernon's best win total in 11 years.

The Wildcats (14-11) needed to grind out a victory with the defending sectional champions climbing within four to start the final quarter. What held true throughout was Mount Vernon's defense. The only made three-pointer from Gibson Southern didn't come until the final quarter.

Nicot Burnett and Jackson Clowers scored 18 and 14 points, respectively. Next up is No. 15 Bosse in the semifinal.

"It’s been a long time since Mount Vernon had success in the postseason," said Newcomb. "That’s what you play for. To gut one out and really get stops throughout the game was really important. The kids battled throughout and found a way. That's what it's all about. At the end of the day, we understand the importance of every possession."

Other thoughts from night one of the sectional

The first round isn't complete with Sectional 31 and 47 continuing on Wednesday. Yet, there was still more to unpack throughout the area. A few quick takeaways:

  • I opined in our sectional preview the Southridge-North Daviess matchup would be decided in the 30s. That is pretty spot on with the Raiders gutting out a 37-31 victory. It was a one-possession game for most of the contest. Tate Whitehead (15) and Brock Thacker (14) were in double figures.

  • Forest Park and North Posey did as anticipated in Sectional 48. The latter was briefly interesting with the Vikings scoring only three points in the first quarter against South Spencer. They also led 24-22 at halftime. Perhaps it's just early jitters with a potential championship showdown still looming.

  • Mater Dei also endured a scare against Boonville. A double-digit lead dwindled to only four in the final minute of a 45-40 win. Credit to the Wildcats – senior Blaine Herr scored a game-high 20 – for finding away. A rematch with Memorial could be interesting if Mater Dei shoots from deep like it's capable.

Follow Courier & Press sports reporter Kyle Sokeland on X (formerly Twitter) @kylesokeland.

This article originally appeared on Evansville Courier & Press: IHSAA boys basketball: Evansville-area sectional opener takeaways