Vikes ready for tough Regional test

Mar. 6—MONTGOMERY — After what might have been the most exciting game in area sectional history just last weekend, the Barr-Reeve Vikings will return to that exact location again on Saturday to take its next step. The Vikings will play in the Loogootee Regional against Christian Academy at 1 p.m.

Just like in this year's girls' tournament, the Loogootee Regional will produce two regional champions. Those two championship teams won't play each other with the single game regional format, but could meet at some point in the semi-state round.

The Barr-Reeve Vikings (23-2), currently ranked No. 1 in Class A, had a tough task on Friday and Saturday. Within 24 hours, B-R beat No. 7 Loogootee on its home floor and followed up with beating No. 3 Orleans, the sectional favorite according to John Harrell's website.

The Vikes got a solid win over the Lions and then played an epic 5OT game with Orleans, a game that will have a lasting impression on all who attended or tuned in.

The Vikes had an early season loss to Clay City (also a 1A sectional winner) and then 4A Jasper. Big wins came over 3A sectional champion Southridge, Orleans and Loogootee twice, North Daviess and Washington. The team also claimed another Blue Chip Conference title.

Although this year's Vikes were expected to improve from 12-12 last season, as they were returning almost the entire team, both Orleans and Loogootee were expected to be just as strong, and most people believed the sectional would be a three-horse race.

Much of the credit can go to Barr-Reeve's head coach Josh Thompson. Since Thompson took over, he has been enormously successful in his six seasons, taking two teams to the state finals, winning once. He has won four sectionals at B-R (along with two others at Wood Memorial) and gone 132-28 (242-184 in 17th year overall) with the Vikes. In the two years he didn't win sectionals, he lost to both the eventual Class A state champion and regional champion from out of that sectional. In 2020, B-R was on its way to another potential finals appearance after winning sectional and were 23-1 before COVID shut the season down the week of regional.

The 2023-24 Vikings are a team based on balance. Senior Donnie Miller leads in scoring with 11.5 points, while Seth Wagler and Braydon Knepp are getting nearly identical 11.4s. Senior big man Evan Wehmeier adds in 7.5 ppg and Kendall Graber gets a little under six. Wehmeier also leads the team with 4.4 boards, but again Graber, Wagler and Miller are less than one rebound behind.

Although 3-point shooting has been a bigger factor in previous seasons, Miller, Wagler and Graber are all shooting over 40% and Braydon Knepp is at 35%. As a team, they are shoot 38% and make free throws at just under a 70% clip.

"There is no doubt that we are playing our best basketball of the year. We feel like everyone can step up and make plays. We shot about 23% from the 3-point line last year and we have worked on that since then. I would say 30-40% of our practices are competitive shooting drills. We have three guys that can make that shot and I believe Kendall Graber is just as capable too, while Evan does so much for us, especially on the defensive end," said Thompson. "We just have guys that believe in themselves and believe in each other."

Thompson gives a lot of the success this season to the success of the baseball team last spring that went to the state finals.

"Every one of our kids, except one and the freshmen, were on that team. You can't put a price tag on that experience. It really helped our kids learn what it takes to win," he said.

Christian Academy of New Albany is ninth in the Sagrin rankings and has met B-R two other times, the last being Barr-Reeve's 48-47 win in the 2018 regional.

The Christian Academy Warriors continued their postseason success on Saturday with a win against the South Central Rebels. They beat the Rebels 53-48, after downing Rock Creek, 57-54 on Friday. The victory now gives Christian Academy six wins in a row.

Christian Academy's losses have come to 2A sectional champion Southwestern, No. 2 Evansville Christian, 52-50, a very good Providence team 44-41, and West Washington in overtime. The team does have some solid wins, but the strength of its schedule is almost 80 places below Barr-Reeve.

The Warriors are coached by Hayden Casey, 59-42 in his fourth year at school and his teams have improved in the win column every year he has been there. The school has won six total sectionals and a pair of regionals (both in the late 1990s).

Leading scorer Josh Renfro, who scored 13 points in the win over South Central, normally averages 22 ppg. The team's second leading scorer is David Cook and he is getting 15 ppg, Josh Chancey is a 6-3" forward adding in about 8.3 per game. Cook and Chancey are also getting more than five boards a game. Against South Central, the team also got some help courtesy of Cooper Losey, who scored 13 points along with six rebounds. The team's top three scorers are all juniors.

"I've seen a lot of film on CA. You don't win 22 games by accident. Renfro is one of the best guards in southern Indiana. I think he will remind a lot of people of Southridge's Tate Whitehead, but at 6-1". The other guard is Cook and he is 6-5. They run a lot of good action to get those two the ball and both have the green light. They are a lot like us where they only play about six guys. They play mostly a man-to-man, but you will see some zone too," said Thompson.

The 4 p.m. game will also crown a Class A regional champion and will be a potential semi-state opponent, as Evansville Christian will play Seymour's Trinity Lutheran.

The EC Eagles come in with an impressive 23-2 record as well. Their two losses came to 3A Heritage Hills and 4A Jeffersonville, with good wins over 3A sectional winner Southridge and a good Linton team, both on the road. They also have a win over Clay City, 4A Terre Haute North and 4A Castle. They have been ranked in the top three all season and have the highest strength of schedule and Sagrin rating in Class A.

They are led by Josiah Dunham who is averaging 23.1 points a game, who is one of the top scorers in the state.

Trinity Lutheran comes in at 14-11. They defeated New Washington (6-20) to win the sectional title. They started the year at 2-8, but finished the year 12-3. They did lose to Christian Academy earlier in the season, 66-53. Their top player is Hudson Lang getting 15 ppg and Reed Mellencamp, getting 11.4. Both players are freshmen.

"Dunham is one of the best there is. These are all good teams. We already saw Clay City this year and we know how good they are. From what I have been told, Bethesda Christian is also very good," said Thompson. "It should be a great day and I think the fans who stay should see a great game as well."

Tickets at Loogootee are $10 and need to be purchased digitally with the following link:

The ticket is good for the second game as well.