Around the Brown County High School gymnasium, a sense of optimism has prevailed over the grind of the girls basketball season.
The Eagles went 11-9 overall and 3-3 in Western Indiana Conference play — not exactly the results coach Mike Harmon was expecting.
But today, everything that has come before no longer matters. It’s sectional time.
“We wanted to win the conference, but that didn’t happen for us,” Harmon said. “Sullivan was a very good team in our conference. But the ultimate focus is the sectional.
Bloomington South (13-7) vs. Columbus East (11-9), 6 p.m. at Columbus East High School
Hauser (6-13) vs. Jac-Cen-Del (9-11) at Jac-Cen-Del High School, 6 p.m.
South Decatur (6-14) vs. Oldenburg Academy (10-10), 7:30 p.m. at Jac-Cen-Del High School
Trinity Lutheran (12-8) vs. Springs Valley (9-11), 7:30 p.m. at Springs Valley High School
“I don’t care if you win the conference or win or lose games during the season, people tend to forget those games. Here at Brown County, we have pictures on the walls of sectional winners. There aren’t that many photos. So let’s immortalize ourselves with a picture on the wall. It would be quite an accomplishment.”
The feeling is somewhat the same at Columbus East, where coach Danny Brown has dealt with a roster in flux. His Olympians finished 10-10 overall and 4-3 in the Hoosier Hills Conference.
More might have been expected, but that isn’t important now. East won its final three conference games and now has its entire roster healthy for the first time all season as it begins play today at 6 p.m. against Bloomington South (13-7) at home. The Olympians need a major about-face, as they lost to Bloomington South 59-35 on Jan. 22.
“They took us out of what we wanted to do,” Brown said. “We have to do a lot better defensively, and we have to get a lot better on offense because they are awful tough to score on.”
If East can get past Bloomington South, on Friday it would play Shelbyville, a team it defeated 49-33 earlier this season. Two wins would set up a Saturday championship game, most likely against the state’s No. 1-ranked team, Columbus North. North has a first-round bye.
Although East and Brown County will be underdogs in their sectionals, they both are hosting their sectionals. “Hopefully, we will take advantage of that opportunity (tonight),” Brown said.
“What more can you ask for?” said Harmon, whose team drew a first-round bye and faces the winner of tonight’s Edgewood-Owen Valley game on Friday at 7:30 p.m. “We play on it every day. You take any advantage you can get.
“This is my 11th year, and this is the second time we have hosted a sectional. For Brown County, we haven’t had success across the board with our sports programs. So this is big for our community. I know that people aren’t turning out for games like they used to do. If they remember the last time we won, we had a huge crowd here.”
The previous time Brown County hosted the sectional was 2005, the most recent time the Eagles won the tournament.
With no super power in its conference, such as East faces in Columbus North, Brown County has a shot at upsetting the field.
“Our sectional is fairly wide open,” Harmon said. “I think we have a good shot to win it. It’s just a matter of getting a more balanced scoring attack.”
Other area teams also begin sectional play today. Hauser (6-13) faces Jac-Cen-Del (9-11) in the Jac-Cen-Del Sectional at 6 p.m., while at the same site South Decatur (6-14) meets Oldenburg Academy (10-10) at 7:30 p.m. Trinity Lutheran (12-8) meets Springs Valley (9-11) in the Springs Valley Sectional tonight at 7:30. Jennings County (8-12) and Seymour (9-12) drew byes in the New Albany Sectional.