Olympians staying put in Hoosier Hills Conference

Perry Meridian’s departure from Conference Indiana has opened up a spot in what has in most years been an eight-team league.

Don’t look for that spot to be filled by Columbus East.

The Olympians were exploring possible options late in 2016 after three Hoosier Hills Conference schools were rumored to be looking elsewhere. But those schools — Jennings County, Madison and Seymour — all have committed to remaining in the HHC through the 2018-19 school year, and as a result, so has the rest of the conference.

“Right now, we are in the Hoosier Hills, and we’re going to try to make the best out of it,” East athletics director Pete Huse said. “It’s nice to know that everything will be solid for three years. Anyone at any time could change their mind, but realistically, if someone changes their mind, it won’t be overnight. It will be two or three years before anything takes place.”

But if the makeup of the HHC does remain the same in 2019, it will see at least one major change that fall. Football teams will play only six conference games instead of playing each of the other seven HHC schools.

In 2019 and 2020, East will not play Madison, and Jennings County will not play New Albany. In 2021 and 2022, the Olympians and Panthers will not play each other.

Huse said the plan, which will be revisited in 2023, allows schools to schedule a third nonconference game and won’t make the HHC’s smaller schools play East every year. The Olympians have won 70 consecutive conference football games, most of them by lopsided margins.

“The bottom line is, it gives the conference leeway to, depending on what you have coming in the future, to schedule a game,” said Jennings athletics director Mike Broughton. “I think every school wanted to be able to schedule somebody besides the two they have. I think it’s good for all the schools to play somewhere they haven’t played.”

Huse said the ADs will meet again in April to determine schedule for the 2019 through 2022 seasons. East will play Floyd Central, Jeffersonville and New Albany (not necessarily in that order) in Weeks 3, 4 and 5; then play a nonconference game in Week 6 and play three of the HHC’s smaller schools in Weeks 7, 8 and 9.

Swimmers set for state

Columbus North swimmers will compete in five events in Friday’s preliminaries of the Girls Swimming and Diving State Finals.

Senior Darby Coles will be part of four of those events. She is tied for the No. 5 seed in the 100-yard freestyle and is seeded No. 21 in the 50 freestyle. She also is part of the 13th-seeded 400 freestyle relay team and 17th-seeded 200 freestyle relay unit.

“We want to make it back in every event we swim,” Coles said. “We want to score as high as possible as a team.”

Senior Alex Nusawardhana, who also is on both relay teams, is seeded No. 21 in the 100 backstroke. She finished 14th at state in that event last year.

Coles and Nusawardhana are joined on both relay teams by freshmen Betsy King and Olivia Morlok.

“I’m really excited about both of our relays because it’s two seniors who are really experienced and also two freshmen who we get to bring along for the ride for the first time,” Nusawardhana said. “It will be really fun for all four of us.”

Swimming preliminaries begin at 6 p.m. Friday at IUPUI’s Indiana University Natatorium. Diving prelims, which will include Jennings County sophomore Hailey Brown, start at 9 a.m. Saturday. Championship and consolation swimming finals and diving finals begin at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Wrestlers seek state berths

Twenty area wrestlers will be looking for top-four finishes in Saturday’s Evansville Semistate that would qualify them for next weekend’s state finals.

Columbus East, which is coming off its first team regional title, has eight competing Saturday, led by individual regional champions Cayden Rooks (120 pounds), Graham Rooks (126), Dawson Combest (132), Corban Pollitt (145) and Austin Sheckles (220). Also there for the Olympians will be Joey Gordon (113), Jake Schoenegge (138) and Andy Davidson (152).

Columbus North and Jennings County each had five wrestlers advance to semistate. Representing the Bull Dogs are Morgan Smith (106), Keandre Watson (113), Andrew Chapman (170), Brigham Kleinhenz (182) and Josh Larson (195).

The Panthers are led by regional champions Victor Antunez (113), and Zane Beineke (160). Jennings also will have Brooks Wathen (145), Sam Woolf (182) and Brendan Sutton (285).

Brown County will be represented by David Tucker (106) and Evan Bullock (145).

North to face familiar foe

For the third year in a row, the Columbus North girls basketball team will face Evansville Central in the regional.

Two years ago, the Bull Dogs beat the Bears 76-66 in the regional semifinals on their way to winning the Class 4A state title. Last year, North ran past Evansville Central 86-82 in the regional final.

While the Bull Dogs (19-7) lost three players who played key roles in that game, the Bears (23-1) have everybody back. Erinn Hodges, who moved to Evansville from Illinois midway through last season, averages 13.7 points a game, while Alexis Thomas adds 12.9 and Hya Haywood 11.5.

Point guard Zion Sanders is averaging 7.2 points in nine games after missing the first 15 with an injury.

“They’re really quick and athletic,” North coach Pat McKee said. “They don’t have great size, but they have a little bit of size. They’re just a quality team in multiple facets, and we have to be prepared to play a good game. If we play well, we have a chance, but the speed advantage they have, we have to contain that.”

The game will begin at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Bedford North Lawrence.

Evansville Central’s lone loss this season came at home against Bedford. The Stars (20-4) will play Martinsville (21-4) in the second semifinal, and the championship game will be at 8 p.m.

The Bull Dogs won 55-50 at Martinsville the second game of the season. North did not play Bedford in the regular season but has met the Stars in four of the past five regionals, with each team winning twice. Three of those times, the winner went on to capture the 4A state title.

East, North make statements

The Columbus East and Columbus North boys basketball teams both made big statement wins last week.

First, the Bull Dogs knocked off 4A then-No. 12 Hamilton Southeastern 57-47. North then went on the road and beat East Central on Saturday and Franklin on Tuesday to run its winning streak to eight and improve to 13-6.

The Olympians (7-10) scored the biggest win of last week, upsetting 4A then-No. 1 New Albany 52-46 on Saturday. East had fallen to Class 3A No. 1 Brownstown Central 65-60 two days earlier.

“I thought we played awfully well against Brownstown,” East coach Brent Chitty said. “On Saturday, we really played at a high level, and it’s not a ceiling, but now that you know that you can do it, you have to try to get to there every day in practice. Mentally, we have to try to get to that level, no matter who we play.”