By Bryan Gaskins
Tribune sports editor
— Kokomo’s boys basketball team opened Class 4A Lafayette Jeff Sectional play Tuesday night with an 86-56 rout of longtime rival Marion.
Next up for the No. 8-ranked Wildkats is another longtime rival.
Kokomo (20-2) and Lafayette Jeff (7-14) meet in the opening semifinal at 6 p.m. today at the Crawley Center. The Wildkats own a 55-46 lead in the all-time series and have won the last four meetings and six of the last seven.
“It’s interesting because we played Marion on a Friday night early in the regular season and we played Jeff the next game, on Saturday. We find ourselves in the same situation where we played Marion and now Jeff,” Kokomo coach Brian McCauley said.
The Kats beat the Bronchos 45-35 on Dec. 15 at Memorial Gym.
“Both teams have gone through a lot of growth since that game. They’ve gotten better and hopefully we have as well,” McCauley said.
Jeff, which received a first-round sectional bye in the blind draw, enters tonight on a five-game losing streak but the Bronchos showed good fight in their regular-season finale, battling No. 6-ranked Hamilton Southeastern tough before falling 60-53.
McCauley noted the Bronchos had a two-point lead with 5:00 to play in that game.
“They’re a team that plays very hard, tries to outwork people. Their effort level is outstanding. For instance, they took five charges against us in our first game,” McCauley said. “It’s going to be a challenging game — we’re certainly not going to intimidate them. They played one of the best schedules in the state, they’re on their home floor and they’ve had a lot of time to prepare.”
The Bronchos are led offensively by Tyler Buchanan (10.6 ppg), Lucas Wallace (9.3), Peter Ripke (8.4) and Quarin Hood (7.5). Hood had a team-high 12 points when the Bronchos played the Kats in the regular season.
The Kats are led by Tayler Persons (17.3 ppg), LaBradford Sebree (15.3) and Erik Bowen (10.1).
Kokomo scores 60.8 ppg and allows 46 ppg. Jeff scores 49 and allows 54.
• The second semifinal pits Logansport (12-8) vs. McCutcheon (14-8). Logansport took a 44-41 win when the teams met in the regular season, on Dec. 15.
“[The Berries] obviously had success against McCutcheon earlier in the season, but McCutcheon is a tough team with a lot of weapons. That will be an interesting game,” McCauley said.
Kokomo owns wins over both teams, rallying to beat McCutcheon 51-50 on Jan. 5 at Memorial Gym, and beating Logan 58-46 on Feb. 7 at the Berry Bowl.
Twin Lakes Sectional
Mid-Indiana Conference teams Maconaquah and Western are in action against Hoosier Conference teams tonight in the semifinal round of the Twin Lakes Sectional.
In the 6 p.m. game, Maconaquah (12-9) takes on Benton Central (6-15) in the first meeting between the schools in at least the class tournament era.
The teams have just one common opponent, Twin Lakes. Maconaquah beat the Indians 61-56 in the sectional opener Tuesday night. Benton Central dropped a 62-42 decision to the Indians in Hoosier Conference play.
In the 7:45 game, Western (13-8) and West Lafayette (17-5) will renew a great rivalry. The teams are meeting in sectional play for the 10th time in 11 years. The Panthers are the two-time defending sectional champions — the Red Devils previously had a two-year reign.
Western reached the semifinal round with a 66-52 victory over Peru in Wednesday’s first game. West Lafayette followed with an impressive 46-27 victory over Northwestern.
The Red Devils are led by their front-court tandem of 6-foot-8 Justus Stanback and 6-5 Brian Bangs. They combine for 25.4 points and 15.4 rebounds per game. Stanback is an IUPUI recruit.
Bangs had a huge game against the Panthers in the regular season, scoring 14 points and grabbing 22 rebounds to help the Red Devils take a 65-52 win on Jan. 5 at West Lafayette.
The Panthers are led by guards Evan Warden (13.9 ppg) and Des Balentine (12.2 ppg) and front-line players Ronnie Smith (11.3 ppg) and Austin Townsend (10.1 ppg, 9.3 rpg). Warden fired in 26 points in Wednesday’s victory over Peru.
The second semifinal at Tipton tonight pits No. 2-ranked Tipton (21-2) and Taylor (5-16). The Blue Devils own 13 straight wins over the Titans, a streak that started in the 2003-04 season.
Tipton is the two-time defending sectional champion and a heavy favorite this year. The Blue Devils are led by Indiana All-Star candidate and St. Louis recruit Mike Crawford, who is 51 points shy of the 2,000-point mark for his career. (The Tribune incorrectly reported how many points he needs to reach 2,000 in a story that ran Wednesday.)
Tipton whipped Taylor 74-35 when the teams met in the regular season, on Feb. 2 at Taylor. The Blue Devils led by just three, 14-11, after the opening quarter, then roared to a 34-15 halftime lead.
Crawford scored 29 points in that game and Blake Hoover added 20 for the Devils. Challen Hodson led the Titans with eight points.
Hodson is the Titans’ top scorer, averaging 12.3 ppg.
Taylor, which received a first-round sectional bye in the blind draw, enters tonight on a five-game losing streak.
• The first semifinal pits Madison-Grant (8-12) vs. Alexandria (5-17).
Carroll and Clinton Central join the fray at Delphi tonight. Both received first-round byes in the blind draw.
Carroll (12-9) plays Fountain Central (17-4) in the 6 p.m. semifinal. The teams played in 2010 and ‘11 sectional finals with Carroll cutting down the nets both times, the back half of the Cougars’ four-year sectional reign. Fountain Central is the defending sectional champ.
The second semifinal pits Clinton Central (1-20) vs. the host Oracles (17-5). Delphi rolled to a 92-44 win when the teams met on Feb. 19.
Coming off an upset of Hoosier Heartland Conference champion Rossville in the opening round, Tri-Central (10-11) will look to continue its run when it plays Clinton Prairie (2-18) in the second semifinal tonight.
TC beat Rossville 69-66 in overtime.
The Trojans beat Prairie 66-61 in HHC play on Feb. 15.
The Trojans enter tonight’s game on a six-game winning streak while the Gophers are mired in a nine-game losing streak.
• The first semifinal pits Faith Christian (4-17) vs. No. 6-ranked Lafayette Catholic (14-8). Catholic has won 11 straight sectional titles.