If Friday's rough loss at Chesterton left Valparaiso with a sour taste, Sunday's state tournament draw may have provided the mouthwash.
The host Vikings will take on the Trojans in a Class 4A Sectional 2 quarterfinal March 5.
"Chesterton was so physical with us and we just didn't respond," Valpo coach Matt Thomas said. "We didn't quite match their intensity with the same passion we have all year. We were on a roll coming into the game and it was just one of those nights for us."
Chesterton's buzz was severely muted by the loss of leading scorer Chris Palombizio to a broken bone in his foot, but Thomas isn't about to write off the wounded Trojans.
"They play so hard defensively, it will still be a tough game," Thomas said. "He's a huge loss, but we lost by 18 and he scored six. You can do the math."
The even field features six teams with between 10 and 12 wins. Hobart has nine and no one is discounting defending champion Merrillville despite a 3-14 record. Every team except Michigan City has lost to at least two other teams in the sectional. The Wolves have been beaten twice by LaPorte, but wouldn't face the Slicers before the finals.
"The parity in unbelievable," Thomas said. "Most of us are just above a .500-type record. We're all beating each other up. After Lake Central, the rest of us (in the Duneland) are scrapping like crazy. I've said it before. We can beat any team or lose to any team. It's a really exciting time."
Thomas, of course, loves playing at home, shooting on familiar rims. The Vikings are also familiar with tight games, 12 of their 19 contests having been decided by single digits.
"We're used to grinding out wins," Thomas said.
At Class A Morgan Twp., the host Cherokees face defending champion 21st Century in the same half of the bracket as Kouts and Westville. Marquette drew a bye on the other side with Washington Twp. and Covenant Christian.
"I'm not so much concerned with the bye as having 21st Century and Kouts on the other side," Blazers coach Donovan Garletts said. "We couldn't have drawn it up better. It's a very, very tough sectional for 1A."
Battle-tested Marquette (13-6) has won five in a row, capturing its first Greater South Shore Conference title in the process. It lost in the sectional finals the last two years at Triton by a point.
"Hopefully, the third time's the charm, and we can step up to the plate and cut down some nets," Garletts said.
At 2A Hebron, heavy favorite Bishop Noll faces Lake Station for the third time. The Warriors (16-3) took the previous meetings by 16 and 25 points. Whiting will get the Hebron-Boone Grove winner in the other semifinal.