Sports reporter

Steve has won awards during two different stints at The Times. In addition to being the Prep Beat columnist, he covers football, boys basketball and boys track. He is a long-suffering Cubs fan.

The long road to Indianapolis tips off on Tuesday in the 2018 version of Hoosier Her-steria.

Do you feel the chills yet?

For the 43rd straight year, the IHSAA girls basketball state tournament will begin, one of the highlights of the year. Great teams and corresponding players will battle all around the Region and in places much further.

If your gas card is a little shy on nickles, let me help you out. I will let you know who is going to win ahead of time. My choices were almost perfect last January.

They will be better now. These are almost certainly absolute locks, maybe. Guaranteed, sort of.

Class A

Morgan Twp. Sectional: Not long ago the host Cherokees raised the Gold Ball trophy after winning their second straight Porter County Conference tournament championship. But can first-year coach Scott Adams find a way to beat defending champion Marquette? Can sisters Talia and Sahara Bee find a way to sting the Blazers?

Well, no. Morgan will get to Saturday night but matching up with the Nolan sisters will be next to impossible. Marquette will raise the gold while it's cutting down the nets.

Oregon-Davis Sectional: This is a three-horse race between the hosts, Triton and South Central. The Satellites beat Triton but lost to O-D in the regular season. Can Amber Wolf and Lauren Anthony climb the ladder? Perhaps. They have a shot.

South Central will get to Saturday night, but home-court advantage will benefit O-D in a close one.

Class 2A

Bishop Noll Sectional: Andrean won two straight sectional titles in Class 3A before dropping down. The host Warriors have won four straight in 2A. This will be a diocese dilemma for sure.

Noll beat the 'Niners 57-46 on Jan. 4. The championship game will be on Tuesday when these two open up the tournament. Freshmen Courtney Blakely and Rose Fuentes will be too much. Noll wins a close one.

If you want to take a peek at the future, come out and see Lake Station freshman Taylor Austin. She's averaging 26.3 a game. The kid can play.

Boone Grove Sectional: Do the host Wolves or Hebron have a chance? No. North Judson will win. Big.

Class 3A

West Side Sectional: Something has to give, right? The host Cougars won two straight 4A sectionals before dropping down after Dana Evans left for college. Lighthouse has won the last three crowns in this field.

This is the Daijah Smith vs. Dash Shaw showdown, a one-on-one with a lot more at stake. West Side won the regular-season showdown and the Cougars will win a squeaker on Saturday night.

Knox Sectional: There will be two winners here: the host Redskins and British Petroleum, or just BP. It's 96 miles roundtrip for Hanover Central to get to Knox. It's 105 miles for Calumet to get to Knox and back, and these two teams play on Tuesday night.

Anyone in Indianapolis wonder why the attendance is down? Does anybody recall when sectional sites were geographically centrally located?

Nope, me neither. Knox wins easy, along with the gas industry.

Class 4A

Crown Point Sectional: West Side leaves and this is still a very good field. C.P. moves into Sectional 1 and hosts right away. Four teams have a winning record and the number would be five if not for E.C. Central forfeiting five games to start the season.

Going old-school here at my old school. Lake Central will beat E.C. Central on Saturday night, but it will not be easy.

Kankakee Valley Sectional: Gas cards again will be sold for this one as the furthest school to the south gets to host, and it's a good time for such a thing. This sectional is loaded.

Chesterton is rolling. Valpo is very good, while Portage and Michigan City have very solid clubs. But I'm going to take the host Kougars. Home cooking will serve up a win for coach Ryan Myers' team.

But it will not be easy. Especially for the fans driving down from northern Porter County. Remember check the oil in your engine.

Penn Sectional: In something Region fans of all sports have heard before, Penn cuts down the nets without sweating.

Drum roll please. And here are your state champs, who will play at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Feb. 24.

Marquette Catholic will win the Class A state title. North Judson will win the 2A title. Northwestern will cut down the nets in Class 3A. And Carmel will take the 4A state crown.

Time to get excited, ladies. Pump up. Gas up.

Enjoy the ride.

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This column solely represents the writer’s opinion. Reach him at steve.hanlon@nwi.com.

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