Whiting boys basketball coach Aaron Mercer is excited about the Class 2A sectional being hosted in the Oilers' Memorial Gymnasium next week.
But he took Saturday off from preparing for the winner of the Bishop Noll-River Forest game.
Mercer's niece, Morgan Mercer, is a senior on Northwestern's Class 3A top-ranked team, which plays Greensburg on Saturday night in the state championship game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Region has produced its share of memorable games, teams and players in the state boys basketball tournament. Here's 15 that still resonate today.
This is the 30th anniversary of Aaron Mercer's Bishop Noll team making it to Indianapolis in the single-class Final Four.
Bill Mercer, Morgan's father, was an athlete at Noll before graduating in 1987.
"This is so exciting," Aaron Mercer said on Thursday. "To think it was 30 years ago when I got to play down there and now my niece gets too. It's just awesome to say the least.
"Morgan has worked her tail off to have this opportunity."
Player of the Week
Mercer was on the other side of the joy train Thursday night when his Oilers played Westville.
Senior Cade Albers didn't just have the best game of the week for the Blackhawks, it was the best individual game I've seen all season.
In the 82-70 win, Albers scored 39 points on 16-of-23 shooting, going 7 of 13 from beyond the arc. He also grabbed 15 rebounds and had six assists.
But what he did in the game's final moments impressed everyone in the gym. Stalling, he dribbled down the lane and had a wide-open layup but chose to dribble to the wing as the buzzer sounded.
His career-high 39 didn't get over 40, but it made a positive mark for a lot of fans.
"What a class act," Mercer said.
Albers explained his reasoning to do the right thing.
"I wasn't raised like that to be disrespectful," he said. "The game was over. It wouldn't have been right to do that."
So Albers wins the Saturday Morning Scorer's Table Player of the Week honor and, more importantly, making decisions like this sets him up for a great future in the game of life.
Well done young man.
Peaking at the right time?
Calumet got a big 63-54 win over Highland on Friday night, giving the Warriors a 10-10 record heading into next week's sectional at Twin Lakes. This marks the first time third-year coach Dominique Nelson has got to double-digit wins.
Davion Davis scored 19 in the win, Jaylen Sullivan had 17 and Jacori Gillespie had 10.
The Warriors play Wheeler in sectional play, a 55-44 winner on Jan. 18. If Calumet gets by the Bearcats, it will play Hanover Central. The Wildcats beat the Warriors 67-58 on Dec. 22.
Calumet hasn't won a sectional game since 2013.
First time for everything
IHSAA sports information director Jason Wille confirmed that this is the first time Lake Central has hosted a boys basketball sectional -- not counting the single-game satellite contests that took place a decade or so ago.
Lake Central's first sectional was in 1967, where the Indians played sectionals at Crown Point through 1970. From 1971 through 1997 L.C. played in the Calumet Sectional. Once class hoops started, the Indians played sectionals at Merrillville, West Side and E.C. Central.
"This is something we've been looking forward to all year," Lake Central coach Dave Milausnic said. "If you've never played the game you have no idea what it's like shooting in your own gym, the place you shoot every day in practice."
Hoosier Hysteria ticking upwards
Wille, a Crown Point native, said the boys basketball state tournament draw, which was held on this past Sunday on IHSAAtv.org, had 11,365 unique viewers. That was a number that made the IHSAA happy.
They also saw over 100 viewing parties for the sectional draw around the state.
Heath Shanahan, the IHSAA's Director of Broadcast Operations, said there were 1.3 million-plus viewer minutes between two girls basketball semistate games, state wrestling championship matches and the boys basketball pairings show last weekend.
Penn High School sent out its boxscore from Friday's game against Merrillville, won by the Pirates 70-64.
It said that Darryon Bandy scored 28 points for Merrillville.
But coach T.J. Lux confirmed that it was Johnny Bernard who dropped the 2-8 on Penn. The senior guard forgot his jersey at school, so he wore No. 23 in Mishawaka, which is Bandy's number.
Merrillville, winners of seven straight, also got 13 points from Jaylon Holmes, 12 from Rob Sanders and 11 from Brandon Stubbs.