MUNCIE, Ind. — Thanksgiving is fast approaching, which means the 2021-22 IHSAA boys basketball season is about to begin.
There were several strong local teams in 2020-21, with five squads winning sectional titles, but COVID-19 restrictions kept gyms from holding large crowds for the majority of the season.
More fans can return to the bleachers this year, so here are 10 games to mark on your calendar:
Nov. 27 – Muncie Burris at Muncie Central
The Owls and Bearcats enjoyed a thrilling late-season matchup in 2020. Burris won the contest 63-61 despite a Central fourth-quarter comeback, but both teams have lost their top two scorers from that game.
Burris finished last season 9-11, while Central lost all 21 of its games. The squads now play at the start of the season with several players on both rosters in new roles, so it should be interesting to see who steps up in this rematch.
The Bearcats, in particular, are hungry for a win. They’re looking to get into the win column for the first time since March 6, 2020, and battling a Burris bunch that graduated two of its three leading scorers might be a good place to start.
Dec. 4 – Cowan at Shenandoah
Shenandoah (25-4) and Cowan (15-9) both won their respective sectional tournaments last year behind a strong class of seniors. Both teams will look drastically different this year, however, and this early-season conference matchup could indicate how these squads will fare throughout the season.
The Raiders beat the Blackhawks easily, 69-33, last year, right before Cowan found the groove it rode to a sectional championship. When both teams replace a strong senior class, however, anything can happen.
Dec. 7 – Daleville at Blackford
Daleville and Blackford haven’t played each other in nearly three years. Plenty has changed for both programs in that time, which makes this an intriguing local matchup.
Bruins star Luke Brown (31.7 ppg) is gone. Daleville hired Ashley Fouch, the school’s former girls basketball head coach, to lead its boys program. Both teams will have played a couple games prior to this contest, so this outing should be a good early-season indication of how well these groups are adapting to these changes.
There are many unknowns going into this game, which makes it all the more intriguing.
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Dec. 10 – Yorktown at Delta
Delta and Yorktown are almost always good for an intense game every season. Last year, the two rivals split their two matchups as each team earned a double-digit victory, with Yorktown’s loss coming after a season-low 34 points.
Delta did graduate top player Brady Hunt (21.2 ppg), though, so the Eagles will need either a new star or a better collective effort to be similarly successful to its 17-5 season. Yorktown lost a couple of senior contributors but returns top-scorer junior AJ Dunn (14.8 ppg) and could be better than its 14-8 record from last year.
Either way, Tigers and Eagles fans will make this an exciting game to attend.
Dec. 10 – Union City at Winchester
For Winchester, losing dominant center Payton Sparks (19.4 ppg, 13.8 rpg) means the team needs a new identity. Its fist conference game, against Union City, should show how the team is adapting through the beginning of the season.
Winchester dominated Union City 85-55 in a tournament matchup last season, but both squads have new pieces this time around. This could indicate which team will finish higher in the Tri-Eastern Conference standings by the end of the year.
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Dec. 17 – Delta at Jay County
Following a close 39-35 Delta win over Jay County in last year’s regular season, the Eagles stomped the Patriots 42-26 in the sectional tournament. It was by far Jay County’s lowest point total of the year, and Hunt gashed the team for 18 points and 13 rebounds.
Now that Delta is without Hunt, the Patriots will be looking for payback. Expect this game to be an intense rematch of a sectional contest last year, especially with Jay County returning many players.
Jan. 21 – Yorktown at New Castle
Yorktown beat New Castle 49-42 last season, and the teams should be poised for another completive contest this year.
This game marks about the midway point of the season, so this Hoosier Heritage Conference matchup could indicate how these teams will finish out the year. Conference standings will start to take shape, and this might be a confidence-building win for whichever team comes out on top.
Feb. 11 – Wapahani at Monroe Central
These two teams played a close contest last year, with Wapahani squeaking out a 73-69 victory.
Monroe Central senior Jackson Ullom and Wapahani junior Aiden Franks scored 60 points combined in that outing. The two could do battle again one last time, making this game a must-see for fans of strong guard play.
This late-season game also will have Mid-Eastern Conference standings implications, especially since both teams should be competitive throughout the year.
Feb. 18 – Wes-Del at Blue River
Wes-Del narrowly defeated Blue River 65-63 late last season, and the two teams once again match up in late February in their final conference game.
Both teams have lost some key pieces, so they could be in store for another close contest. Conference standings could be decided, as well as a show of which team is playing better heading into the post season.
Feb 22 – Lapel at New Castle
While this isn’t a conference or local matchup, Lapel beat New Castle 75-74 in a double-overtime game last season. It’s a game the two sides certainly remember, with the Trojans coming up just short and hoping to come out on top this year.
The two sides could be poised for another late-season thriller, and if nothing else, it’ll be a good test for these two squads heading into postseason play.
Gus Martin is a sports reporter at The Star Press. Follow him on Twitter @GusMartin_SP, and contact him at email@example.com or 765-729-4742.