Bloomington South poised to make another run at state

Bloomington South basketball over the past three seasons can be summed up in one word, dominant. Ok maybe two, extremely dominant. Where should I begin? I guess we could start with their perfect 26-0 state championship season in 2009. They carried that magical 2009 season into last year by accumulating the second longest winning streak in the history of Indiana high school basketball with 49, only one short of Greg Oden and Mike Conley’s 50 with Lawrence North.

Their combined record over the past three seasons is 66-3. A win tonight against Perry Meridian will assure them at least a share of their 4th straight Conference Indiana title. Their last three conference titles came in undefeated fashion, tallying a total of 29 consecutive victories against Conference Indiana foes. The Panthers have also been untouchable at home. They have an active home winning streak of 45 games. South will put that streak on the line Saturday afternoon at 3:00 against 2012 IU recruit Hanner Perea’s LaPorte LaLumiere squad in the Panthers penultimate game of the regular season.

The one game over the past three seasons that has proven to be the only road block in the way of South proving to be Indiana’s most dominant team in history was their defeat last March to Jeffersonville in the regional finals. That game seems to stick out like a zit on Miss America. South even dominated most of that game, holding a 12 point lead in the 4th quarter. Yet Jeff produced a rally for the ages and finished the game on a 17-3 run to win by two points while leaving the South faithful stunned and speechless in Seymour.

That Jeffersonville game was also the last at South for Erik Fromm, the 6’9” center who earned a scholarship to Butler. Matt Carlino, an IU commit at one time, also graduated early after last season to go play at UCLA (and later transfer to BYU this year). Fromm and Carlino were big enough loses, yet South also lost a host of seniors who coach J.R. Holmes looked to for all of his bench play.

It would be obvious why people across the state would think that Bloomington South would have a considerable drop off this season with all of the key departures. But after facing one of the most brutal schedules in the state, the Panthers are 17-2. They have played 9 teams so far this season that have been in the Top 15 in the 4A rankings at some point throughout the year. South has defeated Center Grove, Bedford North Lawrence, and Warsaw who have a combined record of 50-4 not including the three losses to the Panthers.

Bloomington South is led by senior point guard and Xavier commit Dee Davis, who is the floor general of their all-senior starting lineup. Davis was MVP of the Indiana State Tournament in 2009 as a sophomore when the Panthers went undefeated to claim South’s first boys basketball state title in 90 years. Keep in mind that he received the MVP award while playing alongside Mr. Basketball Jordan Hulls. Davis sets the tone each and every game on both ends of the court. He has an incredible knack of knowing when his team needs a clutch shot and he delivers time after time. If I had a ballot for Mr. Basketball, there’s no question Davis would be my selection.

Spencer Turner is another senior who started on the 2009 state championship team. It’s incredible to think that two starters from this year’s team started on that undefeated squad, especially considering the fact that Coach Holmes rarely lets underclassman on the varsity team. There are none on this year’s roster. Turner has proven to be one of the most deadly shooters in the state of Indiana over the past three seasons. In this year’s North vs. South game, Turner had 29 points on 10-11 shooting and was a perfect 7-7 from behind the arc. Needless to say, the kid can stroke the ball.

Desmond Marks and Joey Forney both received considerable playing time on last year’s team. Those two anchor down the inside for South. Ben Stowell didn’t play a minute of varsity action last year but led the JV team in scoring with over 17 points a game last year. Coach Holmes figured he would gain more experience playing JV last year as opposed to sitting on the bench behind some very talented guards like Davs, Turner, and Carlino. Stowell has fit in very well to this year’s team and has started every game.

There are some question marks that the Panthers have had to answer throughout the season. The most reoccurring one is their lack of size on the interior. Last year size wasn’t a question, it was one of the Panthers main strengths with 6’9” Erik Fromm in the middle alongside 6’4” Joey Forney and 6’5” Desmond Marks complementing the big man.

Now that Fromm has graduated though, Forney and Marks must control the paint by themselves. Throughout the season they have played at a size disadvantage but there has yet to be even one game where South has been dominated down low. Although they might not possess a lot of size, Forney and Marks have plenty of strength to move their opponents off the blocks. They are both very high percentage shooters on the inside as well.

The second question mark is the bench play. J.R. Holmes has said that his best teams at South in the 29 years he’s been the head coach have been teams with very strong bench play that pushed the starters in practice while playing vital minutes throughout the game. As big as the loss of Carlino and Fromm were last year, the Panthers lost five seniors off the bench as well. South gets almost nothing off the bench in terms of scoring. In two games against #6 Center Grove this season, the bench has scored a mere 5 points of the 162 the Panthers scored in those two matchups.

Even with the questions about the interior size and lack of scoring production off the bench, South still seems to be a front runner for the 2011 State Championship. They have arguably the best backcourt in the state with Dee Davis and Spencer Turner. They have championship pedigree. They have one of the greatest coaches in the history of the state. And they have been battle tested this season with all of the great competition they have faced.

South’s dominance throughout last season proved to be a burden once the state tournament hit. They went 20-0 in the regular season with only one of those victories being less than double digits. Then the regional finals game arrived and South, for the first time all year, was placed in a close game coming down to the wire. Ultimately Jeff executed better down the stretch and South’s dreams of back to back state titles evaporated.

That’s not the case this year though. Bloomington South has played some very close games and has shown their championship experience by winning the majority of those games with timely baskets and key defensive stops. It certainly says something about the South dynasty when they lost seven players including two of their key starters from last year and they find themselves once again as one of the favorites to become state champions. Never doubt a team that possesses the winning mentality. With the success South has had over the past three seasons, winning seems to be the only thing this team knows how to do.

One Response to Bloomington South poised to make another run at state
  1. berry
    February 18, 2011 | 9:15 pm

    You have got to remember that Hulls was defended every game by the other teams best defender, therefore leaving a less superior defender for Turner and Davis. Let’s see how Davis will fair when guarded by the best defender come this state tourney run.

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