Bruce Hensley was a fourth-grader when his hometown Greenwood Woodmen cut down the nets following the 1965 Johnson County boys basketball tournament.
“It’s kind of funny,” Hensley said. “I remember going to watch sectional games as a kid but
don’t remember watching the county tournament.”
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He does recall the county tournament making its long-awaited return in 2005, those Beatles-generation Woodmen incorporating a 39-year reach to pass the championship torch to coach Dave Clark’s Franklin squad.
Now in his 26th season as coach at his alma mater, Hensley begins what is his 11th consecutive county tourney tonight.
His Woodmen (2-8) host Edinburgh (7-5) in one of two first-round games. The other has Franklin (4-7) traveling to Indian Creek (7-3) to play the third-seeded Braves.
Seniority is definitely in Hensley’s corner — the event’s other five coaches have a combined 10 Johnson County tournaments under their belts.
Greenwood also is the site of Friday night’s semifinal games as well as the fifth-place, third-place and championship games Saturday.
“I think you get excited about any tournament you play,” Hensley said. “I think anyone would prefer playing at home, especially on a school night.”
Center Grove (7-4) and Whiteland (5-6) earned free passes to Friday night’s semifinal round by virtue of being the tournament’s Nos. 1 and 2 seeds, respectively.
Fifth-year Indian Creek coach Derek Perry doesn’t take issue with his squad being seeded below the Warriors despite having the field’s best won-loss record.
“Whiteland is just as deserving as us,” said Perry of the Warriors, whose six losses have come by a total of 26 points, including a 50-47 nail-biter at home to Center Grove on Dec. 19. “They played Center Grove tough, and they are the bigger school.”
The most obvious of subplots regarding tonight’s games is the return of 6-foot-2 Grizzly Cubs guard Cameron Smith to play at Indian Creek against the program for which he once starred.
A junior, Smith played his
first two varsity seasons for Perry’s Braves before electing to transfer. It’s also a homecoming of sorts for two of Indian Creek’s starters, senior guards Dylan Phair and Spencer Wood, who
a year ago at this time played
Smith enters this week as the county’s top point producer, averaging 18.1 per game.
“We talked as a team after the draw, and we’re treating it as another game. Indian Creek vs. Franklin, not Dylan and Spencer vs. Cameron,” Perry said. “We didn’t make a big deal of it.”
The most recent time the Cubs and Braves met was in 2012, with Franklin pulling out a 62-61 county tournament victory. The Grizzly Cubs also won three of the other four meetings dating back to the 2006-07 season.
Greenwood holds a similar dominance against Edinburgh recently with six victories in the past seven meetings.
It’s a trend Lancers coach Drew Glentzer hopes to reverse.
“Greenwood has a (Class) 4A schedule, and I know how fundamentally sound they are,” said Glentzer, whose program has secured three third-place and one runner-up finish at the county tournament in his first four seasons.
“It will be good for us in a lot of different ways, but it’s a tough out anytime you play a team on their home court,” Glentzer added.
Franklin (4-7) at Indian Creek (7-3), 7 p.m.
Edinburgh (7-5) at Greenwood (2-8), 7 p.m.
Indian Creek-Franklin winner vs. Whiteland (5-6), 6 p.m.
Edinburgh-Greenwood winner vs. Center Grove (7-4), 7:30 p.m.