When the Johnson County Tournament was reintroduced in 2004-05, the idea was to restore at least some of the local passion for boys basketball that had steadily eroded in the post-single-class era.
By nearly any measure, the 2012-13 event succeeded on that front and in a big way.
Games were close, several were thrillers, and the championship was there for anybody’s taking — from the smallest school to the largest.
And as evidenced by attendance, near-capacity crowds for the semifinal and championship rounds, fans were stoked.
Most would agree they got their money’s worth, even if their team didn’t get the trophy.
“I just thought it was a tournament-like atmosphere,” said Franklin coach Jerry Bomholt, whose team emerged from the grueling grind with the championship. “I thought it was tremendous participation, not only by everybody’s fans, but by the teams. I thought there was some very good basketball, very competitive basketball.
“I just thought it was a great experience.”
Edinburgh athletics director Tim Jordan agreed. His school hosted the semifinal and championship rounds, and its 2,080-seat gym nearly sold out both nights.
But the house wasn’t just packed; it was animated and loud.
Just like the good old “Hoosier Hysteria” days.
“It was a heck of an atmosphere. When you get that many people in a small gym, it’s going to be a great atmosphere,” Jordan said. “All the games were great. All the games were pretty close.”
All but one was.
In the first round, Class A Edinburgh edged Class 3A Indian Creek 82-78 in a double-overtime thriller. Three nights later in the semifinals, No. 1-seed Class 4A Center Grove slipped by Class 4A Whiteland 51-47, and No. 2-seed Class 4A Franklin nipped Edinburgh 52-50.
Franklin went on to earn a 46-42 win against Center Grove final.
But even the consolations weren’t inconsequential, especially for Greenwood.
After suffering an 80-33 first-round loss against Whiteland, the Class 4A Woodmen picked up their first victory of the season with a 66-53 win against Class 3A Indian Creek.
With the win, Greenwood claimed fifth place and, more importantly, snapped a nine-game skid.
Edinburgh won the third-place game with a 62-55 win against Whiteland.
Although Franklin claimed the championship, Bomholt — in his first year at Franklin and his 32nd overall as a varsity head coach — appreciated the tournament for reasons other than what was on the scoreboard.
He loved the size of the crowds, the enthusiasm and the quality of the games.
“I’ve been around long enough that I don’t always judge everything based on wins and losses,” Bomholt said. “I just think the idea of the tournament, the atmosphere, the opportunity for kids to play in front of big crowds with pressure — anytime you can put them in those situations before you ever get to the sectional has got to be a learning experience for us, especially as young as our team is.
“The more times they can be in those situations, hopefully the better it is for them, (and) they learn what’s necessary and what you’ve got to do to be successful.”
In total, 3,226 tickets were sold for the seven games — all but one of which were played at Edinburgh. The figure does not include patrons who attended with Johnson County Sports Passes or who received complimentary tickets from one of the six participating schools.
The total gate, excluding sports passes and comps, was $16,333, according to Jordan.
Greenwood coach Bruce Hensley attributed the heightened interest in this year’s tournament to the fact the race for the championship was wide open.
“There is more parity amongst the teams, as much as anything. The teams are a lot closer than in years past,” said Hensley, who’s in his 24th season at Greenwood. “At least I feel like that’s the case.
“I feel like everybody kind of felt, ‘We can play with that other team,’ and I think that added to the atmosphere. They were good games.”