At a time Cinderella stories are being created and upsets abound on an everyday basis, sadly there is no NCAA March Madness to be found, outside of throwback games. Thanks to ESPN for offering a little reprieve during this unwelcomed March madness with those classics.
As promised Saturday, I offer the Mythical Bureau County Sweet 16 featuring the top boys basketball teams in Bureau County history to help make up for the loss for March Madness.
Twenty-two teams made the cut, with eight playing for the final slots in each side of the bracket. In all, there were 11 state tournament teams, which received automatic berths, and three others, which received at-large berths.
Teams were seeded 1-22 with state advancement, rankings and records factored in. As I discussed with Brad Bickett, who was an all-stater on Ohio’s 1986 state runner-up and coached Bureau Valley’s third-place trifecta from 2000-02, we agreed it’s a little hard comparing different eras as players have different training and play now with the 3-point shot.
There’s also the cross of eras from the one class system, to two classes (1972) and the current four-class system (2008).
But it was sure fun trying to compare.
I divided the teams into four regions named after four legendary coaches — Don Sheffer (coach of Princeton’s Sweet 16 teams in the mid-50s), Chips Giovanine (coach of Western’s Elite Eight teams from the mid-1970s), Bob Prusator (coach of Tiskilwa’s Elite Eight team in 1983) and Eric Bryant Sr. (coach of DePue’s Sweet 16 team in 1980 and Hall’s state runners-up teams in 1997 and 1998).
No. 1 seeds in the regions went to Princeton’s 1955 fourth-place state (Sheffer), Hall’s 1998 state runner-up (Bryant), Ohio’s 1986 state runner-up (Prusator) and Bureau Valley’s 2001 third-place state team (Giovanine).
The Mythical Bureau County Sweet 16 gets underway here with the play-in brackets featuring No. 15 Princeton’s 1992 Sweet 16 team vs. No. 22 Princeton’s 1985 and No. 17 DePue’s 1952 sectional finals team vs. No. 20 Hall’s 1991 Sweet 16.
The other side featured No. 16 DePue’s 1947 29-2 team, largely considered the best in school history, vs. No. 21 Bureau Valley’s 2019 Sweet 16 team, and No. 18 Princeton 2003 vs. No. 19 Hall 1974 in a battle of Sweet 16 teams.
Roger Lowe’s Tigers of ‘92 were able to slow down Tony Lavorato’s No. 5 stated-ranked Tigers, who were upset in the regional finals by St. Bede, in matchup of PHS squads, while the 1952 DePue Little Giants defeated Hall’s ‘91 Sweet 16. Gaston Freeman’s Little Giants get the edge on the ‘92 Tigers in another low-scoring affair set by PHS’ defense.
DePue’s 1947 squad swept the other play-in bracket, defeating Bureau Valley’s 2019 Sweet 16s and Hall’s 1974 Sweet 16s, who edged Princeton’s 2003.
On to the first-round of games in the Sheffer Region, the coach’s 1955 Tigers reign over DePue’s 1952, while Western’s 1975 Elite Eight edges Bureau Valley’s 2002 state squad in a mild upset.
In the Giovanine Region, Bickett’s 2001 Storm squad he coached defeats the 1985 Ohio team he played for, while Western’s 1976 knocked out DePue’s 1980.
Moving over to the other side of the bracket, Hall’s 1998, coached by Eric Bryant, knocked out his hometown team of DePue’s 1947, while Bureau Valley’s 2000 upends Tiskilwa’s 1983 in a battle of state squads.
In the Prusator Region, No. 1 Ohio 1986 overpowered No. 13 Princeton 2009, while No. 6 Hall 1997 eliminated No. 11 Princeton 1954.
Regional semifinal matchups will be: No. 1 Princeton 1955 vs. No. 9 Western 1975, No. 4 Bureau Valley 2001 vs. No. 5 Western 1976, No. 2 Hall 1998 vs. No. 7 Bureau Valley 2000, and No. 3 Ohio vs. No. 6 Hall 1997.
Check back in Saturday’s paper to see who the next round of winners are.
Kevin Hieronymus is the BCR Sports Editor. Contact him at email@example.com.