The Mythical Bureau County Sweet 16 is down to the Final Four.
The regional finals were highly contested by champions from many eras of Bureau County basketball greatness, including the 1950s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and the early 2000s.
The Sheffer Region, named after Princeton coaching great Don Sheffer, saw the coach’s 1955 Tigers, who placed fourth in the one-class system, square off against Chips Giovanine’s 1975 Western Rams. The Rams reached the Elite Eight that season, ranked No. 4 in Class A, taking a 29-0 record to state.
All-stater Bobby Sprowls and Jeff Bowman kept the Rams in the game, but in the end, Tiger greats Joe Ruklick and Lew Flinn carried Princeton to victory.
The Giovanine Region was a classic battle between the 1976 Western Rams (31-2), who also reached the state tournament undefeated, finishing fourth, and the 2001 Bureau Valley Storm (33-2), which placed third at state.
Western, the early 1960s consolidation of Buda and Sheffield, evolved into the future Bureau Valley district in the mid-1990s, which carried on the Rams’ legacy for hoops greatness.
One thing you can always count on, coaches Chips Giovanine of Western and Brad Bickett of Bureau Valley always have their teams ready to play. And that they were. The Rams, who were led by Ron “Stick” Happach, and Storm battled to the very end with the Storm advancing to our Final Four.
Moving over to the Bryant Region, we find the first of the three third-place Bureau Valley state squads from 2000. The Storm are paired off vs. the region’s namesake Eric Bryant’s Hustlin’ Hall Red Devils.
The Red Devils were ranked No. 1 in 1998 and remained undefeated until falling in the state championship game. The Red Devils, who boast AP Class A Player of the Year Shawn Jeppson, prove too much for the Storm, and advance to our Final Four.
In the last bracket, the Prusator Region, we find a regional finals showdown between a pair of state runners-up — the 1986 Ohio Bulldogs (29-3) of Lloyd Johnson vs. the 1997 Hall Red Devils (27-6).
The Bulldogs were in the midst of a magical season coming off a Sweet 16 run the year before. The Red Devils roared to their first state championship game berth.
Jeppson, who scored a state championship game record 51 points in 1997, single-handedly kept the Red Devils in the game. The Bulldogs have two aces, however, with all-staters Brad Bickett and Lance Harris, aka Thunder and Lightning.
Ohio, which somehow was ranked only 13th in the final AP Poll of the season in 1986, continues to amaze, defeating the Red Devils, to play on for another round of our Mythical Bureau County Sweet 16.
So, we are down to four great teams. Final Four matchups have the 1955 Princeton Tigers vs. the 2001 Bureau Valley Storm and the 1998 Hall Red Devils vs. the 1986 Ohio Bulldogs.
Who’s going to reach our championship game? You can vote on my Twitter account @bcrsportsed or email me your thoughts. Check back in Wednesday’s BCR to find out who I pick.
Kevin Hieronymus is the BCR Sports Editor. Contact him at email@example.com.