Muncie Central legacy lives through the historic downtown Fieldhouse
By Rick Yencer
MUNCIE, IN - When the horn blew Monday night in the Muncie Fieldhouse, the sad faces told the story that the Central Bearcats lost the sectional final to Hamilton Heights Huskies.
Central Coach Matt Fine said the tempo just seemed to change after Central led the first half and then had problems finding the basket after halftime when Huskie forward Bo O'Laughlin scored six points and his teammates went on to shoot 11 out of 12 free throws in the end.
Central guard Kaleb Mallory mustered 17 points while guard Jabriel Allen added 12. But Hamilton Heights had three in double figures including guard Hunter Crist with 17 and O'Laughlin with 16 while guard Jadon White had 11.
Hamilton Heights Coach Chad Ballenger said his team had plenty of scoring power which was proven when the Huskies beat Muncie South 73-56 in a semi-final game where Huskie forward Alex Etherington has a record 22 points.Kansas State is looking at the multi-sport senior to play for them.
For Ballenger, it is his first sectional title at Hamilton Heights, the third for the smallest school in growing Hamilton County with the likes of Noblesville, Carmel and Hamilton Southeast.
But this year, Hamilton Heights had an incredible talented group of upper classmen who went to the boys state football and girls state basketball tournaments. The Huskie girls lost to neighbor Mount Vernon 61-47 last weekend and Etherington and guard Grant Weatherford were on the football team that lost to Chatard in the 3A football final.
And as Ballenger told the team, you are only remembered in the sports world by a picture on the wall, and that picture of the sectional champions will put them the school's hall of fame
The fame of Bearcats can be seen by the eight state championship banners overhead or the old cafeteria that was converted into a lounge and trophy room for those eight championships during the last century.
Tom Raisor, who played on one of those championship teams, was in the lounge Monday night, and lamented the loss after recent years coming up short on another title.
Raisor played when there was one school in Muncie and believed that would come again with declining enrollment that put Central in Class 3A a couple of years ago.
Fine, who coached with former coach Bill Harrell, said Central underwent a rebuilding year, finishing at 8-14, compared to a regional finish last year at 19-5.
"We had a freshman team that went undefeated," said Fine, who expected some great players coming from junior varsity to put Central in the hunt against for the state title.
Fine has been around for a decade and had other Bearcat teams playing in the state, but never finding that championship that eluded Central since 1987-88.
Raisor believed the Bearcats could make another state run, especially with their current status in 3A, providing more memories in the future for Bearcat fans to enjoy.