Madison basketball coach Willie Humes (above, center) talks to (from left) Whitney Wynn, Cadie Povaleri, Olivia Crozier, Alex Thurnall and Macky Hecox as assistant coach Dwight Inskeep listens in (background). The Cubs are looking to improve in a Final Four finish in 2012 when the 2013 state tourney begins this week in Indiana. Wynn (below, right) and senior Hannah Cain are two of the returning players from Madison’s regional championship squad in 2012. (Courier file photos by David Campbell)
Madison basketball coach Willie Humes (above, center) talks to (from left) Whitney Wynn, Cadie Povaleri, Olivia Crozier, Alex Thurnall and Macky Hecox as assistant coach Dwight Inskeep listens in (background). The Cubs are looking to improve in a Final Four finish in 2012 when the 2013 state tourney begins this week in Indiana. Wynn (below, right) and senior Hannah Cain are two of the returning players from Madison’s regional championship squad in 2012. (Courier file photos by David Campbell)
Madison's girls basketball team has waited nearly a year to get another crack at a deep state tournament run and now that wait is over.

The Lady Cubs, ranked 14th in the final Class 3A coaches poll, will open the state tournament against South Dearborn on Wednesday in the opening round of Sectional 29 at Rushville.

Madison enters the tournament with a six-game win streak in sectional play and in each of the last two seasons, the Lady Cubs have inched further down the tourney trail.

Two years ago, Madison reached the regional round before being stopped by Indianapolis Roncalli. Last year, the Cubs made it to the Final Four before losing to Mount Vernon (Fortville) in the semistate.

To get further this year would mean reaching the state championship game and it is a task that Madison is ready to tackle.

"This group has been loose all year. They're a loose group and they're ready to play," Madison coach Willie Humes said. "I just got to make sure that they're not too loose."

Madison (16-4) opened the season with a nine-game win streak and stood at 11-1 and ranked fifth in the state before suffering through an up and down January. The Cubs lost road games on three consecutive Saturday afternoons, but rebounded to close the regular season on a three-game tear.

Humes believes that the January blahs are behind his team and this group is focused and ready to play. Eight of the 12 players on the postseason roster appeared in the semistate game last season and experience is finally on Madison's side.

"I think being there a year ago helps us and we had some physical games last year, especially the last one," Humes said. "I think that helped us because we know it's going to be physical and mentally, we know we have to be ready for that."

In order to have any shot at a state title, Madison will have to traverse a difficult sectional tournament. Rushville (17-3) is ranked seventh in Class 3A and considering that the Lions are the tournament host have been picked by many as the favorite.

But Madison has to win two games before it can even think about a rematch with Rushville, a team the Cubs beat 54-45 in the sectional finals last year. First up for the Cubs is South Dearborn (10-9) which Madison hammered 85-39 on Nov. 13.

Humes has stressed that his team cannot be caught looking ahead to Rushville and he is confident his veteran group will not do that.

"We have to play it one game at a time. We have South Dearborn and then either Greensburg or Franklin County," Humes said. "But we're concentrating on South Dearborn and that's where we will take it from there.

"I saw South Dearborn play last week and they beat Batesville so you know they are good," Humes said. "But they appear to be the same team that we played earlier. I think if we play our game we'll be all right."

If Madison and Rushville do meet in the finals it could be a game for the ages. Based on the Sagarin Ratings, the two teams are virtually identical and Rusville is a six-point favorite after getting three points by virtue of being at home.

Class 2A Sectional 45 at South Ripley

It has not been a great season in Hanover but Southwestern enters sectional play having won four of its last six and has every reason to believe that it can win the tournament.

The Rebels (7-14) will face host South Ripley (14-6) in the opening round tonight. Ripley scored a 49-39 win in Hanover the last time the two teams met but Southwestern shot just 20 percent from the floor in that game.

Should Southwestern advance it will get a shot at No. 8 Austin in the semifinals on Friday. Austin (17-4) won 74-61 in the last meeting between the two teams but it was just a four-point game with four minutes to play.

Southwestern coach Kenny Garrett knows that his team has an uphill battle but he is confident nonetheless.

"We didn't play very well against South Ripley and we were in that game and we stayed with Austin," Garrett said. "I still believe that we can win this tournament. All we need is for the girls to believe as well."

On the other side of the bracket Switzerland County (9-12) opens with North Decatur (12-8) in the first round. North beat Switzerland 53-39 in December but the Pacers played that game without starting point guard Mercedes Parham.

Should Switzerland win, the Pacers could have a clear path to the title game. Milan (1-18) awaits in the semifinals.

Class A Sectional 60 at Jac-Cen-Del

Shawe Memorial (4-16) drew the bye and will face the Hauser-Jac-Cen-Del winner in Friday's semifinals. Should the Hilltoppers play the host Eagles, it will mark the sixth time in the past seven years that Shawe has opened tourney play with Jac-Cen-Del.

The Hilltoppers did not fare well against either potential semifinal foe this year. They lost to Hauser 61-23 in late December and to Jac-Cen-Del 42-18 two weeks ago. In fact Shawe has lost to all five sectional opponents this year.

A victory in Friday's game will be a historic one for the Hilltopper program. Shawe has not won a sectional game since 1994 and has only two postseason wins - both over Southwestern - in its history. The Hilltoppers have never played in a sectional championship.