Hoosier Hysteria vs. College Tourney Time
In this country, March signals college basketball tournaments. Team flags, college t-shirts and brackets are in every sports bar and college campus. Shouts and cheers can be heard from fans’ and alumni living rooms.
During March, basketball is “king” in this country. However, in Indiana, basketball, particularly high school basketball, is “king” all year along. If it isn’t high school basketball season (Nov – March), then it is “waiting for high school basketball” season, especially in Grant County.
Like most Hoosier communities, Grant County is preoccupied with the high school Sectionals, Regionals, Semi-State and State games and their outcomes. It’s the talk-of-the-town at the diners, barber shops and grocery stores. The tournament lasts all month long, and we couldn’t be more, well, fanatical. That’s why we call it Hoosier Hysteria. The excitement surrounding the high school basketball tournaments is intense and pervasive. In Indiana, a basketball hoop on the barn or garage is a birthright. Winning a state championship provides bragging rights for a year, and then becomes a major part of that community’s identity forever. Likewise, the players on the winning teams are local heroes, never to be forgotten. While every Indiana community has a basketball story to tell, Grant County is particularly rich in high school basketball dominance, lore and heroes.
Founded in 1891, Marion High School has eight (8!) basketball state championships and a long history of basketball excellence. Their state championships were in years 1926, 1975, 1976, 1985, 1986, 1987, 2000 and 2016. Referencing their school colors, purple and gold, the three back-to-back state titles in the mid-80s was known as the Purple Reign. Tied with neighboring county rival Muncie Central for the highest number of state boys basketball championships, these two schools have competed since the 1930s. Former Marion coach, Bill Green, holds the state record for the most championships, with six state championships, five at Marion High School and his first at Indianapolis Washington High School, actually beating Marion by one game in the state semi-finals that year. Only one other school has won three state championships in a row and that was Franklin High School in the early 1920s.
Every Hoosier Hysteria fan should visit The Bill Green Arena in Marion, Indiana and feel the history and mystic in the concourse and on the court. This arena, opened in 1970 and renamed after coach Bill Green in 1996, is the fifth largest high school venue in the state with 7,560 seats. Come to a Marion Giants home game, and you’ll sense the heritage. You’ll feel it the moment you enter the building: the history, the pride, the excitement. You’ll swear you can hear the cheers, ball bounces and buzzers from nail-biting great-games-gone-by, as you take in the trophies, jerseys, retired numbers, portraits of coaches and players, and prized memorabilia. Most of all, you’ve got to see for yourself the state championship and state finalist banners, proudly hung at both ends of the court, forever-reminders of high school basketball greatness at Marion High School
Located in Gas City, Mississinewa High School was founded in 1948. Soon thereafter in 1954, the Indians basketball season is what Hoosier Hysteria legends are made of. This team went undefeated until they went up against Muncie Central in the Fort Wayne Semi-State championship game, leading the game into the third quarter. In the end, Muncie Central won that game then went on to lose to Milan, in the famous 1954 state championship game portrayed in the movie, Hoosiers. Today, the Mississinewa High School gym features a huge painted mural of their mascot, under which The Spirit of Ole Miss in inscribed. Sitting in this gym will give you a front row seat to the kind of Indiana high school basketball legends made for the movies.
The Madison-Grant high school opened in 1970, following the closure of Fairmount High School. In 1885, Fairmount High School opened in what became the south end of the building. Called “The Quakers” at the time, their basketball teams won the sectional championships in 1929, 1942 and 1955. Later, the black and gold school colors were adopted by Madison-Grant, and they became the Argylls, the only high school in the United States with the Argyll mascot. You might wonder: What is an Argyll? In this case, it means a person from the Scottish isles of Argyll, off the west coast of the mainland. When you visit Grant County, drive by the original Fairmount High School at 201 South Vine Street. It was here where James Dean performed in school plays on the very stage still inside, and echos of cheering basketball sectional fans remain. Then swing by the Madison-Grant High School where five sectional championship banners hang, one beating the Marion Giants in 1996 and their most recent 2A sectional championship in 2017.
Located just outside Marion, this high school serves the communities of Upland, Matthews and Van Buren. The Panthers are two-time sectional champs, achieved in the years 1979 and 1998(2A). Their championship banners are showcased next to the gigantic red and black panther mural in the Eastbrook High School gym.
The Eagles achieved recent basketball glory in 2018, when they went all the way to Semi-State played at Huntington North High School. That year, Oak Hill had four players over 6’.5”, winning a tough game against Tipton to launch them to the class 2A Semi-State. Located in Converse, The Eagles have also won nine 2A sectional championships, and three Regional titles in 1971, 2001 and 2018.
In Indiana, it’s not just basketball. Here, we embrace Hoosier Hysteria. It’s ours, and we love the excitement all the way through the tournament. For many schools, winning a sectional can be almost as exciting as the possibility of winning a state championship. It’s the fight to win. It’s the nail-biting games that come down to the wire. It’s the final second shot that makes the crowds spring to their feet and plunge onto the court, hugging friends and neighbors. Hoosier Hysteria is everywhere in Indiana, but especially you’ll feel it when you visit Grant County.
When you visit Grant County, we invite you to eat at some of our fabulous restaurants. Casual or fancy, find the perfect spot here. If you need a comfortable place to stay, you’ll find it here. Enjoy your stay in Classic and Cool Grant County.