The 2020 IHSAA girls basketball tournament is upon us . . .  just days away!

The 45th Annual event starts with sectionals next week (Feb. 4-8).

A few questions come to mind right off the bat:

Are the Hamilton Southeastern Lady Royals, the 2019 Class 4A state champions, destined to repeat?

First things first, what are the odds they can get out of a tough sectional that’s always extremely competitive?

The Lady Royals have the most decorated and explosive player in the Sectional 8 field in 2019 Indiana Gatorade Female Player of the Year Sydney Parrish, whose 26.1 scoring average ranks second in the state. I would say that’s a pretty good sign for starters. 

The senior also was named a McDonald’s All-American last week, and she needs only 32 more points to surpass the 1,869 career points of the late Courtney Cox of Noblesville and become the all-time leading scorer in Hamilton County girls basketball history.

And keep in mind that Parrish has a strong cast of teammates who are especially tough defensively and have improved by leaps and bounds since the start of season.

HSE’s lone loss to a Sectional 8 opponent came against Fishers in a last-second, 54-52 thriller on Dec. 21.

They could not meet again until the championship game at Westfield. No. 5 HSE opens against No. 9 Carmel in the second game on opening night, while the host Lady Rocks lead it off Tuesday against Zionsville.

Fishers and Noblesville drew the byes: No. 4 Fishers would meet the Game 1 winner in the semifinals, and Noblesville would meet the Game 2 winner.

The Lady Royals (19-2) will be looking for their 10th consecutive victory when Pike visits on Jan. 28. The Lady Tigers (19-1) had regular-season games remaining at Lawrence North (Jan. 28) and at Franklin Central (Jan. 31). They will win the Hoosier Crossroads Conference championship outright with a victory over Franklin Central. 

And, yes, Fishers figures to be a tough out in the tournament. The Lady Tigers are strong and long on talent and obviously enthusiasm.

Elsewhere, could this be the breakout year for the Class 3A Guerin Lady Golden Eagles (8-12), led by first-year varsity coach Marc Quaranta. They are still looking to hoist the school’s first girls basketball sectional plaque. And Guerin is the lone Hamilton County school yet to savor such an exciting moment.

Guerin, which competes in Sectional 27 at Bishop Chatard, must get past Shortridge and No. 8 Heritage Christian (14-6) to reach the championship game.

The Lady Golden Eagles own a 70-34 victory over Shortridge, but they lost to Heritage Christian 52-33.

They still face remaining regular-season tests at Decatur Central (Jan. 28) and in the Eagles Nest against Lafayette Central Catholic on Jan. 31.

Class 2A University has the best record among Hamilton County teams at 20-0. The Lady Trailblazers are in Sectional 43 at Western Boone.They are also ranked No. 2 behind unbeaten Triton Central  in the coaches’ association poll.

The Lady Trailblazers, defending regional champs, have games scheduled Jan. 28 on Senior Night against Cardinal Ritter, and they hit the road for 3A Tri-West on Jan. 30.

Class 4A Carmel (13-7), which has won 10 of its last 11 games and obviously has a lot of momentum, was to meet Cathedral on Jan. 28 and then Ben Davis on Jan. 31.

Class 4A Westfield (13-9) was to play host to Greensburg on Jan. 28.

Class 3A Hamilton Heights (13-10) will host Lafayette Jeff in a regular-season finale on Jan. 30.

Class 4A Noblesville (9-12), led by outstanding freshman Ashlynn Shane, who leads the Lady Millers with a 20.2 per-game scoring average, still has a road contest at Pendleton Heights on Jan. 29.

Class 2A Sheridan (7-12) will host Traders Point Christian on Jan. 29 and Taylor on Jan. 31.

Here are the last times county teams won girls sectionals:

Southeastern and University, 2019; Carmel and Hamilton Heights, 2018; Noblesville and Sheridan, 2015; Fishers 2014; Westfield, 2010.

Girls sectional pairings involving Hamilton County schools

Class 4A 
Sectional 8 
At Westfield (6)


Game 1: Westfield vs. Zionsville, Tues.
Game 2: Hamilton Southeastern vs. Carmel, Tues. 
Game 3: Fishers vs. Winner of Game 1, Fri. 
Game 4: Noblesville vs. Winner of Game 2, Fri. 
Championship: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, Sat.

Class 3A 
Sectional 24
At Yorktown (7)


Game 1: New Castle vs. Winchester Community,Tues.
Game 2: Delta vs. Muncie Burris, Wed.
Game 3: Yorktown vs. Hamilton Heights, Wed
Game 4: Jay County vs. Winner of Game 1, Fri.
Game 5: Winner of Game 2 vs. Winner of Game 3, Fri. 
Championship: Winner of Game 4 vs. Winner of Game, Sat.

Sectional 27
At Chatard (7)


Game 1: Lebanon vs. Brebeuf Jesuit, Tues.
Game 2: Shortridge vs. Guerin Catholic, Wed.
Game 3: Manual vs. Heritage Christian, Wed.
Game 4: Bishop Chatard vs. Winner of Game 1, Fri.
Game 5: Winner of Game 2 vs. Winner of Game 3, Fri.
Championship: Winner of Game 4 vs. Winner of Game 5, Sat.

Class 2A
Sectional 38
At Sheridan (6)


Game 1: Clinton Prairie vs. Lafayette Central Catholic, Tues.
Game 2: Sheridan vs. Seeger, Tues.
Game 3: Rossville vs. Winner of Game 1, Fri.
Game 4: Fountain Central vs. Winner of Game 2, Fri.
Game 5: Championship. Winner of Game 3 vs. Winner of Game 4, Sat.

Sectional 43
At Western Boone (5)

Game 1: University vs. Cascade, Tues.
Game 2: Park Tudor vs. Western Boone, Fri.
Game 3: Covenant Christian vs. Winner of Game 1.
Game 4: Championship. Winner of game 2 vs. Winner of Game 3, Sat.

*—Mark Morrow, a Hall of Fame Indiana sportswriter, has resided in Hamilton County since 1989. You can follow him in The Times, and on Twitter at mmediamarko12. He can be reached at mediamarko5@gmail.com or by calling 317 460-8018.