Class 2A Preview: Park Tudor looks for back-to-back championships against Bowman Academy
Park Tudor Head Coach Ed Schilling has become a bit of an IHSAA historian as of late. To keep his defending 2011 IHSAA Class 2A State champions motivated, he's given speeches about leaving a lasting legacy, both at Park Tudor High School and throughout Indiana. For example, Schilling has made it a point to make sure his Panthers knew that if they were to advance to Saturday's State championship game, they would be joining the Crispus Attucks, Marion, Lawrence North, Pike, Lafayette Central Catholic, and Franklin as the only teams to play in three State championship games.

Does Schilling know how many teams have won back to back though?

"I don't know that one," said Schilling with a smile. "The only stats I know are the ones you guys give me, but we are just so thankful to be here. We are not taking it for granted because this is so special. We're just honored to be here to represent Park Tudor once again."

The Park Tudor Panthers (24-2) will attempt to become just the fifteenth squad to win back-to-back State Championship games while their opponents in the Bowman Academy Eagles (18-7) will be competing in their second title game in three seasons in Saturday's Class 2A State championship. Tip-off is at Bankers Life Fieldhouse at 12:45 p.m. ET on Saturday, and a live broadcast of the game can be seen on Indiana's 4 WTTV.

Though the Panthers have made the 8.67 mile trip to Bankers Life Fieldhouse the past two seasons now, the defending champions have found the road to the State championship has been different this go-around.

"It has been a lot harder," said Schilling. "Every time you go to play you are getting everyone's best shot. As a defending champ, everybody wants to defeat the defending state champ. So everybody has given us there best shot, and I think it has made us a better team. It has been a lot more difficult to be able to sustain that level of intensity and being able to withstand it. So I think it has made us a much better team, but it has been a lot harder."

Perhaps no game has been more difficult for Park Tudor than the Southport Semi-State championship this past Saturday, a game in which the Panthers looked to be in some major trouble against Providence in the second half. Providence's Ryan Pickerrell (13 points) hit a lay-up midway through the third quarter to put the Pioneers up 30-21, but the Panthers came storming back, outscoring Providence 22-9 in the fourth quarter to win the game 62-49. Sophomore Trevon Bluiett led all scorers with 26 points and 5 rebounds, while Senior guard Yogi Ferrell played spectacular with 23 points and 6 assists.

"I think Providence just did a terrific job as the just executed extremely well," said Schilling.

"But our guys really rose to the occasion. They challenged back to the ball, down nine in the third quarter, and were able to increase the intensity along with making adjustments on our zone. We were able to get some steals, and were just able to cash in at the other end. To turn that nine-point deficit to a double-digit win was really a credit to our players tenacity and also to their unflappability. Because regardless of what has been thrown at them this year, they have been rock solid."

To no surprise the Panthers have been able to excel thanks to one of the top point guards in the nation in Senior Yogi Ferrell. The future Indiana Hoosier will be not only the fastest and most talented player in the game on Saturday, but is perhaps the best player in the state of Indiana. If Ferrell (averaging 17.8 points per game, 6.1 assists) can help the Panthers pull out a win on Saturday, there's the potential that a Mr. Basketball award could come with it as well.

"As good as a player as he is to see, he is even better to coach," said Schilling.

"He has been perhaps the most coachable player that I have been around at any level. High school, college, NBA, he is as coachable as a young man as I have ever been around. But I think in terms for me as to why he is Mr. Basketball is because what he has done as a team. As a point guard, you are judged by how well your team does, and what he does is make everyone around him better. As we have mentioned only seven teams in history of the state of Indiana have gone to the State championship game three years in a row, and he has been the key figure each of those three years. What a tribute to him, and that's what he does. He makes everybody better, he makes his team win, and that's what Mr. Basketball does in this state in my opinion."

Ferrell won't be the only problem for Bowman Academy on Saturday, as his ability to spread the floor opens up shots for Senior Paul Bayt (7.7 ppg) along with Sophomores Troy Spears (8.8 ppg) and 6'5 center Trevon Bluiett (18.7 ppg, 8.9 rebounds per game).

"They (Spears and Bluiett) have been key figures last year as freshman, this year as sophomores and you can really see their maturity. Trevon hit five threes in our Semi-State and eight threes in our last home game, and he can shoot it outside, but can also go inside. He's a recipient of many of Yogi's passes, and he's got great hands, and is really just a a super-skilled offensive player."

However come Saturday at game-time Schilling knows all of his top-notch players and those coming off the bench will have to bring their A-game on Saturday, as the 2010 Class A State champion Bowman Academy Eagles might just be their toughest challenge yet.

"Unbelievable talent," said Schilling about the Eagles.

"They are as big as any team in the state, and they are as big and talented as any team in the country. From their 6'10 centers to their high-major Division One players, we know their relentless pressure is something that we are going to have to be ready for. It will be a huge challenge because they are bigger then us, they are more athletic then we are at about every position, so we know we have our hands full, but I know our guys will look forward to the challenge."

Marvin Rea's Bowman Academy crew could perhaps give any team, no matter what the class, a run for their money on any given day. Led by future Depaul small forward Dejuan Marrero (20 ppg, 14 rpg), the Eagles have four players averaging double-digit points including two additional Division-One seniors in point-guard Elijah Ray (IUPUI) and 6'10 center Stephan Hawkins (Robert Morris). The Eagles held off a late run Tipton to win their Semi-State 69-64, and they believe it could be another close game on Saturday.

"I think they (Park Tudor) have a great team," said Rea.

"I think the stand-out in Yogi Ferell is for real, and they have Trevon and Coach Schilling with his great years of experience. From what I know they like to do a lot of zone and Bowman likes to do a lot of pressing, so we will get up and down and they will play well. Hopefully Yogi scores 50, we can stop the rest of the guys, and we can score 51. But we won't focus on Yogi alone, as Park Tudor doesn't strive off of one player. They are smarter then that, so we are gong to do the things to prepare for Park Tudor and not just Yogi Ferrell."