BounceInset_2What a busy week! The first (semi) full week of boys basketball made for just a ton of games on the area slate and on Shooter’s plate. You all like to have a plate full of Thanksgiving treats, but Shooter will take a leather basketball and raucous gyms over cranberries and stuffing each and every day.

The stuffing was pretty good too.

What the week all boiled down to was finding out some more hierarchy on the girls side and the boys teams trying to find hierarchy in their own programs. There isn’t much time to wait for big games on the boys side. We had some, we are about to get more. But this is about last week and a lot of fun on the area scene had by all. Well, losing teams didn’t have as much fun, but still.

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Jay County’s Gabe Link looks for a pass on Saturday night, November 24 as the Patriots played at Richmond High School.

ROAD TRIPPING TO RICHMOND

Jay County is going to be just fine in the Allen County Athletic Conference. While they didn’t come out on top in their road opener at the Tiernan Center in Richmond, there was a lot of good the Patriots were able to showcase.

Michael Schlechty looked very strong early, burying two quick three pointers and putting up all 13 of his points in the first half on Saturday night. Schlechty’s ability to move without the ball in a somewhat unassuming manner is going to set him up for good looks throughout the year. A lot of those looks will come from brother Ryan, who certainly moved the ball up the court with toughness.

A tough part for Jay County will be running with teams, like Richmond, who are more able to push the pace. The Patriots did play better up tempo than history would lead you to think that they would. However, when things got too fast, Jay County became turnover prone. The job for coach Chris Krieg will be to find that super tight line between too fast and just right. If Jay County can live there and also be able to morph into that slower half court team we have seen in the past, the ACAC could be their playground.

Bounce is also intrigued to see what other ACAC teams will try to do to match up with Jay County’s size. Their top four scoring efforts Saturday night were from 6-foot-3 Michael Schlechty, 6-3 Gabe Link, 6-5 Parker Grimes and 6-2 Ryan Schlechty. At times, they were able to exploit big mismatches against smaller Richmond guards in the post.

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Richmond’s Andrew Kroft, a Fort Wayne native, makes a pass Saturday, November 24 against Jay County.

Richmond, for their part, has to be happy with their opening night win. Fort Wayne native Shabaz Khaliq — you know the guy — led a pretty inexperienced Red Devils squad to a win on the strength of some really good overall shooting with 12 made three pointers.

Jalen Hilliard hit five three pointers, but the standout for Richmond was the workman performance of Fort Wayne native and sophomore Andrew Kroft, making his first varsity spot. Kroft outworked almost everyone on the floor every possession, fighting for critical rebounds (he had 6 total) and putting in a co-game high 16 points, including nine in fourth quarter as Richmond closed out Jay County.

Richmond did miss their first six shots of the game, but went on an 11-0 run after that, including a buzzer beater from another Fort Wayne native, big brother Lucas Kroft, at the end of the first quarter. Despite an off early shooting night, Lucas Kroft finished with 14 points and six assists.

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Norwell’s Conner Torson pushes the ball up court during a fast break. The Knights won their season opener on Wednesday, November 21 over Concordia.

A THANKSGIVING EVE DELIGHT

After a close Twitter vote, Bounce’s adoring fans sold me on spending Thanksgiving Eve at ‘The Castle’ of Norwell as their boys hosted Concordia. It edged out the other option of New Haven at Woodlan. Scores alone dictate that the right decision was made by all. Norwell won 39-37, New Haven dominated 74-55.

There was some good basketball and some bad basketball played at Norwell on Wednesday night, but a close game that literally came down to the last shot was clearly the best choice to start the season.

RELATED STORY: Will Geiger’s legacy will grow with gutty performance on Thanksgiving Eve

If you clicked that link above, you already know how I feel about the star of Wednesday’s show. That said, there were so many other good pieces. Norwell showed an aggression it will need against deeper Northeast 8 Conference teams. Conner Torson showed a good fight when handling the ball and there are clearly capable guys around Will Geiger that kept this game close.

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Norwell coach Mike McBride patrols the sideline on Tuesday.

Concordia, too though, showed strides under new head coach Phil Brackmann. Brackmann did some of his cutting of coaching teeth under Norwell’s Mike McBride at Churubusco and the similar styles showed throughout. Brayden Pearson played a more physical brand of basketball than we are accustomed to seeing, which is something the Cadets missed at time last season minus their run to a Sectional title.

Scorers like Jadon Dance and Adam Gottschalk will get more looks as the season goes on, but the Cadets’ composure and relaxation against a tight Norwell half court defense is not something we may have seen in the past. Concordia made strides and impressed more than not on Thanksgiving Eve. Isn’t that the point?

WHAT WAS BOUNCE THINKING?

I picked the Huntington North boys to beat Homestead. I assumed it would play out much like last season. So….I was wrong. Bounce’s frienemy, Luke Goode, reminded me post game what I really already know: coach Chris Johnson is going to do Chris Johnson things and so are his players.

Zak Krueger was the breakout start of the night, leading Homestead with 16 points and proving to be so much more than the ancillary character he was last season. If Krueger can stay as poised as he looked Wednesday night, he is key piece number two, along with Goode in this Spartan team. And we all know, Homestead thrives best with at least three key pieces. Zac Brandtmiller may be the next one to watch out for, delivering down the stretch with Krueger and Goode. Each of the three had four points in the fourth quarter when Homestead scored 17 of their 46 points in the 46-41 win.

Huntington North is going to have a fine season. But darn me, I should have known better on opening night.

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Huntington North’s Meg McDonald and Homestead’s Haley Swing battle for a loose ball during a game on Tuesday, November 20.

HOMESTEAD GIRLS CONTINUING STRONG START

Tuesday’s girls game between Homestead and Huntington North was never expected to be a grand showcase for either team. But Homestead still gave me something to ‘wow’ about with a barrage of three point shooting. As hard as the Spartans will be to stop on any given night, if they shoot like that, nobody will stay close

The Spartans hit 14-of-23 shots from deep with six different girls chipping in from deep.

We’ve come to expect the shots from Sydney Graber, Sylare Starks, Haley Swing and Kara Gealy; not that it makes what they do any less impressive. But let me rave about two others quickly. Julia Huey doesn’t get enough attention, but she showed by she’s already locked in playing on the next level when she hit 3-of-4 three pointers in the 74-34 win. For someone who doesn’t see as many minutes, Huey looked calm and comfortable in the moment.

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Homestead’s Sydney Graber (left) defends Huntington North’s Madalyn Robrock on Tuesday, November 20.

That is Homestead basketball.

What is also Homestead basketball is the emergence of Rylie Parker as one of Homestead’s most critical weapons. Last year, she was a shooter used in spot up moments. This year, she has shot just as well, but showed a new defensive aggression and has rebounded the ball well. Parker’s development is impressive.

Bounce won’t write about it every week, but Homestead will be hard to ignore most weeks because of how strong and deep they are. Bounce was asked Tuesday about the comparisons between this team and the 2017 state championship team. And I will be quite frank with you all: while there is no Karissa McLaughlin on this team, it is hard to say they aren’t deeper. Will that translate? Nobody knows that and like with college basketball early this season, Bounce warns about unfounded early expectations. Will anyone locally compete with Homestead? No. Their depth is too deep. Are they the 2017 team? Not yet. Yet being the operative word.

STANDOUT PERFORMANCES

  • Congrats are in order to former Fort Wayne Harding and New Haven coach Al Gooden. On Tuesday, he became the 55th coach in the history of Indiana high school basketball to reach 450 career wins. Now tied for 13th all-time in wins for active head coaches, Gooden has carved out a nice run at Lawrence Central after making major impacts in this area.
  • Carroll continues to look impressive on the girls side while the boys started their season with an impressive win. The girls had eight different scorers Monday in their win over East Noble. On Tuesday, David Ejah got to the basket well and shot the ball well, showing dimension in his game to score 23 points in a 65-58 win over South Bend Adams.
  • Who had Brent Cox as East Noble’s standout performer on night one of the season? If you raised your hand, you are Brent Cox’s parents. And no slight to him at all, he was always going to be a weapon. But his 28 point, 14 rebound, five assist effort was more than notable against their not-so-rival from the West end of Noble County on Tuesday. The Knights won again Saturday to set up Tuesday’s meeting with Snider, each of Ali Ali (19 points), Hayden Jones (16) and Cox (14) got work in against Lakeland.
  • Chloe Jolloff scored a triple double in Lakewood Park’s Tuesday win over Hamilton. While the Marines have been among the area’s bottom teams, a triple double would be impressive if she did it against four bags of Thanksgiving Day garbage and a stray raccoon. So if anything is standout this past week, it is her 24 points, 13 assist, 11 steal effort.
  • While Bounce made the decision to open his boys season on Wednesday, had I gone out on Tuesday it was going to be back to Central Noble for their opener with Canterbury. I should have. Scoring, scoring and more scoring. The Cougars won 75-70 and flexed their potential scoring depth, led by Sawyer Yoder’s 25. He led three teammates also in double figures scoring. But Will Shank may have been the breakout guy in this game. 24 points to lead Canterbury with just one three, getting to the basket with malice and aggression.
  • Northrop’s 17-0 run in the third quarter on Wednesday’s traditional Thanksgiving Eve battle with DeKalb asserted their offense that is expect to be strong this season. It was a bright spot after letting DeKalb hang around much longer than they should have. The question is, what is the hierarchy of the Bruin offense, which had 12 different players shoot the ball, led by 18 point from Qualen Pettus.
  • Heritage wins in debut for head coach Adam Gray, also on Wednesday. The Patriots weren’t happy with Bounce’s ACAC season preview earlier in the week. They responded. Cameron Mitchell led them with 19 points while Walter Knapke added 12. We aren’t used to seeing Heritage score 58 points in a game. Things are changing under Gray.
  • South Side hosting Leo was an intriguing match up on Saturday. While the Archers were looked at as large favorites, Bounce wondered how Blake Davison would do in his first game as THE guy for Leo. He responded with 24 points six rebounds and three steals so I’d say not too shabby. But hats off to the Archers, who were a bit of an enigma after losing so much last season during the year and to graduation. It was a relatively new name, Everett Merritt, who led them with 20 points in the 80-63 win over Leo. But guys we are used to, JT Langston and Austin Jordan, were sensational too with 18 and 17 points respectively.

These opinions represent those of Bounce and Outside the Huddle. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. Follow Bounce on Twitter at Bounce_OTH

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