Saturday at 7:30 p.m., the Carroll Chargers (1-1) will head on the road to visit East Noble (2-1) in Outside the Huddle’s inaugural Game of the Weekend.
It will be East Noble’s second straight game against a potential future Class 4A Sectional 5 opponent. In the last meeting between these two teams last March, Carroll eliminated East Noble from sectional play in the semifinal round.
Dating back to 1994, Carroll leads the series 18 to 10. However, the Chargers have won 16 of the last 20 in the series and the last 10 games in a row dating back to January 20, 2007.
1. BOUNCING BACK
Both teams will be coming off their lone losses of the very young season. East Noble fell at home Tuesday, 63-60, to Snider. Carroll meanwhile has not played since last Saturday’s 69-45 home loss to Penn. How will each team bounce back from defeat?
Last year, Carroll lost four times. Not counting the season-ending loss, the team went 2-1 in the game following a defeat. Carroll followed up its first loss immediately with a second loss. After their second loss, the Chargers won 11 straight.
East Noble lost three games last season. After winning nine straight to begin the year, its first loss came January 2. The Knights followed that game up with 10 more wins in a row. Not counting their season ending loss, the Knights were 2-0 following a loss.
2. INDY HEAT TEAMMATES
Spiece Indy Heat Red’s David Ejah and Dan McKeeman (Carroll) and Ali Ali (East Noble) will do battle after spending the summer together. It first alludes to the question: can they have a killer instinct against each other? Judging by all we know of each of the three’s on-court demeanor, this shouldn’t be a problem.
So what have the trio learned from each other since they last played against each other in sectional play last season? Chances are, these three will use all the knowledge they can about each other to bounce back to winning ways.
3. PLAYING AT EAST NOBLE
Kendallville is never an easy place to play and the Knights have played all three of their games there, while Carroll has yet to go on the road this season. Last year, East Noble was 11-1 at their place. That only loss? In sectional play to — you guessed it — Carroll.
The student section at East Noble is unique as they post up right underneath the basket that the visiting team will be shooting on in the second half. The gym will be loud and distracting, as always.
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
HAYDEN JONES, EAST NOBLE GUARD
Once Jones got going in the second half of Tuesday’s loss, he was critical for the Knights. Jones has a wide range of offensive abilities. He hit all three of his shots in the paint on Tuesday and was also able to pull up from 15 feet for a couple of critical makes. This is likely a match up for Dan McKeeman, which will be a joy to watch.
RICHIE GROSS, CARROLL GUARD
If Carroll wants to control the perimeter against East Noble as Snider did, it will need lock down defense. Gross is a blue- collar player who is capable of helping in that aspect. He is also a potential strong third scoring option, currently at 7.5 points per game.
BRENT COX, EAST NOBLE FORWARD
A double-double machine, he is coming off an 18-point, 16- rebound game Tuesday against Snider. He also had the performance of the week last week according to OutsideTheHuddle.net fan voters. Cox will always work hard inside and has shown already that he can be a difference maker in games.
DAN MCKEEMAN, CARROLL GUARD
If Carroll follows the lead, there is no played more aggressive than McKeeman. After committing to Cedarville University on Thursday, the guard should have a clear mind and focus coming into Saturday’s game. McKeeman is averaging 17 points per game and thus far, has been the most consistent offensive player for Carroll.
KEYS TO VICTORY — CARROLL
1. AVOID FOUL TROUBLE
Penn did a good job of keeping Carroll out of its comfort zone and making fouls relevant. The Chargers have to avoid that same pitfall against the Knights, who were able to get Dillon Duff and Isaac Farnsworth in early foul trouble in the Snider game. Duff spent large portions of the game on the bench because of it and the Chargers absolutely cannot afford for Ejah to meet the same fate.
2. KEEP ALI ALI ON THE OUTSIDE
On Tuesday, when guarded by Jayshawn Underwood, Ali struggled to find a rhythm. When he did get to the basket, he wasn’t able to finish consistently. But more than that, he stayed on the perimeter with a smaller man guarding him more than expected. Will that change how the Chargers guard him or will they fight fire with fire and post Ejah on him? Time will tell.
KEYS TO VICTORY — EAST NOBLE
1. ATTACK THE PAINT
The duo of Brent Cox and Ali Ali proved to be too strong for Snider, despite not coming out with a win. Cox and Ali combined for 44 points and 18 rebounds and the Knights scored 30 of the team’s 60 points in the paint with 14 from Cox, 10 from Ali and six from Hayden Jones. Their defense allowed just 22 points in the paint on Tuesday and held three of Snider’s four “post” players scoreless in the paint.
2. GET MORE PEOPLE INVOLVED
The Knights played seven players in Tuesday’s loss. Outside of the big three of Ali, Cox and Jones, no other player was as involved in the game, especially statistically. Those other four players — Michael Klein, Michael Bender, Luke Denton and Nate Dickson — were 2-of-4 from the field with five points and four rebounds. Knowing how capable those four players are, their activity is crucial for the Knights to flex more depth than the Chargers.
This is another game this week for the Knights that could turn into a dogfight. A lot of the game could come down to how Carroll shoots the ball. Can it stay hot enough to position themselves as a contender if East Noble takes control inside?
In each of its first two games, Carroll was able to go seven players deep comfortably. The Knights can do the same, but are they as comfortable with it. This game may be as much of a toss up as any other. But I also have a feeling they will do it again come March, so maybe this is a preview?
BOUNCE PICKS EAST NOBLE