A week of upsets. That is what we should call this past week. They weren’t running deep in numbers per say, but the ones that did happen could have deep running impact.
Bellmont girls upending South Side on Wednesday gives pause to the thought, even my thought, that the still unbeaten Norwell girls will remain untouchable in the Northeast 8 Conference.
On Friday, the girl/boy double headers launched in the Summit Athletic Conference and while the girls side did not provide any shockers with Homestead, South Side, Snider, Concordia and Bishop Luers picking up wins, the boys side was not the same. Concordia picked up their first win of the year beating Carroll and Bishop Dwenger powered by a Homestead team that had grabbed attention with their 3-0 start.
By the end of the double header night, Concordia, South Side and Snider all grabbed sweeps with the Cadets and Panthers being able to do so in front of happy home crowds.
A MATINEE IN MONROEVILLE
What better is there to do on a Saturday afternoon than check out two unbeaten teams trading blows? Plus, I had to see for myself and for everyone who asks me about it: are either Heritage or Bellmont for real?
Entering the game, Heritage was 3-0 and Bellmont was 4-0 and some focus and attention from across the area was certainly starting to shift to the two teams. After Heritage’s 78-69 win, the have stolen the attention for themselves. They seemed to thrive in that attention on Saturday, the moment never looked too big for the Patriots as they dispatched Bellmont in front of a pretty loud and excited crowd for the smaller Monroeville gym.
“It will be interesting,” first year Heritage coach Adam Gray told me about his team’s ability to handle the attention.
“They kind of used being overlooked as fuel early in the year. Now the target is on our back and we need to continue to bring the same energy and intensity to each rep of practice and then that over to games.”
The Saturday game was back and forth early on, but once Heritage settled in and took a lead into halftime, they never really had to look back even as Bellmont made runs. Heritage pushed their lead to as many as 19 points in the second half, which pretty much ungulfed every big three pointer Bellmont made or Kade Fuelling move inside. Bellmont had answers a couple of times, but the overall tone of the game was too much for the Braves to keep up with.
Part of the Patriots’ success came from their energy. They have plenty of energy guys, perhaps none more so than Parker Tracey, who gets more excited for a big play by one of his teammates than any high school player I have seen in a long, long time. I’ll ignore for a minute the technical foul that excitement got him in the third quarter and remember instead him getting fired up and the times he’d be on the bench and slap the floor with his towel on a big three pointer in the first half that pushed momentum firmly the Patriot way.
“We had incredible energy one through eleven,” Gray said. “Guys on the bench did a great job of encouraging their teammates and being coaches on the bench.”
Bellmont had their spots. Fuelling looked strong in the post and proved that he certainly is the real deal as his early season numbers suggested. But Heritage just had too many answers, too many options. A week after being selected by our fans as having Outside the Huddle’s Performance of the Week, Heritage’s Jaydon Harris earned another nomination by scoring 27 points, moving smoothly with and without the ball to find his shots and never appearing to waver from a serene appearance.
Alec Burton played well at the point, clearly a guy that Gray trusts to make the right decisions. One of my favorite plays of the game came in the second half when Burton’s hustle showed. After missing a three pointer from near the top of the arch, Burton raced in and grabbed his own rebound before any of the other nine players could as much as get a finger on the ball. Cameron Mitchell is not a typical force inside, but showed that he can play very well with his back to the basket and taking guys off the dribble. Walter Knapke and Jason Holliness-Bell both showed flashes of strong, yet controlled aggression.
Heritage controlled the tempo well and flexed their offensive muscles in a way we just don’t see from Heritage teams. The last time they scored in the 70’s was December 4, 2012. The last time they scored 78 points? December 22, 2011. It goes in perfect tone for a team who is averaging their most points per game (66.5) in pretty much ever. They have only averaged 60 points three times in the last 25 seasons, never as many as so far this season.
One more picture to put it all into perspective: Harris’ 27 points is more than their entire team scored on two separate occasions last season. This Heritage team is different and it is fun and exciting.
“It is a tribute to the kids, how hard they worked in the offseason and put time in to improving their shots,” Gray said. “We’ve been difficult to guard because of how well we’ve shared the ball and distributed the scoring load.”
Harris’ 27 led the way for Heritage while Burton had 16 and Mitchell had 15. Bellmont was led by Fuelling’s 21 and hot shooting Tyler James scored 17 points.
BRENDEN LYTLE IS TOUGH
While Bishop Dwenger’s flow left something to be desired at times Wednesday in their season opener, I couldn’t be happier in the effort, enthusiasm and downright intrusive nature of sophomore Brenden Lytle’s defense. Like he was running on pure adrenaline pumping through his veins from Thanksgiving weekend’s football state title game, Lytle was a machine.
He bodied up Norwell guards who looked like they wanted anything in the world other than to be guarded by Lytle. He snatched away five steals on the night and got his hand on the basketball many, many other times to create Norwell turnovers and general discomfort.
He also knocked down a pair of threes, ya know…just to flex the threat that he can score when he wants to if he needs to.
I said it on Twitter on Wednesday night and I will say it again in case you missed it: Match the intensity of Brenden Lytle. Dare you.
IS GRACE HUNTER TOO OVERLOOKED?
On Wednesday, Bellmont senior Grace Hunter set a program record with 38 points in what most are considering a monumental upset of visiting South Side. But why are we surprised at all?
Hunter has been doing the unexpected and amazing since she stepped onto the court as a freshman and she has revitalized the Bellmont program in many ways. Because of Hunter, Bellmont shouldn’t have been considered much of an underdog against the Archers. Maybe we in the city of Fort Wayne forget about Bellmont too much being out of our daily vision. Shame on us.
Not only did Hunter set that program record with 38 points, she did so hitting just four three pointers, meaning she got her way anywhere she took it on offense and didn’t simply get hot with her endless range.
SNIDER IS GOOD. THAT DOESN’T MEAN THEY CAN CRUISE.
The Panthers opened SAC play, as every other boys team did. They joined Concordia, Bishop Dwenger, Northrop and South Side as winners on the first night of what should be an interesting SAC schedule all season. Snider did it with a 76-63 win over Wayne in front of a crowd that was really fun at Snider.
And no matter how many hand smacking your face emojis anyone tweets, it is going to take a lot for Bounce to be convinced that Snider is not the best team in the conference today.
Michael Eley scored 22 points, Dillon Duff scored 23 points and Cleevas Craig made his long (ok, short) awaited debut for the Panthers on Friday. Things clicked very well at certain times, far more often than they didn’t. But the Panthers got what they will get every night in the SAC: the opposing team’s best shot. How good the Panthers can be will be determined by how they play with a a target on their back in front of capacity crowds that could be, at least somewhat, hostile.
And they learned Friday that they won’t be able to just cruise. They made silly mistakes, consistent with a group of kids who can’t play “like they’ve been there before,” because they haven’t been there. Some defensive breakdowns afforded Wayne to get hot shooting the ball at various times on the hands of Cameron Starks and Timon Kinnie. And as Snider continues to work on their interior presence, Wayne’s Darius Alexander was able to use his big body to alter the runs of the game.
Yet this Snider team still showed significant more poise than they did chaos. Twice on the night, I was very impressed by the maturity of players to pass up an open three point attempt with the lead in order to work the clock and for a better shot. Junior Airyan Thomas and freshman Karson Jenkins both had chances to try and sink a deep one, but thought better of it. That is increasingly important in the case of Jenkins, who saw little varsity time against East Noble and a little more against Wayne. Tell a high school freshman to get in a varsity game, knowing they won’t get much time, and see if they pass on open jump shots. They don’t. Jenkins did.
Snider has work to do. That much is still clear. But they are also still very, very good.
- Tanner Behnfeldt played an incredible game on Tuesday night in Fremont’s win over Garrett. Benhfeldt hit two free throws with 10 seconds left to give Fremont a one point lead. After Garrett hit one of two free throws to tie it, Behnfeldt launched a three at the buzzer that careened into the basket to give Fremont a 59-56 win. Oh yeah, he also finished with 29 points. On Friday, he went ahead and dropped 40 points on Hamilton in a win for Fremont.
- Do I need to say much more about Churubusco versus Columbia City other than I kind of wish there was a way to see Churubusco versus Columbia City again? Oh tempers flare. And how about Bounce just leaves it at that?
- West Noble boys basketball had themselves a week. Coach Jim Best stepped down and was replaced by Galen Mast, the superintendent of the West Noble School Corporation. While public details on the situation remain scarce, the Chargers did win their first game under Mast on Thursday. In their 78-52 win over Whitko, West Noble missed just two field goals in the second half. They picked up another win Saturday over Churubusco.
- The Homestead girls beat Bishop Dwenger on Friday for their 51st straight regular season conference win. That span dates back to December 1, 2012…so you know, just six years and some change. Oddly enough, the last team to beat them in conference play, Norwell, visits Homestead on Tuesday with an identical 9-0 record to the Spartans. No, they aren’t in the same conference anymore, but it is still interesting because I said so. Homestead has won their first 31 regular season conference games since joining the SAC and had won their last 20 games in the now (technically) defunct Northeast Hoosier Conference.
- Northrop’s boys continue to be double double nightmares for their opponents. In Friday’s SAC opener, they improved to 5-0 with two players posting double doubles. Sydney Curry had yet another for his resume with 15 points and 13 rebounds while Qualen Pettus had 15 points and 10 rebounds.
- With Lakeland’s 44-37 win over Fairfield on Friday, they now have their best start in 21 years.
- Although they lost to Jay County on Friday, Adams Central was able to honor first year head coach Doug Curtis for his 300th career win. The Flying Jets have six wins on the year under Curtis, who has also coached at Northrop, DeKalb and Angola.
- In what has been a year of record setting starts, South Side’s win at North Side on Friday marks their best start in 11 years. It sets up a meeting next Friday with also unbeaten Northrop. The two teams play next Friday, December 14 and then again on December 26 in the SAC Holiday Tournament.
- Concordia girls are working to break some records this week too. Carissa Garcia is only 11 points away from tying the program scoring record of 1,326 held by Courtney Smith. Her coach, Dave Miller, became the 10th most winning coach in state history on Friday in the win over Carroll. He now has 442 career wins with 262 of those coming at Concordia.
- I don’t care who you are playing. If you can not have Caleb Furst in your lineup and still have 20-plus point scorers, you are just fine. Blackhawk Christian did that Friday against Elkhart Christian. We knew Frankie Davidson could put up 26 points, but his brother Marcus Davidson had a career best 25 points and Zane Burke added 21. Deep, deep scoring down on State Boulevard. On Saturday, Burke led the Braves with 29 points in a win over Woodlan. What is Furst’s status? Bounce can confirm he has broken fingers on his right (non shooting hand), but there is no timetable as of today for his return.
- Picking out the top 10 nominees for each the girls and boys Performance of the Week poll is never easy. Outside the Huddle can miss some choices. This week, there may not be missed choices, but I can say that big games from a player of a winning team took precedent. But how about a couple of big time games from teams that lost: Nick Miller of South Adams scored 25 and had 17 rebounds Saturday in a loss to North Side, Preston Shearer scored 17 and looked good Friday in Carroll’s loss to Concordia, Norwell’s Will Geiger and South Side’s Jaci Jones were strong in losses Wednesday. Don’t forget to vote however for the players who were nominated:
- FAN VOTE: Boys hoops Performance of the Week (Dec. 3-8), sponsored by Ellen Vance of Ruoff Home Mortgage
- FAN VOTE: Girls hoops Performance of the Week (Dec. 3-8), sponsored by Rico’s Barbershop
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