Week two of Summit Athletic Conference boys basketball has two meetings of league unbeatens, but one draws the most interest. Both at 1-0 in the SAC, Northrop will visit South Side on Friday night and someone will lose both their first conference game and overall game.
Northrop will enter the game at 5-0 with three wins over Northeast 8 teams and averaging 14 more points per game than their opponents. South Side is 4-0 overall with good wins over West Noble and Jay County. The Archers are winning be an average of 18.7 points per game.
1. J.J. FOSTER HAS NORTHROP’S NUMBER
Dating back to when he took over Bishop Luers in 2013, J.J. Foster has won his last five meetings with Northrop. Three of those wins came over current Northrop coach Rod Chamble and two against Barak Coolman when he led the Bruins. Those five wins have come by an average of 15.6 points per win. The biggest of which came in Chamble’s first year at Northrop when he lost to Foster and Bishop Luers 103-68. These are different times, but Foster’s track record against the Bruins is impeccable.
2. IS THIS A CRITICAL SAC GAME?
If football season was any good measure, the SAC race will be wide open with plenty of upsets. Case in point: Homestead and Carroll both lose last Friday on opening night. With plenty of surprises potentially in store, there is a likelihood that a one loss team could win the conference and a chance that even at two losses, you aren’t out of contention in the SAC. So is this make or break? No. But critical? Probably. One team will come out of this with a loss with both teams still having the likes of Snider, Homestead, Bishop Dwenger and Carroll waiting.
3. THE REMATCH IN 12 DAYS
How much of your hand do you show Friday when you know you play this same team in less than two weeks on opening day of the SAC Holiday Tournament? That all depends on what you covet more: a regular season title or a tournament title. Conventional wisdom and how close these teams are perceived to be overall points to this: whoever loses this one wins in the tournament.
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
1. ISSAC ANDERSON, NORTHROP
Anderson has been impressive in his ability to play chameleon like at the point guard position and handling the ball. Anderson is better described a score first guard with a 13 point game against South Bend Adams and 12 points each in wins over DeKalb and New Haven. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be a distributor as well. He has done a goof job of getting the Bruins’ deep lineup fresh looks and that is absolutely helping them win games.
2. EVERETT MERRITT, SOUTH SIDE
One of the names that people are hearing for the first time this year at South is Merritt and for good reason. Second on the team in rebounding and steals, Merritt is scoring a team third best 11.2 points per game, but doing so by shooting 76.9 percent from the field. On a South Side team that had a lot of guys to replace this year, Merritt has been consistently efficient.
3. NICK HAINES, NORTHROP
Haines is nowhere near a regular prime time scorer, but he can get very dangerous. He will have his games where he chips in a few, like his six points against Luers, and he will have his games where he is lights out, like his 21 points against New Haven. If South Side is forced to collapse too much on the likes of Sydney Curry, Qualen Pettus and Khamani Smith, Haines could have a field day.
4. AUSTIN JORDAN, SOUTH SIDE
It has been said before, but Jordan has shown maturity beyond his years. He was thrust into the starting lineup at South last January. He has come out at South Side’s leading scorer this year at 12.2 points, but like Anderson, is also a good distributor with 3.8 assists per game. Jordan has become a leader by example quickly.
KEYS TO VICTORY — NORTHROP
1. COLLAPSE THE SOUTH SIDE DEFENSE
Getting to the basket is a major strength of the Bruins. While not mentioning in players to watch for the need to highlight a couple of other Bruins, Sydney Curry and Qualen Pettus are likely to be the two best players on the court Friday night. Pettus has overwhelming aggression that is rarely matched as he is averaging 15 points per game. His aggression can be matched by Curry (16 points, 15.2 rebounds per game), who has a double double every outing this year. As these two get the basket, it is going to collapse the Archer defense by necessity.
2. GET SYDNEY CURRY THE BALL
As mentioned, Curry has been Northrop’s number one player in all five wins. He is coming off of a 15 point, 13 rebound game last Friday in a win over one of his former schools, Bishop Luers. Give Curry the ball and let him go to work until someone can stop him.
KEYS TO VICTORY — SOUTH SIDE
1. THE SYDNEY CURRY MATCHUP
There are a few guys who know Curry well enough to match someone up with him well. One of those guys is Foster, who coached Curry at Bishop Luers. If you are South, you can’t afford to get your post players in foul trouble, so you have to do this in an educated manner. You have depth to use in particular situations led by J.T. Langston Jr., who has been great inside with 11.8 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. Expect some combination of Langston (6-foot-7), Amari Hall (6-8) and Treveon Jones (6-3) to get some time with Curry.
2. X’S AND O’S
Northrop has succeeded my out athleting teams and that is not a bad thing. No team in the DeKalb, New Haven, Columbia City, South Bend Adams or Bishop Luers contingent had the players or depth to run with Northrop. Does South Side? That is to be determined. The Archers can hold an advantage if they abandon trying to run with Northrop and outplan them. South Side focusing on a method that relies on the true bones of the sport. Draw it up, execute it.
This is a tough one to call because both teams have quality pieces. This is also easily the biggest test for either team this season. So what do you base this on? Bounce says again: whoever wins this doesn’t win the SAC Tournament rematch. Could I be wrong? Unlikely. After watching the crowds early this season, you have to imagine that this game will be rocking, loud and rambunctious. Home court means something.
Bounce picks South Side