On Friday, three Summit Athletic Conference teams will head down to Marion for the annual Marion Classic single-day shootout event. Each team (North Side, Bishop Dwenger and Snider) will get a different unique test before the SAC Holiday Tournament starts next Wednesday.

Outside the Huddle will hit the road with the teams as Bounce will keep you updated throughout the day with his thoughts from the Marion Classic. Until then, let us preview the four games of the day.

North Side versus Liberty Christian, 3 p.m.

This is a chance for the Legends to score a much-needed win. Now officially 2-4 after its loss to South Side was overturned due to the Archers’ forfeit, North Side will want momentum headed into its attempt at a sixth straight SAC Holiday Tournament, though that will be its own heavy task with a completely different team. In North Side’s most recent game, an 88-43 loss last Friday to Snider, Drevion Braden led the team with 13 points. Class 1A Liberty Christian has a matching 2-4 record but its scoring gap sits at just -10.5 points compared to North Side’s -30.6 points.

Stars to watch

Tray Shoals of North Side is an aggressive presence that is going to bring leadership to this Legends team because of his time being a leader on the football field. Shoals can star for North Side in this game if he takes his time at the rim. He shot just 1-of-10 last Friday against Snider, arguably his worst outing of the year, but still managed to pull down 10 rebounds.

Christian Nunn of Liberty Christian leads his team in points, rebounds and assists as just a freshman. The combo guard is hitting 56 percent of his shots from the field while scoring 16.2 points per game. He is one of three Liberty Christian players who score in double figures. Liberty Christian won the Class 1A title in 2016 with his brother Franklin leading the way.

Potential breakout performers

Mike Scott of North Side has missed some time this year due to personal matters. But as the biggest guy on the court during prime minutes, he could be a big difference maker against Liberty Christian. Nobody on Liberty Christian’s roster stands within four inches of Scott at 6-foot-7 and Scott is coming off a 14-point game against Snider.

Kenny Lofton of Liberty Christian is a fast-handed wing player that could cause chaos for what has been a turnover prone North Side at times.

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Fort Wayne native Lucas Kroft, now of Richmond High School, is leading the Red Devils in scoring heading into the Marion Classic.

Richmond versus Bishop Dwenger, 4:30 p.m.

The Saints will  be the only area team to battle familiar foe Shabaz Khaliq and his Richmond Red Devils this season. Bishop Dwenger is off to a 4-1 start with the one blemish coming to Concordia, but the Saints have played controlled in tight games and have been able close those games out. It also helps that the Saints’ last game, a victory, came at Marion so they have gotten time on this court and in this arena. The one like opponent for the two teams is Marion, which Bishop Dwenger beat by 9 and Richmond beat by 10. Hayden Smithey and Jared Lee have had strong games so far and John Hoffman, Brenden Lytle and Matt Kochanski will all be key contributors.

Richmond has started 4-3 under Khaliq, who found loads of success in Fort Wayne at North Side and Elmhurst. Khaliq has won his last eight games against Dwenger coach Matt Kostoff and Friday’s game should be a good test of what the Red Devils can do, at least in the realm of Fort Wayne teams. Richmond is an eyelash away from being 6-1 this year, dropping its most recent game to Connersville by being slowed down and held to 20 points less than its offensive average. The brothers Lucas and Andrew Kroft have proven more than valuable additions to the Richmond program while Jalen Hillard can be a knockdown shooter.

Stars to watch

Hayden Smithey of Bishop Dwenger has started out extremely strong. Smithey’s game improved greatly over the summer and he has been deadly in the midrange and also with gaining the trust of his team as a leader. If Smithey gets any space at all Friday, he has the potential to make Richmond pay and put up big numbers.

Lucas Kroft of Richmond doesn’t see much time off the floor and he is posting career-best numbers because of it. The Indiana All-Star candidate leads Richmond in scoring (24.6 points per game), rebounds (5.7) and blocks (1.7). One of his most impressive numbers is his free throw percentage; Kroft has connected on all 40 of his free throw attempts through seven games. The team is shooting 81 percent from the line.

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John Hoffman is part of the interior presence for Bishop Dwenger so far this season.

Potential breakout performers

John Hoffman of Bishop Dwenger is a constant inside for the Saints, who are trying to shore up their inside game with a couple of pieces that are still gaining confidence. Hoffman doesn’t lack confidence and plays tough inside to grab rebounds and get the Saints out into transition.

Jordan Stolle of Richmond made his season debut Wednesday after sitting out 365 days following his transfer to Richmond from Northeastern under previous coach Rick Wedlow. Stolle, at 6-foot-5, is a big addition to a lineup that could use more rebounding. Stolle averaged 10.3 points and and 4.3 rebounds last year in eight games before transferring. He scored 11 points Wednesday in his season debut against Monroe Central.

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Snider’s Michael Eley brings the ball up the court during a December 15 game against Merrillville.

Snider versus Brownsburg, 6 pm.

Snider is unbeaten at 5-0, but will play New Haven the night before this game and Brownsburg will be its biggest test to date. In the area, there has been no reason to doubt the Panthers and it is a solid thought that they have the depth to really make any game troublesome. Michael Eley and Dillon Duff have supplied their roles as the usual suspects, but there are four other players scoring 5-plus points a game and one of their very best players, Jayshawn Underwood, makes a huge impact every game without having to score. Snider has weapons.

At 5-2, Brownsburg comes in on a three-game winning streak, most recently beating Ben Davis. The Bulldogs have five players listed 6-foot-5 or taller on their roster so they will test Snider’s ability to guard on the interior. The Panthers are now ranked 14th by the IBCA, which sees coaches rank the top 20 teams in the state regardless of class.

Stars to watch

Michael Eley of Snider is playing at a very high level offensively, hitting on 48 percent of his three pointers and averaging a team-high 17 points per game. Eley has already shown this year that he is capable of changing a game and pulling up to convert on a big shot no matter whose hand is in his face.

Cameron Alford of Brownsburg led his team in the win over Ben Davis with 22 points. He is going to be a stellar matchup on the perimeter against Snider, but who exactly will he draw? A meeting between he and Jayshawn Underwood could be a fun one to see if Underwood could lock down the 6-2 senior. Alford also recorded seven steals against Ben Davis, so that ballhandling battle is interesting.

Potential breakout performers

Reis Thomas of Brownsburg has broken out before, but has the potential to really add to that making him a star of Friday’s classic. He had 25 points and seven rebounds in a recent win over Avon. At 6-3 and a solid 205 pounds, he has the ability to play in most spots on the court making him a matchup problem.

Cleevas Craig of Snider has yet to have the signature game that people expected when he joined the team, but he also really hasn’t had to. Brownsburg is big, so this is the game where Craig is really going to have to play tough and battle for rebounds to give Snider added opportunities.

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Valparaiso’s Brandon Newman is the marquee star of the 2018 Marion Classic.

Marion versus Valparaiso, 8 p.m.

A tough 2-4 start has raised eyebrows in the direction of Marion. Expected to be one of the top teams in Class 3A, they have only managed its way to wins over North Side and Kokomo, two respected programs having down seasons.

At 7-0, visiting Valparaiso boasts one of the state’s top players in Brandon Newman, an Indiana All-Star candidate. The Vikings, coached by former Northrop coach Barak Coolman, are ranked third in this week’s Associated Press Class 4A poll.

Stars to watch

Jalen Blackmon of Marion hasn’t dissapointed, even as his team has yet to be able to string together wins. Blackmon is second in the state in scoring at 30.8 points per game and is playing 31.8 minutes per game.

Brandon Newman of Valparaiso scored 36 points in the Vikings’ first game, a win over Hobart, and really hasn’t looked back. The Purdue signee will look to get to the basket time and time again. His performance in last year’s Marion Classic was one of the day’s best.

Potential breakout performer

Rasheed Jones of Marion has a lot of basketball to play, but the freshman has started his career on the right foot. He averages 9.3 points per game as the second option for Marion.

 

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