The rematch that everyone has been waiting weeks for is set. No seriously, it has been two weeks. Two weeks ago, the area’s then top ranked Snider Panthers dropped a 65-49 game to Homestead, who we at Outside the Huddle now rank as the top boys team in the area.
That gave Homestead their first SAC Holiday Tournament title ever and held Snider out from their first title of any kind under the two and a half years worth of coach Jeremy Rauch’s leadership. They will rematch on tonight in a highly anticipated second game this season. Since they last met, Snider lost their third game and second straight and Homestead have beaten South Side and Blackhawk Christian.
The teams will meet for the Outside the Huddle ‘Traveling Trophy’ as well, which started its history with Snider and Homestead won in their first meeting. For what its worth, John Harrell’s traveling trophy also sits with Homestead currently.
1. A CHANCE AT THE SAC TITLE
This game has heavy SAC implications. The loser will have lost their second conference regular season game this season. The last time a two loss team won the SAC was in 2013, but the league was just eight teams and three teams finished 5-2.
With Northrop, Concordia and Carroll likely ending this week with zero or one SAC loss. That means the loser of this one would need some miracles to still contend for the conference title. Both teams are likely aware of this.
2. LAST TIME DID HAPPEN
Sometimes you have to forget the past meeting and move on. But this isn’t a pair of games separated by months. So many things happened last time that contributed to the outcome, that it is hard to ignore the ends and outs of that game. What did Homestead do well that they think can work right again? What can Snider improve, change or surprise Homestead with.
Who wins this game? It is quite possible that the team that makes the best adjustments does.
3. THE 400 WIN MAN
Chris Johnson won his 400th career game on Tuesday when the Spartans upended Blackhawk Christian convincingly. The Spartans held the Braves to 33 points less than their season scoring average, flexing their defensive muscles as much as what they can do on offense.
Former Homestead player Dana Batt said it best on Twitter this week: Johnson wins without being a true system coach. He has the Chris Johnson way, but he adjusts yearly to the group he has that year. He has constantly won with a team full of guys you probably didn’t know about the year before. The fun thing about Johnson is that he will be just as focused to get number 401 as he was to win the SAC Tournament title or to get win 400.
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
1. TRENT LOOMIS, HOMESTEAD
Loomis is a fun player that has had the chance to stretch his wings this season in Homestead’s next player up world. Loomis is going to quietly make plays most nights. He is a capable scorer and quality shooter that has the wingspan and range to be a difference maker defensively.
2. MICHAEL ELEY, SNIDER
No reason to harp on Eley for his lackluster game the first time around. He bounced back tremendously last Friday in the loss to Northrop. Eley is a game changer and could make it his personal mission to win this game. Eley’s ability to pull up from most places on the court with hands in his face. He can really thrive in front of a loud home court crowd.
3. LUKE GOODE, HOMESTEAD
This sophomore is dangerous when he is visibly feeling his rhythm shooting the basketball. You have to watch Goode if you are a fan no matter what side of the gym you are sitting on. He doesn’t get into the zone every night that he did in the SAC Holiday Tournament title game, but when he does it is a sight to behold as a fan of the sport.
4. JAYLEN LATTIMORE, SNIDER
Homestead’s interior of Will Smith, Alec Grinsfelder and even Loomis are going to do things fundamentally correct. To attack that, Snider could need to do things a little more distinctively and Lattimore could be that guy. He is still growing, but has shown really nice flashes in the fire as a freshman. What Lattimore does rebounding the basketball and against a mismatch defensively is important.
KEYS TO VICTORY — HOMESTEAD
1. PLAY LIKE HOMETEAD, MAKE THEM CATCH UP
If the Spartans have done anything right this year, it is building a nicely cushioned lead and just keeping opponents at arms length. The danger zone for opponents is that Homestead’s cushion is about 8 points, which is a good 4-6 points lower than most teams are comfortable at. Homestead is good as playing at different speeds and then controlling games with the lead. No reason to change that.
2. COMPETENT BALL HANDLING
While Zak Krueger and Luke Goode get a ton of rightful credit on the offensive end, Homestead’s ability to control the pace of the game has really dictated their offensive direction. That, as usual, will fall also to Xavier Overstreet and Zac Bradtmiller who go unnamed often but not unnoticed for how they run Chris Johnson’s gameplan.
KEYS TO VICTORY — SNIDER
1. STOP THE SHOOTER
Oh you thought this was about Luke Goode? No luck on that one. Why? Goode is tough to “stop” when he gets going. Can you stop Zak Krueger? Maybe. Maybe not. But a big difference in Homestead’s win over Snider and in many games this year has been Krueger and how comfortable he has become. I’m not going to far out of my way to say that Snider will need to find a very good off ball defender to hound Krueger and get around well set screens that gives him the separation he needs to try and become a difference maker again.
2. DO NOT FALL BEHIND BY MORE THAN 5
See how Homestead just needs to play like Homestead. Snider needs to just play like Snider. Don’t dig yourself too big of a hole. This team is capable of playing out of one, there is zero doubt about that. Dillon Duff, Isaac Farnsworth, Jon Barnes Jr., they can all make big plays in different ways that swing the momentum of the game.
But Homestead has been and is different. So the job of those guys is going to be to make those momentum swings at 3 or 4 or 5 points of deficit or just don’t let it get there at all. Homestead plays loose and a little off balance until they get to their sweet spot. Simply do not let them.
This is a tough one to forecast. There is the side that says ‘why bet against Homestead.’ When people do, they look foolish. And then there is the side that points out the home court advantage for Snider. And if you have been to Kilmer Court on a good night ever, especially big game Friday night, you will know that place gets loud and it feels like a few hundred fans are on top of you on the court. Is Snider the team that you can just go ahead and beat twice? Or is Homestead really just a team of destiny?
Bounce picks Snider