Today (or yesterday, or a couple of days ago; depending on when you are reading this), the girls will have their Sectional draw and we will find out who plays who in just a little over a week.
But things have to wind down these last two weeks too still. And that means crowning conference champions. And while some things aren’t 100 percent yet, we know who will at least share conference titles. This past week, Homestead wrapped up the SAC, Bellmont clinched at least a share of the NE8 and Central Noble clinched at least a share of the NECC. But more on all of that later.
This was a week of fun games and a lot of fun basketball to watch as the boys try to gain footing and the girls try to gain bragging rights.
IS SNIDER BACK? THERE ARE STEPS IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
Snider started the season at the front of all of our collective radars. The talent pool was deep. And it still is. But three straight losses and a bad first half on Tuesday at Canterbury has given many an observer pause.
Then Snider reacted and they responded. Their second half at Canterbury was outstanding and Friday they toppled Concordia inside the cage, which is never an easy place to play or win. So after two in a row, are they “back” to where we all once had them? Bounce wouldn’t go that far. But are their steps back that way? Certainly.
The defensive pressure in a full court press provided a good starting point to get out on some runs in the second half against Concordia and start to separate themselves from a dangerous and increasingly desperate Cadet team. Snider looked good in the full court press and it caused some concern for a steady Concordia guard core. The defense continued to look good in transition, which has become something that any successful SAC team needed. On two occasions in the first half, a Snider turnover looked like it would lead to an easy Concordia basket when Jordan Moore chased down the Cadet and managed to knock the ball cleanly away from the offensive player without fouling him. The first, while leading 44-38, was huge in keeping Snider’s momentum late. The two hustle plays were really encouraging for Snider and for Moore, who is finding a steady role with the team.
Finding steady roles will continue to be the key. Snider has, since the beginning of the season, played a large rotation. They are still trying to find the right mix. We saw this a week and a half ago in a loss to Homestead when many of the starters sat on the bench for the majority of the second half. New mix? Wakeup call? Whatever it is, the Panthers are trying to figure it out and not just wilting and that is encouraging to watch. Let us not forget that while Snider wants to win now, the senior-less program has time to bloom.
One guy who looks quite relaxed in his role is Dillon Duff, who just scraped his way through Friday’s game with 23 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and one technical foul. That technical foul, laughed off in retrospect, came when Duff missed a two handed flush and held onto the rim to try and tip the miss back in. It was a silly moment on Friday but one that stayed lighthearted all around. That is an important moment, trust Bounce.
THE GIRLS GAME OF THE YEAR?
Just a week ago, I wrote about Woodlan and Heritage putting on the game of the year and I’d like to think that at least someone took that as a challenge. When Bounce headed out to Decatur on Monday, I was hopeful that Bellmont and Norwell’s girls could live up to the hype of a rivalry that has been one sided. But you never know.
What Bounce and all those in attendance got a was a dog fight. The girls who took the court literally left everything they had on the court and for any exaggeration that Bounce has made in the past, this one certainly isn’t. The officials in the game did a great job of letting this thing get fantastically physical without it getting out of hand. And kudos also to the girls who fought hard. So, so hard. They battled, they battered, the probably bruised but it wasn’t personal and all. They gave and took their shots aggressively and it was fun to see them battle.
On one end, Maiah Shelton was essentially like The Terminator. She didn’t smile, she didn’t flinch. She just went to work. That is why she has been separating herself as arguably Norwell’s best player in the second half of the season. Opposite her, Grace Hunter put up another huge game to lead her team to control of the Northeast 8 very late in the season. Those two was a match up worth reflecting back to and worth looking forward to a possible rematch of in a tough Class 3A sectional.
But while those girls were the emotional, offensive and example leaders, I will repeat that every single girl who stepped on the court contributed to the fun.
After the game, there was pure joy in the eyes of Hunter and her teammates to finally get over the hump and beat Norwell. It was fun to see, fun to breath in the energy of Bellmont’s home gym that night.
THE CONTINUED SURGE OF ‘BABY D’
Lost in the 7-11 record of Snider girls basketball is just how good that Da’Leshia ‘Baby D’ Davis has been all season long regardless of the opponent. Davis scored a season low 11 points on Friday as Snider secured a second straight upset during the week by going to Concordia and beating the Cadets on senior night.
That win was impressive and lets take nothing away from that night for Nyasia Hardy and Payton Gorman, who played smoothly in the win with 15 points each.
But for Davis’ season low to be at 11 points is impeccable. Not even Carissa Garcia, arguably the best pure scorer in the SAC, can claim she has stayed in double digit scoring every game. Davis now averages 18.4 points, but had been above 20 points on eight occasions, including last Tuesday when Snider upset Bellmont one day after Bellmont scored their biggest win of the season. It was just Bellmont’s second loss of the year. Davis scored 23 points.
Davis has been an aggressive gamer all season long and done what she has needed to do to plant the seeds for a Snider resurgence in coming years. She has seen ups and downs since her freshman campaign. Davis shoots the ball a load, but in Bounce’s opinion, when does quantity turn into a bad thing when you have the kind of output that Davis has? She has certainly carved out her spot as one of the toughest players to guard in the area. Throw in her 8.9 rebound and 4 steal per game averages and her 70 percent shooting from the free throw line and Davis really is a tough, tough stop for anyone.
SYDNEY CURRY, WITH AUTHORITY
Northrop is playing its same up-tempo style under Coach Rod Chamble this year, but with one important difference. In the last few years, the Bruins played way too much one-on-one basketball. The team was more focused on individual achievements than team success, evidenced by the lack of consistent ball movement. That’s not the case this year for Northrop, which at 5-0 in the SAC remains the lone undefeated in the league.
In Friday’s home win over Wayne, the Bruins consistently made the extra pass, working the ball in an effort to find easy lay-up opportunities. The biggest Bruin may also be the best passer. Sydney Curry is a highlight reel of power dunks and emphatic blocks, but his court vision is unique for a big. His maturity as a senior has helped him in a variety of ways, not least of which is his selflessness in passing the ball.
- While it may seem like ages ago now, Jay County girls and Heritage boys were crowed ACAC Tournament champions Monday after a two day delay for snow. It is Jay County’s fourth title in five years and Heritage’s second in a row. There certainly were not any two players more deserving of tournament MVP honors than Shelby Caldwell of Jay County and Alec Burton of Heritage, who both were game changers on both ends of the floor in each tournament game. Now to see if the Heritage boys can cleanly sweep the ACAC like Jay County girls did with both the regular season and tournament titles.
- Angola boys basketball coach Ed Bentley joined the 100 win club on Tuesday with a 56-33 win over DeKalb. It was a big bounce back game for Angola after the NECC Tournament and made Bentley the fastest coach ever at Angola to 100 wins. In his seventh season with the Hornets, he left that game 100-59 overall.
- Jay County senior Shelby Caldwell joined the 1,000 point club on Friday in a 57-26 win over Southern Wells. She finished with 13 points on the night and joined Shannon Freeman and Carissa Phillips as the only three Patriot female players to ever reach 1,000 career points.
- As mentioned earlier, there were some teams that clinched an outright or share of a conference title on Friday. In the NECC, Central Noble improved to 21-0 and clinched at least a share of that conference’s title with a 50-32 win over Eastside. They can win the title outright next Friday against Churubusco. It is their first ever NECC title and the Cougars are now winners of their last 30 games in a row. Longer streaks than theirs on record for girls basketball in the area: 2000-2001 Bishop Luers (39), 1994-1996 Huntington North (44) and 1985-1987 Northrop (57).
- Homestead girls were led by 12 points from Ayanna Patterson, 11 from Sydney Graber and 10 from Rylie Parker on Friday in a 78-16 win over North Side that clinched an outright SAC title. It is the fourth straight title for Homestead, who has won every single SAC regular season title since they joined the conference. Their last SAC regular season loss was….never.
- Bellmont girls are also guaranteed at least a share of the NE8 title after moving to 6-0 in the conference on Friday. They beat both Norwell and Huntington North last week. A win over Leo this Friday will give them their first title since 2017.
- As always, don’t forget to vote in our Performance of the Week polls, picking the best single game performance of the week:
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