BounceInset_2The boys are gearing up for the postseason now as the girls’ postseason ends. With it, we’ve got three out of four area conference champions locked up and the Sectional draw takes place this afternoon (or has already, depending on when you are reading this).

Also, Huntington North has snuck in and taken Bounce’s traveling trophy for the boys side with their win over Carroll earlier in the week. They become the fifth team to have that wonderfully invisible hardware this season.

FINALLY, SAC CHAMPIONS ARE CROWNED

Isn’t it only fitting that in a season where we saw SAC football chaos and expected SAC boys basketball chaos that things came down to the last conference game? More fitting for that chaos: two teams had the chance to win the conference outright and yet we are left with THREE champions in the 10 team conference. Bonkers.

For those playing at home, Carroll could have won the title outright by beating Homestead. They did not. Northrop could have won the title outright with that Carroll loss if they would have beat Bishop Dwenger. They did not. Instead, at 7-2 in conference, it is the Chargers, Bruins and Homestead who all get to wear their own crown this year. With Northrop’s loss to Carroll the previous Friday, that is essentially three title clinching games that were lost by SAC teams this season. I guess this is what Bounce should expected when he predicted chaos in the preseason.

For Homestead, you have to be feeling the best of the three right now because you sit at 18-2. I’m not saying the Spartans win out, but their last two-loss team won a state title. And if they happened to lose just one more time? Well Chris Johnson led Homestead teams have finished with three or less losses just twice. Somehow, amidst the chaos, this could be one of Homestead’s best teams ever.

Carroll went on past Friday night’s loss to end their three game (and essentially two buzzer beater) losing streak in a nice win over Indy’s North Central and sit at 14-7. Northrop fell to Noblesville on Saturday to hit seven losses as well, but lose back-to-back games for the first time this season. You know what all of this tells me? Expect Class 4A sectional chaos.

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Central Noble freshman Connor Essesgian looks on during February 13’s game against Heritage.

IS CONNOR ESSEGIAN THE AREA’S TOP FRESHMAN?

I know, I asked this same question about someone else last week. But Joe Reidy, you have company at the top. In a year where freshmen don’t get much attention inside the city with few seeing any measurable time on the varsity level in the SAC, guys like Reidy and Essegian have been lighting up scoreboards.

Wednesday was this amphibian’s first chance to see Essegian in person and he wow’d me as much as his usual stat line led me to believe he would. At this point, Essegian is not a flash and flare kind of guy. Yes, he’s had games with three point totals that show he has flash and big moments in him. But what I saw on Wednesday was a clean, workman like performance that will help keep Central Noble viable in years to come. Especially in a world where coach John Bodey emphasizes aggression.

Essegian had cold spells from three point range. The whole game he was cold, but he did it in such small stretches that it didn’t negatively effect the Cougars and I would have never guessed he shot 1-of-10 from deep until I saw the statistics. Instead, anytime he was clearly cold, Essesgian just ventured in closer to the basket and worked at the rim and in the midrange, showing significant levels to his offensive game. He also got some looks at the hoop off offensive rebounds because he was just always working, always moving. Essegian finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds and three steals; he went off for 27 points on Friday night. I am not ready to anoint either over each other so early in their career, but like I said about Reidy last week, Essegian is clearly beyond his years in how well he is playing right now.

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Lakewood Park junior Josh Pike is defended by Blackhawk Christian’s Michael Pulver during February 11’s game.

WILL LAKEWOOD PARK EVER BOUNCE BACK?

There is still a lot of work to be done for Lakewood Park to be considered special again. That was pretty evident in Monday night’s drubbing at the hands of Blackhawk Christian (score redacted to protect the innocent). But that doesn’t mean that they can’t get there with some stability for the program. Coach Steve Oberlin is 6-11 in his first season at the helm and has experience previously with the program but there is no ignoring the fact that he is Lakewood Park’s fourth coach in four years. When now Blackhawk Christian coach Marc Davidson left in 2013 after a 17-6 season, only Chad Hibbard has spent more than one season leading the program.

That is a problem. And even though the Panthers were able to win 17 games again two years ago and a sectional title, Keegan Fetters isn’t walking back through the door to score like a machine anytime soon.

But the pieces are there if properly developed and developed under Oberlin. Lakewood Park certainly does not need another coaching change. If you want players to buy in, you have to give them something to buy in to. This season is a great bridge to the past with guys like Dylan Miller, who played a quality role on that Sectional team. But the future has bright spots. Josh Pike, a junior, was the Panthers’ leading scorer against Blackhawk Christian and has showed his scoring prowess all season long. Freshman Caedmon Bontrager has hype around the area for what he could develop into. The long, slight of frame first year high school player has some quality tools to work with. And, with a Fetters (freshman Aiden) on the roster, all things are possible.

So yeah, I do believe Lakewood Park can narrow that gap between themselves and the likes of Blackhawk Christian again over time. This frog just hopes that players, coaches, fans and administration give it time to develop the right way.

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Heritage senior Alec Burton knocks down a three pointer during Wednesday, February 13’s game at Central Noble.

DID HERITAGE PEAK TOO EARLY?

With their 66-55 loss earlier in the week at Central Noble now in the rear view, is Heritage capable of moving on still making waves this postseason? Sectional contendership is another story for another day, but lets talk about right now. The Patriots have now lost five games this season and it is fair to say that they should have been the favorites in each of those five.

Bounce loves the way that Adam Gray coaches and I have said as much. This is a program who will be better off for years because of the Gray hire last season. But as Gray will tell you, worry about next year then. What can Heritage do to make sure they win now? They’ve completed half of their goals so far by winning the ACAC Tournament, though losing the conference regular season. Now it means postseason success and that would mean breaking a 21 year drought since the program’s only Sectional title.

At times in their loss to Central Noble on Wednesday, Bounce thinks the Patriots looked mentally drained and a little physically spent too outside of Alec Burton, who’s motor just doesn’t ever seem to slow. Cameron Mitchell proved yet again that night that he is a monster inside, gobbling up every rebound and pounding the ball to the rim. But exhaustion, as any team who pushes the pace will have at this point in the season, seemed to be a driving point in Heritage shooting 38 three pointers.

They went on to lose again Friday to what has been a subpar New Haven team this season, but got back into the win column on Saturday against Canterbury, which was much needed. In my opinion, they certainly hit a peak earlier this season, but can they find that second wind to reascend to that peak in the next two weeks? Bounce is going to look at Burton to lead that effort I think.

NOTEWORTHY PERFORMANCES

  • Lets make sure that Huntington North’s Zach Daugherty gets some respect this week. After taking an inadvertent shot to the face on Tuesday against Carroll, he immediately got the ball and drained a three pointer — while down two points — to give the Vikings a sizable upset win. With Daugherty, more of a defensive presence than an offensive one often, hitting that shot with 24 seconds left, just add his name to the list of clutch performers on that roster you don’t want shooting the ball late in a close game.
  • Talk about game winners! Ok, we already did. Both in it’s own column Friday night (BOUNCE: Zak Krueger is Homestead’s latest hero in rivalry with Carroll) and earlier in this column. But just one more time for the ones in the back: Zak Krueger. Wow.
  • On Saturday in the semistate round at Logansport, Sydney Freeman of Central Noble became the first player in the history of the girls basketball program at the school to reach 500 points in one season. Mike Young last hit 500 points at Central Noble when he had 537 in a season in 1976-77, but Freeman is the first female to do so and just the ninth player in the history of Noble County to have a 500 point season.
  • The dynamic duo of Freeman and Meleah Leatherman did not get their second state title, but they will leave Central Noble as the county’s third and fourth all-time leading scorers. To have that in the same class is remarkable. Freeman ends her high school career with 1,741 points in third, with Leatherman right behind her with 1,649 career points. Only West Noble alums Jessica Ramey (1,746) and Steve Anspaugh (1,992) have more.
  • Speaking of the girls, because we want to get them in this column too, don’t forget to vote in the FAN VOTE for the Performer of the Year, which is open now. The multiple rounds of voting culminate with a winner on March 1, the same day the braintrust of Outside the Huddle name their official All Area Team and Player of the Year. Vote by clicking the link on the top menu of the website or clicking here: FAN VOTE: Girls hoops Performer of the Year, opening round

These opinions represent those of Bounce and Outside the Huddle. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. Follow Bounce on Twitter at Bounce_OTH

 

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