The final week of the regular season is over. Let that sink in. Basketball season has come and nearly gone in a flash and the postseason begins just two days after this column hits OutsideTheHuddle.net. Bounce is kind of sad about that. Means I will have to soon give way to that big oaf of a bear Blitz because it will be football season in a hurry.
But while there is still time, Bounce was excited to take in some non-conference games this week and while there was a clear winner each night, neither game I saw disappointed.
Don’t forget to spend your early week with all of our features, particularly as I break down all nine area sectionals (along with our running schedule and results page) and of course, this week we will name on girls hoops All-Area team on Friday.
Until then, lets reminisce one last time about how the regular season ended.
IS HUNTINGTON NORTH READY FOR HOMESTEAD REMATCH?
The Vikings ended their season strong with four straight wins and 10 of their last 11. Closing is something they clearly do well. Friday, against a Bishop Luers team that has been playing good basketball, the Vikings found themselves in a dogfight for much of the game, but when they put their foot down, they closed the game out strong. At the forefront of that was Zach Daugherty, part of the strong senior class. Daugherty is tough as nails and that is no secret to anyone who has seen the Vikings in the last three seasons. The expression on his face never wavered from distinct ‘killer instinct’ vibes and he dashed and darted through the Bishop Luers defense.
When Daugherty and Sawyer Stoltz are both scoring 20-plus points, the Vikings are going to be hard to beat. With their 19th win on Friday, Huntington North set a new school record for most regular season wins and that is what they have built for with this senior class, headed by Daugherty, Stoltz and Hank Pulver.
The missing piece? That opening loss to Homestead that few expected at the time. They get their chance to avenge that loss on Tuesday in the opening game of the second season. Bounce has made it clear to those who ask that Homestead is way better than they were on opening night, so I had to see myself where Huntington North was. And they are strong, making their rematch one to clamor for when I once wasn’t sure I would be all excited about it. We have yet to see if Homestead has a true kryptonite in area, but if they do, it comes from Huntington.
NOT NEGATIVE AT BISHOP LUERS
Bishop Luers won four times as many games this season as last season. That is meaningful because it is an upward trend. With their third head coach in the last three years, the Knights are going to take that as a win and they should. Two of those wins came over Norwell and Churubusco, who both had double digit win seasons and will go into the playoffs as contenders in their Sectionals.
When you look at those two games, knowing those two teams have nearly the same makeup as last year, you have to be happy. Luers lost to those two teams by a combined 29 points last year and won them by 31 this season.
Fonso White did not have it easy when he took over a program that didn’t have much vision. The Knights had to rebuild when J.J. Foster moved to South Side, but the 2017-18 team never figured out an identity and it often led to uninspired play. What Bounce saw at Bishop Luers on Friday was what it needed to be: inspiring. White has a heavy presence and a consistent one, two things the players at Bishop Luers need. I am not going to anoint Bishop Luers as “back” in the thick of things next season, but there are a ton of bright spots with juniors Demarcus Hudson and Jalen Causey and one of the area’s best sophomores in Naylon Thompson back.
On Friday, they really gave a good fight to NE8 runner up Huntington North. They played them tight the entire first half and then got down by nine in the third quarter before pulling all the way back within one point again. It is a little step in ways, but means a lot mentally for this program.
A WILD SENIOR NIGHT
Senior Night is always a meaningful one. For Blackhawk Christian coach Marc Davidson, Thursday’s win over Northrop had to be more meaningful than usual. For one, son Frankie played his final game on the school’s home court as the third Davidson son to do so following brothers Wes and Will. Secondly, the Braves wrapped up their Summit Athletic Conference opposed schedule at 8-1 by beating co-champion Northrop. Finally, because seniors stepped up in a way that could make coach Davidson more comfortable with their depth heading into the postseason.
The forefront of that senior step up to me came from Cooper Wild, who can give the Braves a big boost off the bench in the post where they don’t have the depth they did a year ago. Wild got the start on senior night in place of Caleb Furst and I think it is fair to say that he did an impressive job in his attempts to contain the raw physicality of Northrop’s Sydney Curry and even garnered a “Cooper Wild” chant from the always game Blackhawk Christian student section. Wild played very well earlier in the season in Furst’s absence but hadn’t been used as much lately. He is very capable of providing strong, physical defensive flurries and had a couple of nice blocks in the first half against Northrop including the emphatic one of Elijah Fincher’s runner that you see pictured here.
Speaking of high energy effort, Bounce loved watching how much Trinity Clark reveled in the moment during senior night. And I wasn’t the only one. Bounce’s second oldest tadpole told him after the game that Clark was his new favorite area player because of the fact that no matter what was happening, he had a huge grin on his face. If Clark can play each night like he did on senior night, he can be a big part of the Braves’ run through the postseason that has many thinking they may end up at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Clark works hard and his personality, and therefore energy, is going to be absolutely contagious.
The win also completed a second straight season of Blackhawk Christian being undefeated at home. They have now won 24 straight games at home.
- Last Monday night, Kevin Brown broke the Adams Central boys basketball scoring record. The record of 1,135 points stood since Landon Adler set it in 2004 but Brown surpassed it at Southwood on Monday. Adler went on to play at Ball State and Florida Gulf Coast. Brown scored 22 more points on Friday in a win over Lakewood Park and heads into his final postseason with 1,161 career points. He also signed to play college baseball at Saint Francis last week, so not a bad few days for “Downtown.”
- Central Noble freshman Connor Essegian may not have the school record for scoring; he is just a freshman. But he does now have the distinction of being Noble County’s best scoring freshman ever. In Friday’s win over Fairfield, Essegian passed Steve Anspaugh, who set the record in 1966 at Wawaka High School with 408 points. Essegian entered the night at 399 points and then went on to score 22 in the win. Essegian scores at a pretty solid rate, putting up 64 points over three games last week and now sits at 421 points. In case you haven’t noticed in the last couple of weeks, Bounce is fully on the Essegian bandwagon.
- Speaking of the Cougars, they won our Outside the Huddle game of the week last Friday, just as yours truly predicted. They did it on the final buzzer beater of the regular season on a Nick Alwine pass and Sawyer Yoder finish to secure second place in the NECC.
- Bishop Dwenger coach Matt Kostoff picked up career win 250 last Tuesday at Bellmont. In his 20th year as a head coach, Kostoff has won some big games and 250 wins is an impressive place to reach. Rumor has it that he may have celebrated with a car ride home set to the tunes of Earth, Wind and Fire.
- While Bellmont fell Tuesday night to Bishop Dwenger on their senior night, their group of 12th graders has a lot to be proud of. On Friday night, the Braves beat ACAC champion Jay County to win their 14th game on the season. Bellmont’s varsity win total the previous three years: 13 games.
- Wrapping up back with the Blackhawk Christian/Northrop game. Isn’t it fair that in a week that college’s mack truck of a big man Zion Williamson tore through his shoe that Northrop’s Sydney Curry tore through a net? Sure he only actually ripped it off the cylinder during the first half Thursday, but how many times have you ever actually seen that happen? Good thing that Blackhawk Christian athletic director Joel Cotton is a master net restringer.
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