I like gutty performances. And no matter who won the game I watched Tuesday, I knew I was going to start this column that way.
There were a lot of things that Bounce hoped to learn on Tuesday night as Bellmont visited Concordia Lutheran and that’s why I had to make a visit to the cage. Despite a wealth of interesting games with some of our OTH top 10 teams in the Summit City, Concordia was a must see attraction. And it did not disappoint, with the Cadets edging – narrowly – Bellmont 32-30.
How is Bellmont in the post Grace Hunter world? How good is Concordia’s Chanteese Craig a year later?
Both questions led off with bright points. And isn’t that the point of these early season and non-conference games? Good measuring sticks that teach you a lot more about your teams and their habits than a practice will.
Craig was a revelation around the basket. You almost forget what a dominating defensive presence she is but her four first half blocks gave me as many flashbacks as they did the Squaws. Getting to the rim wasn’t much of a chore for Bellmont but finishing at it with Craig on the floor was nearly impossible. Though she sat out a full high school season as a sophomore, rust didn’t seem evident for Craig and as she develops a bigger gas tank, she will present some fun challenges for other SAC posts we expect to have big years. She ended the night with eight blocks by my count and the Cadets were just different with her on the floor, working their offense off of her against the Bellmont 2-3 zone.
Meghan Busick was equally impressive for Bellmont off an injury and hers far more recent. For those who don’t know, Busick tore her ACL just around eight months ago in the Sectional semi finals. But there she was on Tuesday night playing like not a thing changed. Her first step was quick, her blow by to the rim was quicker and she was able to finish at times when Bellmont really needed to her, finishing with eight points. Her bounce back is critical in not putting too much on the plate of other core returner Kenzie McMahon.
One big sigh of relief for Bellmont came in the final two minutes of the first half where they played without either McMahon or Busick on the court and drew a stalemate with Concordia. Bellmont didn’t score but they also gave up zero points in that time to a Cadets team that had Chanteese Craig on the court.
I really thought that the point of this column, and even the headline, would be about calling one team solid and the other the more complete, for now. But as I press these keys on my computer, it’s hard to do that. Tuesday night was as even as it gets. Would it be different with CC Calloway on the court for Concordia? She sat out for unspecified reasons and that’s a question that’s hard to answer. Both teams have to have left this thing happy in ways. Yes, Concordia got the win but they both proved things, examined things and realized a lot about how this season could go for them.
So I’m playing neutral. Who is better? I don’t know. I also don’t really care. Because they fulfilled a lot of things on my must see in games.
Playing without Calloway, Concordia still went eight players deep without a significant drop off and I didn’t expect that. From Rhaya Kaschinske to Annaka Nelson, a dribble driving Chastity Craig and the sharpshooting of game leading scorer Elle Fritcha (11 points), there are more plentiful options for the Cadets than I gave them credit for at all, especially this early in the season. And then it was yet another player, Peyton Gulley, who hit 3-of-5 free throws down the stretch that actually ended up being the difference.
For Bellmont, Morgan Shifferly and a rotating Emma Keane stood strong against Chanteese Craig in the 2-3 zone. Shifferly was incredibly tough, not just standing her ground against Craig in the post, but actually doing her best to get position on the Concordia forward on offense too. She is going to be someone who can equally gain major ground in her conference.
So we can call this column a little schizophrenic if you want. Evaluatory more than play-by-play. But that is how this game fit to me. It was probably the cleanest game I’ve seen top to bottom on this young season and there was a lot to digest was these teams played even. But digest I did and I, for one, am happy with what I saw.
Personally, I think Dave Miller and Andy Heim should feel the same about their respective teams.
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