Friday is focused on football still, but in the world of girls basketball, the third week of the season means a first Friday night of Summit Athletic Conference play. In the preseason, this game may not have been meant much. But, as Concordia Lutheran (4-0) has played at a really high level to start this season, Outside the Huddle is intrigued enough to make this our Game of the Weekend as they host Homestead (3-0).
1. NO AYANNA PATTERSON
Patterson, presumably, will still be out of the lineup for the Spartans. She changes games in a lot of ways and her ability to get the ball on a rebound and take off up the court creates significant mismatches. But without her, those mismatches aren’t there. It makes Homestead play a more straight up game, which they are still very good at, but it is a significant change none the less.
2. WHAT FUELS CONCORDIA?
The Cadets weren’t expected to be this good this quick, if ever, this season. Keep in mind that CC Calloway, arguably their second best player, hasn’t taken the court yet and you realize that this team is very good. So what fuels this confidence and momentum? Until someone knows that, it will be difficult too slow. Everyone is chipping in and that causes some chaos for opponents that didn’t expect this start.
3. ZERO SAC LOSSES
The Spartans have lost zero times in the SAC regular season. Ever. That is a big, braggadocios fact. And it holds weight every time they take the court for a conference game. 37-0 is 37-0 and there is no way around that.
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
CHANTEESE CRAIG, CONCORDIA LUTHERAN
Craig hasn’t seemed to have lost a step after missing all of last season. Her 10 points, seven rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game all lead this team. Craig is a force down low and if you don’t have a high angled or long armed shot on the inside, she may block it or just snatch it out of the air.
GRACE SULLIVAN, HOMESTEAD
The pace of this game goes through Sullivan and it will be played how she plays. It will be interesting to see how Sullivan brings the ball up the court and how she continues to read defenses. Sullivan can score when needed and has shown early this season that she can pick her spots well.
MEG BARKLEY, CONCORDIA LUTHERAN
After a slow start, Barkley has had a really good last two games. Barkley is a fighter on the court and plays at 100 miles per hour. It was odd to see her struggle early but she is finding her stride again and that makes her a big part of the Concordia offense.
AMBER AUSTIN, HOMESTEAD
Again we mention the Chanteese (and Chastity) Craig issue. They are tough down low and so Austin is going to have to play the best game of her varsity career. Homestead needs Austin to stand her ground, rebound toughly and be a physical player to counteract the Craig sisters.
KEYS TO VICTORY – CONCORDIA LUTHERAN
1. HIT YOUR OPEN SHOTS
Working the ball off Chanteese down on the block works very well. It has freed up the Cadets for some high percentage looks. The team shoots 36 percent from long range but this is a game where the time to shoot the ball may be limited. Homestead closes out quickly so Elle Fritcha and Peyton Gulley are going to need to be quick triggered but do so with patience too.
2. OFF BALL DEFENSE
The Cadets have shown that they can defend a lot of players but a lot of the focus can come to the players who are moving the ball. Homestead always has so many moving pieces that move well. So the perimeter for Concordia will need to play strong on the girls without the ball in their hands. Fritcha, Gulley, LonDynn Betts and Rhaya Kaschinske will all have to hold their own weight.
KEYS TO VICTORY – HOMESTEAD
1. AVOID CHANTEESE CRAIG
It isn’t in the Homestead philosophy to just not go at the basket and the Spartans shouldn’t change that. But they have to find ways to attack and stay away from Chanteese Craig. If anyone can isolate Craig, it is the Spartans. BUT, if they go at Craig and she gets the best of them, that could be a monumental momentum swing.
2. PLAY FAST, BUT CONTROLLED
Homestead gets up and down the court well. Sullivan, Sydney Graber and Rylie Parker all push the pace with sometimes reckless abandon. This is a game where you can’t get too ahead of yourself. Only turn this game into a track meet if it benefits you. And it may not.
This is a really interesting game. Concordia has the pieces and the depth to make this as interesting as any game that Homestead as ever played in the SAC regular season. Does that concern the Spartans? Probably not. But, its worth the conversation. Early nominee for SAC game of the year? Bounce picks Homestead