Thanksgiving is over in a blink and now we go full bore into high school boys basketball season. While some teams got going on Tuesday and Wednesday, many more will be getting rolling this weekend and that brings us to our first boys Game of the Weekend.
And we had some really good candidates for that honor on Saturday, but we land with two teams trying to prove that they are in the upper echelon of their conferences.
1. HOME COURT ADVANTAGE
Winning at Leo isn’t easy, but South did manage to do it two seasons ago. Leo crowds and student section fan be very rambunctious and it is a fun place to see a game and play. That all said, Leo only won three times at home last season and a more mature team really wants to assert themselves at home.
2. WHAT MATTERS IN THIS GAME?
This game clearly doesn’t have anything to do with conference races, one where Leo has a good shot and one where South Side is hoping to prove they are still near the top. After this, Leo goes on the road for four straight and 7 of their next 8 and it is not an easy schedule. So asserting their will is kind of important to build on. South Side’s schedule is lighter and this may be more about learning about themselves especially without a major inside presence for the first time in a long time.
3. CREEPING TOWARDS 200
Leo coach Cary Cogdell sits just three wins away from 200 during his tenure at Leo. In his 16th year at Leo, Cogdell has become one of the most tenured coaches in Northeast Indiana. Cogdell hitting 200 will be a great moment and beating South is an important step towards Leo getting back to double digit wins again, which they did for 8 seasons before last year. Cogdell has lost his only two outings against South Side.
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
JAYLEN LATTIMORE, SOUTH SIDE
Lattimore will make his Archer debut after moving to the school midway through last season. He is a unique propertied player who has the body size that he will likely be used as a post for a smaller South Side, but can be a really quality shooter. In 12 games for Snider last year, he averaged just 2.9 points per game and showed a need for more consistency but he was also just a freshman. Is he more comfortable at South?
ZACK TROYER, LEO
Troyer impressed in the scrimmage against Canterbury. He is listed at 6-foot-5 but has tremendous length. That is going to be a mismatch many nights, but with South’s lacking size he could be an important rim protector. The more aggressive Troyer gets, the better off Leo will be. Troyer’s 23 points on not so many shots against Canterbury may have just been scrimmage numbers, but he showed an ample ability to score at a consistent and high rate.
TREVON JONES, SOUTH SIDE
If there is an X-factor for the Archers and maybe in all of the SAC this season, it is Jones. He morphed himself last season into what the Archers needed on any given night most of the time. This summer, he proved himself as a possible first option player who slashes well and challenges defenses at the rim.
BLAKE DAVISON, LEO
We know that Davison can shoot, how much more does he change his game as a junior. It was the junior seasons of older brothers Jeremy and Adam where they started to really diversify more and also become quality defenders. If Blake follows the same path, this could be a really fun year to watch him and against an athletic South Side squad would be a great starting point. Also, he can still shoot very well.
KEYS TO VICTORY – SOUTH SIDE
1. CREATE OPEN SHOTS
Yes, we don’t know about the interior yet for the Archers; we’ve talked about that, right? So instead, the Archers are going to need to be shot creators. Austin Jordan, Kamron Mitchell, Jaylen Lattimore, Treveon Jones are all quality, if not high level shooters. How good will these guys be at creating for themselves? They will have to allude Leo defenders, screen, cut and move to make things happen.
2. SHAKE OFF FIRST GAME JITTERS
The Archers will feature two sophomores, Lattimore and Ashton Johnson, who have quality varsity time. They have a junior point guard who was thrust into the starting lineup as a freshman while he was playing JV mainly. Those first game jitters are real for everyone, but the Archers should be able to figure it out quickly. On the road, as previously noted, is an important place to get rid of the thoughts of opening night.
KEYS TO VICTORY – LEO
1. CONTROL THE PAINT
Hey, we hate to harp on one thing, but Leo’s length in comparison is impressive. Troyer, we’ve discussed and those long limbs are critical. But sophomore DJ Allen has improved leaps and bounds from this time last year when he was in the starting lineup as a freshman, where he averaged 9.71 points per game. Allen, when he gets focused, is a beast low. He and Troyer together could dominate, we will see.
2. PLAY FAST, BUT CONTROLLED
The guard core is solid for Leo too, led by Davison. But there is a lot of experience too from Andrew Tkacz and Chase Bates while Eric Steger and Aiden Ruble were thrown into the fire last season. Don’t expect for Leo to just bend to the will of the fast, athletic Archers. This is a solid group of guards that are going to be able to go uptempo but have the experience and intelligence to slow things down.
This game is going to be a lot of fun and if you are in town this Thanksgiving weekend, I highly recommend the trip to Amstutz Road for this bad boy. It enters an age old question: is the middle of the NE8 better than the middle of the SAC? Not in our power poll, it isn’t. But on this night, something tells me that purple reigns. Bounce picks Leo