So I lied. I told you all that this week I would be splitting up into two columns, but with the rush of Thanksgiving Week (hope you all enjoyed some crickets with your cranberry sauce), I decided to keep the girls and boys together for just one week.
But next week, I promise, we will divide into two smaller columns for all the hoops info that you need to know.
Also of note, this week there will be no boys power poll on Tuesday, still just girls.
THE SAINT GO PRESSING ON
I wasn’t under any weird expectation on Monday night that I would see a close game when I ventured over to Bishop Dwenger to see their girls host North Side. The Legends have struggled for years and had a game where they scored just two points earlier this season in a loss to Huntington North. But I wanted to make sure I saw the then undefeated Bishop Dwenger and new coach Steve Wiktorowski in action for the first time this season.
Before the season, Wiktorowski wasn’t sure how or if he would go as deep on his bench as the Saints went last season under Cleveland Inge, but I think he is beginning to understand. While the Saints don’t have a “star” per say, they have a huge core of very talented young ladies and that depth can make all the difference. They didn’t need it against North Side; the Legends put up a valiant fight for almost a full half before they got in their own way a lot. But the depth and ability to push the pace defensively for long stretches was important in wearing down North Side too.
It is still to be seen how Bishop Dwenger will be against upper level SAC teams, but Monday night was a nice sampling. Lexi Linder stood out for her confidence and ability to control pace and captains Molly Ream and Carissa Wiegman certainly have this team in intelligent shape with their leadership. Going deep could continue to be a major bonus for this group. The three played as their coach coached: patient, relaxed yet intent on getting stops defensively. The method is working.
• Homestead girls slid to 5-0 on Tuesday at Huntington North and while Rylie Parker’s 20 points and Sydney Graber‘s 11 points and 9 rebounds were big, how about Amber Austin posting a career high 8 blocked shots. With or without Ayanna Patterson in the lineup, the Spartans need Austin to get better in the post as the season progresses. This was a quality step.
• The Homestead boys, also #1 in the OTH Power Polls, won on Wednesday night in one of Thanksgiving Eve’s best traditional games. It also gave them back Bounce’s invisible traveling trophy behind, you guessed it, Luke Goode. But Grant Simmons is noteworthy because he is starting to look as advertised , going 4-of-5 from the field after heavy praise from coach Chris Johnson in the preseason. Huntington North’s Jordan Hollowell had a game high 18 points in the loss.
• Is Snider doing to have depth this season? Injuries to Jordan Moore and Airyan Thomas effect that but the Panthers didn’t feel it in the opener, a win over Merrillville on Saturday. Will Dillon Duff (30 points) and Michael Eley (27 points) do the same thing on a nightly basis? If so, look out. The Panthers should be happy with their overall shooting in the opening game going 58.3 percent from inside the arc. They should live there more though because the threes weren’t falling. Next up: a long break due to a rescheduled East Noble game.
• Norwell boys dominated opening night on Thanksgiving Eve and Will Geiger, to little surprise, was the catalyst. Geiger’s 21 points and 14 rebounds were great and he almost was at the double double mark in the first quarter. He is a real problem down low. But this was a total team effort from Norwell with seven different scorers including 15 from freshman Luke McBride who just casually knocked down 5 of 6 three pointers. The Knights were 11 of 17 from deep with Lleyton Bailey also knocking down 3 of 5 triples. The Knights outscored Concordia 20-3 in the second quarter and 25-5 in the third.
• You don’t have to say that I told you so in my Game of the Weekend preview, but the Leo Lions are a legit threat. Taking down South Side on Saturday, 65-61, and controlling almost the entire game is eye opening. Some say we had Blake Davison ranked too low in our preseason Top 50. Is that true? Well, I trust my system and my mind, but never the less he certainly played at high level Saturday scoring 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting. Trust me, be in the gym any time a combination of Leo, Norwell and New Haven are playing this season.
• South Adams‘ win on Friday night over Bluffton girls was an eye opener. Bluffton has been struggling out of the gate and even if they turn it around, this is a big early season ACAC loss for them. It also has to be big for Woodlan, the current frontrunner in the conference. The Warriors topped Churubusco and Jay County this week with some quality scoring from their big three of Addie Bayman, Dakotah Krohn and Gabby Joyce.
But, here comes South Adams? After beating Leo on Tuesday behind Lydia Loshe‘s 21 points, they got that win on Friday in conference because of Peyton Pries‘ 18 points. The Starfires may be more of a contender than pretender in the ACAC after all.
“We played pretty well on both ends in the first half,” South Adams coach Brett Freeman said in release to the media Friday. “Offensively, we were knocking down some quality shots and being aggressive.”
• The three team race at the top of the NECC girls race has shifted Angola‘s way after their close win against Garrett this week. It puts the Railroaders needing some help to get a share of that title. Can they count on Central Noble? The Cougars got another conference win beating Lakeland on Tuesday while holding Bailey Hartsough to just two points. Meanwhile, more new face Cougars are stepping up. While Bridgette Gray led them in scoring again, freshmen Meghan Kiebel and Madi Vice had 10 and nine point respectively and that is great news for the Cougars.
• Speaking of Garrett, and their Tuesday opponent Angola, who wants to see that one again in the postseason? Hanna Knoll had another stellar game for Angola and Lauren Leach’s near double-double gave the Hornets the edge in the NECC by beating Garrett 40-34. But Garrett is tough and so much improved with Nataley Armstrong playing better and Bailey Kelham continuously showing she is the future of the NECC while the Railroaders sit eleventh in the state in points given up with just 30.67 per game.
• Mike Perkins of Prairie Heights is the first player this season to hit the 1,000 point mark. Perkins went over 1,000 points on Wednesday in the Panthers’ win over Concord. Perkins scored 22 points and became just the fourth player in program history to reach the 1K mark.
• Prairie Heights’ girls played a game of note on Friday with their first win over Westview in eight years. Alexis German scored 20 points in the 52-45 Panther win.
• Central Noble’s boys opened the season on the boys end by scoring in the closing seconds Tuesday to top Canterbury 61-60. Connor Essegian‘s 24 points is expected, Sawyer Yoder stepped up big but there are now question marks surrounding who will control the pace for the Cougars. It was announced this week that senior Lucas Deck will miss the season with a torn ACL, an unfortunate break for the Cougars and for Deck, who has struggled with injuries.
• A brief mention for Westview here: Charlie Yoder is still really good and he made his first ever tweet on Saturday. The tweet showcased amazement for junior Ben Byrkett, who made his first and only basket against Northridge at the buzzer, down two points. The three gave Westview a season opening win and Byrkett quickly became a name to be talked about in the NECC. Big Shot Ben aside, Yoder put up 34 points and 11 rebounds in the win.
Yoder’s game moved him into the top 10 in LaGrange County spring history with 1,517 points according to NECC expert Sam Frick. Yoder only needs 24 more points to move into 7th all time in the county.
WOODLAN REQUIRES ADDED DEPTH
Woodlan boys fell on Wednesday night in their opener at New Haven, 69-53. Plenty can be said about New Haven’s effort in that one, but I’ve been there and done that. So let’s talk about Woodlan, my preseason projected winners of the ACAC.
There was a lot good at the top for the Warriors. Sophomore Joe Reidy overcame a slow start where he had some corner threes rim out and he struggled at the free throw line. His bounce back was big, recording a game high 26 points with nine rebounds and nine blocks. Yes, nine blocks. Reidy is a force and when he puts his mind to it, proved to be near unstoppable against New Haven. Mitch Mendenhall was consistent too, recording 18 points and 10 rebounds in the opener but was limited at times because of some over aggressive foul issues. But then, that scoring depth basically didn’t exist. Aiden Bayman chipped in, mostly because of his ability to get into passing lanes and create fast break scoring for himself.
Woodlan is a quality team, but they need more scoring and they need more aggression. With Ben Reidy lost for the season without ever playing a game, those needs will fall on Trevor Wiedenhoeft and Colin Hahn. The pair were steady against New Haven and Hahn did step up offensively in Saturday’s loss to Bellmont, but Woodlan needs more than steady, especially on nights where they get out toughed like New Haven was able to do. Woodlan’s entire style aims towards the physical end more than finesse, they are going to need to make that clear moving forward.
• For the fourth straight season, Whitko boys have beaten county rival Columbia City. A big win for the Wildcats at Brett Sickafoose knocked down seven of the eight three pointers he attempted on his way to 32 points. The win marked Whitko coach Eli Henson‘s 100th career victory.
• Another 1,000 point mark came from Fort Wayne native Deontae Craig, now at Culver. He reached 1,000 points on Tuesday night.
• We mentioned Canterbury briefly, but kudos to them for being right there with Central Noble, a team Bounce thinks highly of. Holidey Stephenson is going to be a highly valuable piece if he has more games like his 12 point, nine rebound outing. The Cavaliers didn’t look to be on par in their scrimmage, but the light from their opener shines brightly on their potential.
As always, make sure you vote in this week’s Performance of the Week FAN VOTE. Remember, this doesn’t reflect a body of work as much as the best single game performance. Voting is open through Tuesday at these two links with one vote for the girls and one vote for the opening week of boys play:
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