Friday is a night of heavy hitter games across the area, including quite the load in the NECC. But it is the NE8 front runner that has proven to be incredibly interesting in their first two wins. Now the Bulldogs will play at home for the third time in a row as they host the defending Class 1A state champions.
1. POINT GUARD BATTLE
Jamarr Hutchins is lightning quick, aggressive defensively and difficult to guard. Zane Burke is cerebral, intelligent and offensive minded. This could be a fun point guard battle. How comfortable is Burke at this point? Just one game into a primary point guard role, Burke faces a tough matchup. At the same time, Hutchins is very comfortable and that high level of comfort led to a few mistakes against Woodlan that can’t be replicated here.
New Haven can go 8 players deep comfortably, if Donovynn Lewis is healthy and playing after missing Tuesday’s win over Northrop. Lewis missed Tuesday’s game after being injured in the season opener and we have also not yet seen Darrion Brooks in action. Blackhawk Christian also only went six players deep in their opener in major minutes due to illness to Luke Lagrange. If one team ends up with a significant advantage in depth, that could be big especially with New Haven’s penchant for foul trouble.
3. WIN 125
Marc Davidson has won over 70 percent of his games coaching the Braves. Friday, he will go for win #125 on the Blackhawk Christian sideline. The first win came against Fremont over 6 years ago and he went on to lose to New Haven two games later. Davidson hasn’t lost a game he has coached against New Haven since.
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
CALEB FURST, BLACKHAWK CHRISTIAN
This is a no brainer, but how will Furst up his game more? There were times very early against North Side where he couldn’t get going offensively against the triple teams, but once he found a flow, he was unstoppable. Turn that defensive pressure up many notches and you will get what New Haven will give him. Furst can fight through contact, hit his and-one chances and flourish.
JA’KAR WILLIAMS, NEW HAVEN
The question is, will Williams put together a full game? In both of New Haven’s wins, Williams had big quarters and heavy spots where he played to his strengths. In those moments, he was really, really good. He will need some more consistency on Friday.
CALLAN WOOD, BLACKHAWK CHRISTIAN
Game one, Wood was a steady new hand and seamlessly fit in as the third/fourth option for the Braves. Like the other top guys on the roster, Wood fit into many roles when needed. He is a solid defender who will fight for rebounds and have good court vision. Friday will test his physicality.
THOMAS LATHAM, NEW HAVEN
Latham has rose to every challenge he has had shortly into this season. He is scoring on the interior and rebounding at a high rate against big and physical opposing posts. Latham can really separate himself as the conference’s best player on Friday night if he plays the same way he did against Woodlan and Northrop.
KEYS TO VICTORY – BLACKHAWK CHRISTIAN
1. USE LENGTH DEFENSIVELY
The strength of the Braves’ 1-3-1 zone comes in having Furst at the very top and immediately, his length causes issues for opponents. It was an issue for North Side earlier this week, as was the underrated length of Zane Burke; we’ve let to see Luke Lagrange in action but he too is long. The Bulldogs could struggle to rotate the ball if the Braves stay long.
2. SPREAD THE FLOOR
The Braves opened their season being able to find gaps, in part because they weren’t all on top of each other. Marcus Davidson and Andrew McIntosh did a great job of spreading out on the perimeter while Furst stayed floating until Burke decided what he wanted to do with the ball. With a new a new point guard in Burke, the Braves played well in letting him make decisions and spotting up around him.
KEYS TO VICTORY – NEW HAVEN
1. SHOOT THE BALL
Especially against the Blackhawk Christian zone, there are spots to shoot if you rotate the ball quickly. New Haven is going to need to pick and choose their spots on the perimeter and not overthink their trigger.
2. CONTROL THE PAINT
Easier said than done when you have to meet up with Furst, but you have football player bodies down low and many of them getting after it. Teams that shy away from Furst don’t have much of a chance so sometimes you just have to steer into the big man and hope that you can impose some will and rattle him. The Bulldogs have to rebound well and find ways to pick around Furst inside.
There are a lot of intangibles here, including rosters. Lagrange is expected to be back for Blackhawk but Lewis may still be out for New Haven. What could be a toss up early season game come down, in my mind to this: what is proven. Sometimes that matters most in games like these, but it should be fun along the way. Bounce picks Blackhawk Christian