Tell me something we learned this week that we hadn’t already known. That is the fun test. There was so much great and so much bad that we already knew to expect. But there was a lot a lot new and a lot to take out of this week.
The first full week of boys basketball season is in the bag and Bounce is taking a sizable chunk of website space to tell you the things you should know to take out of the week.
• Brayden Pearson can’t do it all, but he certainly put Concordia on his back Tuesday in a win over Bellmont, including a coast to coast take for a slam. Pearson’s length proved to be an issue for the Braves with 25 points on 11-of-16 shooting and while the rest of the team, most with little experience, need to be brought along, Pearson can play at a highly athletic level.
• I am all about Fonso White and Bishop Luers making a statement. I said in the preseason and I’ll follow through: the Knights are going to be so much better this year because they finally have consistency in their leadership. White can coach, he has talent and they proved it Tuesday by carefully handling a Canterbury team that just went the distance with Central Noble. The 72-47 win came in large part because Naylon Thompson had the game of his career. He is an amazing talent who can be a top 10 player in the area with the right aggression and focus. If Tuesday is any indication, Luers is no longer a night off. Thompson poured in 31 points in that win.
While the Knights lost to Warren Central on Friday night despite 26 points from Demarcus Hudson, the were able to bounce back to beat Class 3A fifth ranked Mishawaka Marian on Saturday because Hudson put in another 26 points with nine rebounds and took a pair of charges. Luers is now 2-1 and more than a third of the way to their win total (5) from the previous two seasons combined. With Thompson and Hudson working together, the Knights will be a tough out.
• South Side put their foot down Wednesday in beating West Noble. I told a certain announcer for a certain Summit City Sports broadcaster before the game that while I wouldn’t best on West Noble hanging around, it wouldn’t surprise me. And they did, until South Side had enough. Jaylen Lattimore is always going to be an x-factor this season and his 17 point, 10 rebound, three assist, three steal outing was a major factor in the Archers’ dominant second half where they outscored West Noble 40-13. It helps that Kamron Mitchell, Treveon Jones and Austin Jordan also all scored in double digits.
• Homestead was on the losing end of a game Saturday against Marion and the two things that couldn’t happen happened: Jalen Blackmon scored big and Luke Goode fouled out. Even though Alec Grinsfelder had a good night, scoring 21, including 10 in the fourth, there is plenty to build on from that one for the Spartans, who looked significantly stronger overall on Friday night in a 71-50 win over Warsaw that saw them hit 10 three pointers.
NORTH SIDE HAS SOME PIECES, BUT WHO STANDS OUT?
The Legends kept pace with Blackhawk Christian early on Tuesday, smothering Caleb Furst at the rim the best they could and forcing him to alter how he was going to attack the basket. Furst was always going to get his and any team containing him isn’t going to happen. But that isn’t the point of this breakout.
The point: North Side is improved in the second year under Gary Andrews. But how improved? How will in translate in trying to get out of last place in the SAC? We won’t know that for a while as the Legends have started 0-2 with losses to Blackhawk Christian and DeKalb. But with a roster featuring just two seniors, there is time for North Side to continue to improve if they are patient in the process. Andrews is just in his second season coaching boys basketball and he has a whole knew coaching staff and is playing freshmen and sophomores in significant roles.
When North Side takes a step up will come when someone takes over as a leader. The de facto choice for me would be Rodney Woods. He is all out, all of the time on both ends of the court and looks to be a great presence to follow. But, just a sophomore, Woods hasn’t developed vocal leadership qualities yet. The opposite could be said for freshman Brashawn Bassett, who is vocal but this early still trying to adapt to a high school varsity game pace and demeanor. By the end of the season, one of these guys or both of these guys, are going to need to develop critical leadership for the Legends for this season and seasons to come.
As Andrews continues to figure out his rotation, there were flashes on Tuesday from four other guys that, if put together with Woods and Bassett, could develop nicely. Juniors Isaiah Moore, Ronald Collins and Jacob Lambert set tone and tempo in Moore’s scoring, Collins’ poise and Lambert’s desire to physical inside. And sophomore Ryan Collins shot the ball well. Some pieces, as I said, are there. Eventually, someone will have to take the lead to melt it all together.
• They say I underestimated and under ranked New Haven‘s Thomas Latham in the preseason. 27 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks against Northrop on Tuesday is more evidence in their favor.
• Who didn’t I underestimate? Well since the scrimmages took place, you can count me squarely on team Zack Troyer. Folks, Troyer and Leo walked in Churubusco, a tough travel and tough place to play, on Wednesday night and Troyer stood biggest and boldest. The 73-63 win for Leo was a team effort for sure, Blake Davison double doubled with 20 points and 10 rebounds but Troyer’s 27 point, 17 rebounds stat line stands out more probably because we know what Davison is capable of. Troyer is going to be a real problem in the NE8 and, as we learned, out of it.
Leo coach Cary Cogdell picked up his 200th career win on Friday in a 56-31 win at Heritage.
• Huntington North out rebounded Southwood 44-11 on Friday night. Nothing really more to report. The Vikings had a lot of turnovers, not enough made shots and still got the win. But those numbers on the boards, that is impressive.
• Wanna know how Bellmont did on Friday night? There is a whole story just for that win over Whitko. We all know Kade Fuelling is a monster, but the pace and tone set by Tyler and Scott James was so critical, especially due to some foul trouble. When they needed to be at their most calming, the duo made the right decisions and hit some important shots.
• Change of the tide in the ACAC official? Woodlan beat Jay County on Friday night, 42-38 and despite the time crunching style of the Patriots, Mitch Mendenhall ended up with a game high 25 points and six rebounds. If Woodlan is my pick to win the ACAC this year (they were, by the way), this could end up being the passing of the guard for this season.
• Bluffton and South Adams opened ACAC play on Friday against each other and while there was no dance off between football coaches Brent Kunkel and Grant Moser like I wanted, the game was noteworthy for teams wanting to jockey for early ACAC positioning. With only six conference games, the 44-32 win for Bluffton was important. So too was the 20 point, nine rebound night for Bluffton’s Hayden Nern, the return to Bluffton for Konner Norman, who always plays tough and a return to the court for James Arnold, who missed all season last year for South Adams injured.
• Ignore the lopsided second half on Wednesday and West Noble has to be in love with how they played at South Side. A tough, energetic and athletic Archer team was stymied by West Noble early. The Chargers led in the second quarter behind some really great and smart play from Josh Gross among others. The Chargers made great cuts, intelligent passes and freshman Austin Cripe shot the ball with poise. Gross and Cripe each ended with 10 points.
• Winning at Westview is hard. Make it a Friday night, it is harder. Churubusco, after a disappointing season opening loss, walked into Topeka and did just that on Friday night behind Hunter Perlich‘s 18 points and 22 more from Jackson Paul, who also had seven rebounds. They didn’t limit Charlie Yoder, who scored 28, but not many teams are going to be able to. The loss for Westview is the first on their home court since 2017’s Sectional; according to my guy Brice Vance of KPC, that is just the 16th loss at home in the last 10 seasons for the Warriors. The win for Churubusco, still without Landen Jordan until January, makes sure they stay firmly at the front of the NECC title race, even though it is way too early to jump to any conclusions.
• Central Noble kept themselves in the conversation too on Friday, beating Angola despite 21 points from Dyer Ball. Connor Essegian had 26 points, was perfect from the line and saw six more teammates chip in on scoring for the Cougars. It is such an interesting year in the NECC where there are so many strong teams it will be hard to go unbeaten in conference, so a loss really doesn’t put you out of it. But Central Noble, Churubusco, Lakeland and Prairie Heights have to be the most happy leaving this first big weekend unbeaten in conference.
• Zane Burke is worth mentioning one more time this week. His near triple double performance on Tuesday in a 105-59 Blackhawk Christian win over North Side had to answer some questions. Yes, I had them too. I didn’t question Burke’s ability to run the point guard position, but I wondered how much it would bother his game to be in a different role. It doesn’t and Zane Burke is in great shape.
More impressive than Tuesday’s win was beating New Haven on Friday in our Game of the Weekend. Caleb Furst does what Caleb Furst does: 23 points and 18 rebounds. But here are two stat lines from the win over the NE8 favorite that you need to be aware of: 20 points from Marcus Davidson and the 11 point, 11 rebound double double from Jake Boyer (main image, from Tuesday’s game).
• Josh Pike ladies and gentleman. He had himself a week, scoring 22 for Lakewood Park on Tuesday and 28 on Friday at Garrett. Final verdict: Panther win and Panther win.
• Former area coach Cliff Hawkins, who coached at DeKalb from 1994-2004, picked up his 500th career win on Saturday coaching Tipton to a 37-34 win at Frankton. Hawkins won six Sectionals, two Regionals and a semi state title while coaching the Barons. He is now 500-359 in his 39th year coaching.
THE WHITKO WAY
If the game was as simple as stopping Brett Sickafoose, then Saturday night would have been all Bellmont’s way.
Instead, the entire core of the Whitko Wildcats stepped up their game in the first half of an eventual 76-67 loss toe Bellmont. Sickafoose, who has been a star in the early season, was held to 16 points; in the first half, he scored zero on 0-of-5 shooting. But Sickafoose proved to be multi dimensional throughout, ushering success for his team through more than just the traditional putting the ball through the hoop method.
Sickafoose became a willing distributor offensively, using the sometimes singular focus of the Bellmont defense to create or act as a decoy. Defensively, his low frame made him a challenging competition for the Braves’ Kade Fuelling. Fuelling’s touch inside was critically important early for Bellmont, who constantly looked to go to him and exploit mismatches. Sickafoose didn’t turn out to be one of those mismatches.
The Wildcats adjusted an early man principal defense to go zone and back to man, trying to isolate that Bellmont desire to fund consistency going to Fuelling.
But while Sickafoose was doubled down on and smothered, Whitko showed a keen sense of calm and urgency all at once. William Rickerd was clearly important in the opening frame, scoring seven points three different ways (a triple, an offensive rebound and outback and a pair of free throws). Clayton Ebbinghouse drained four first half three pointers, enough for one of the referees to even walk by Bounce to proclaim ‘we have some shooters out here tonight.’ And Drake Lewis, at times, looked like the best player on the court with his tempo and ability to read the Bellmont defense; he finished with a team high 20 points.
I try not to pass up on chances to travel to places I don’t get to much and I’m glad I made the trip to South Whitley to see the Wildcats on Saturday night. Need a place to stop by some night? Try out Whitko. The facilities, band, general enthusiasm, the JV game and yes, the nachos, all passed my test.
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 this link: FAN VOTE: Boys hoops Performance of the Week for Dec. 2-7
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