Just three teams in the area remain unbeaten after another heavy week of games on the boys side. Carroll’s 3-0 start has them solidified as the surprise #1 seed in the Saragarin-era of the SAC Holiday Tournament, which is expected to be announced tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Norwell is out to a 4-0 start as asserting themselves as a NE8 favorite and in the NECC, a record 6-0 start has Prairie Heights as the other unbeaten team in the area.
Here are some more thoughts for the week that was:
• I would probably me remise to open this column with anything other than Wayne. I was confident that Byron Pickens would do good things in this program, I hope I had made that much clear in the past. But no, not even I expected him to get such a big win so quickly. His first career head coaching win on Friday, 53-50 over Snider, showed just how much buy in he has from his team.
There will be some who claim that Michael Eley’s absence from Snider’s team changed the tide, but at the end of the day teams just have to show up for that varsity tip and play ball. Friday night, Wayne was the better team and they showed up more than Snider did, so you won’t find me trying to poke holes in the General’s effort. Michael Redding, Quincy Miles and Cam Toles all had 15 points in that win, including Toles’ game winning layup and free throw with 2.4 seconds left. They added to that exclamation point on Saturday with a 74-62 win over a good South Bend Washington club behind Redding, Miles and Janard Freeman. Wayne is for real and sooner than I thought they’d be. Based on Sunday’s Sagarin ratings, the big weekend may have earned the Generals the top seed in the SAC Tournament.
• All of South Side‘s ‘big 4’ scored in double digits on Friday when the Archers claimed the first bragging rights in the new Reichert-Hey Memorial Trophy game. It only makes sense that Austin Jordan led the pace with 21 points seeing as how he has ties to the other side of the coin. Jordan’s older brother Justin was once a South Side buster while leading the then North Side Redskins. But 2019 is all about Austin in the family and he led the way on Friday without even needing to rely on a single three point make. The 92-61 win didn’t require a big stretch but Jordan’s big night and possession of that trophy was still important.
• Do you see what we were missing last year with DeMarcus Hudson‘s injury? Pencil this kid in for 25-plus points every night no matter the opponent. He plays long and comfortable and is a major leading factor in why Bishop Luers is a team of intrigue heading towards the SAC Holiday Tournament. There was a time, not so long ago, that Bishop Luers was a perennial contender and they may be heading back that way earlier than projected. Hudson is a major part of that.
• Friday night is SAC night. Saturday afternoon wasn’t too bad either, especially if you are Concordia. The Cadets not only played with, but beat the unbeaten Leo Lions, a team who had topped Churubusco and South Side this season. It was a big win for Concordia and if they can carry that momentum over, it will be interesting to see what they do going forward. The catalyst was, no surprise, Brayden Pearson, who knocked down the game winner in the closing seconds, then clearly proclaimed “I do this” to Fox55’s Petar Hood on the way out.
• Isaiah Moore had two 20 -plus point games this weekend and Rodney Woods chipped in a big 27 on Saturday night for North Side to get over the hump and get their first win in a contest full of big blows against South Adams. Good on North for finishing strong when The Starfires looked to have a big momentum swing in the third quarter. Now, lets see if the young Legends can build on it.
SPARTY HAS CONSISTENCY, AND THAT IS PERFECT
Homestead basketball is a steady presence. I could end this paragraph right there. Friday night, the Spartans beat Bishop Dwenger by being just that. They have three of my personal top 30 players in the area, Jake Archbold is getting back to form every day and Grant Simmons may end up being the best player up from last season’s JV level in the conference. And they do it methodically, the Chris Johnson way and it works.
When talking about teams that may not get as much praise as they deserve during the regular season, Homestead has to be high on that list. They have a guy in Luke Goode with major Division 1 offers even, but without the over-flare or dramatics, we probably haven’t heaped enough praise on what they are capable of and how they can close out opponents maturely even when those opponents do a lot of good things like the Saints did on Friday.
Are they the best team in the SAC? In the preseason I said so and I am going to stick with that, even if sir Sagarin ends up ranking them lower to defend their Holiday Tournament title. This team is smart and that is a tough quality to break.
• How ‘for real’ are the Norwell Knights? They have seven SAC schools this season and are now 2-0 against them after plowing through Bishop Dwenger in the Saints’ season opener. Norwell used they high powered and underrated defense to slow the Saints and then rotated the ball strongly to find open shots against the variety of defenses Dwenger tried to slow them with. When they didn’t want to shoot from the outside, Will Geiger did a beautiful job of pinning his defender on his hip and getting a great open angle at the rim. Geiger probably could have scored 40, but its great news for Norwell that he didn’t; eight different Knights scored and its been a while since they had that kind of depth. Eli Riley added 16 points and Drew Federspiel scored 11. On Saturday, they had nine different scorers led by Geiger’s 24 point, 16 rebound outing in a win over Eastbrook.
• Columbia City had to have felt like their backs were against the wall when they faced Churubusco on Tuesday sitting winless. But did they ever respond. Mitchell Wilson scored 30; and the kid is certainly capable of that every night. If you haven’t seen Wilson play: do it and do it immediately. But big physical presences in Gregory Bolt (13 points, 11 rebounds) and Michael Sievers (15 points) were difference makers too. This version of the Eagles is very dangerous, NE8 beware.
• On Monday, the draw for the annual ACAC tournament happened. First round matchups on Tuesday, January 14 include Heritage at Adams Central, Jay County at Woodlan and South Adams at Bluffton. The girls games begin at 6 with boys playing after. The tournament continues on Friday, January 17 and conclude January 18 with championship games played at South Adams.
• Just stop James Arnold. Like he didn’t miss a beat coming off the football field, Arnold poured in 30 points in 40 minutes on Wednesday for South Adams. The result: an 82-79 win over Winchester in overtime. The Starfires hit just three triples in the game, but shot 45 percent from the field and forced 29 turnovers (scoring 28 points off those). It was a nice momentum and big point win for a South Adams team that needed both. Aidan Wanner (15), Brayden Gilbert (15) and Trey Schoch (14) all chipped in double digit scoring; Schoch also had six assists and nine steals. On Saturday, The Starfires lost a slugfest at North Side despite Schoch’s 30 and Arnold’s 27. Maybe, just maybe some of that championship success from football could leak its way onto the basketball court.
• Nolin Sharick scored 14 points on Tuesday as Fairfield beat Lakeland 33-30. That may not seem like much, but it was an important push for the Falcons to get their first win after going 0-3 in close games. It marked Randy DeShone‘s first win as the Fairfield coach; his 256rd overall in his 23 year head coaching career.
• Mike Perkins of Prairie Heights joined the top 30 scorers in the history of LaGrange County on Tuesday when he hit 1,077 career points. It was part of a big week for Prairie Heights, who now hold a co-lead in the NECC with just them and Churubusco unbeaten in conference play. The Panthers are 6-0 for the first time program history.
• With Eastside‘s win on Tuesday, coach Ryan Abbott became the program’s winningest coach with a 49-47 overtime win against Bellmont. In his eighth season, he has won 92 games and passed Scott Hudson in coaching wins.
• When Concord hosted West Noble on Wednesday, it was the first meeting for the teams since the 1977-1978 season with the series tied at 5-5 after the Chargers’ 46-34 win this season behind Joel Mast‘s 26 points.
• Speaking of the Chargers, they put in a great effort on Saturday in coming close to handing Churubusco their first conference loss. But ‘close’ was as far as they got. Jackson Paul scored 28 points, had six rebounds, four assists and four steals as the Eagles remained unbeaten in conference. Churubusco has, admittedly, had a couple of let down game this year when playing the NE8. But, when it matters, they are getting the wins they need to stay as a top contender in the NECC. They get fellow unbeaten Prairie Heights on Friday and we get to see all of what we had hoped for in this conference this season.
MYLES SMITH IS A FIRE STARTER
Saturday night in Albion was almost all about Westview retaining some grip on the NECC. But when Central Noble needed to either stay in the game or a spark to try and mount a comeback, they didn’t turn to what the common person would consider a usual suspect. While many were waiting for Connor Essegian or Sawyer Yoder to get going, it was senior Myles Smith who started the fire burning for Central Noble. I shouldn’t have been surprised; Cougar coach John Bodey told me in the preseason that a game of horse between Smith and the highly touted Essegian would be good.
But I guess this is one of those examples where you have to see it to believe it.
Smith scored 19 points, hitting five three pointers, consistently finding his spot open in the corners even though Westview started to gain every idea that Smith was going to do just that. He wasn’t unassuming at all in how he went about business, he was loud and boisterous with his play yet he was still able to constantly separate himself from the Warrior defense to hit big shots. A year ago, Smith didn’t take the court for Central Noble. Now, even in a loss on Friday, he is establishing that he could be a go to player in the NECC during his senior year.
• Canterbury has now won three straight, besting Northfield and Adams Central this week with Chris Diwis, Will Shank, Noah Drapala and Holidey Stephenson all having quality performances. When all four of those guys are clicking, the Cavaliers are going to make some waves but they have their hands full this Friday against Blackhawk Christian that will be a major litmus test.
• Blackhawk Christian lost their first game on Saturday, but no reason to be ashamed with the effort against defending Class 3A champion Silver Creek and their monster lineup. The Braves actually led for quite a bit of the game before losing 78-74 at Southport. But with that effort against a prime 3A contender, it opens up even more questions about how anyone in 2A north will be able to handle Blackhawk come the postseason.
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. 9-14
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