Tis the season to have some ridiculous performances and momentum building wins. That is what we got this week, the last full week of games for 2019.
Join me won’t you, as we talk about somer of those things that caught Bounce’s eye this week that I want you to know about.
• Carroll’s balance could be bad news for the SAC heading into this week’s Holiday Tournament. They got kind of stiffed with the four seed, but that also means a potential rematch with #1 seed Wayne, who they just beat on Friday night. The Chargers took their three game week on with some levels of dominance, but it is their offensive balance that Bounce has to appreciate. We knew they’d score but we didn’t know where specifically it would come from. Jalen Jackson has looked very bit the part of rising star and on Friday, Ryan Preston shined. Where will Carroll get their scoring? A lot of places; they had seven scorers Tuesday in a win over Heritage and on Friday in a conference win over Wayne. Another consistent scorer this week: Cody Burkey, who scored 11 Tuesday and nine on Friday.
• Brayden Pearson hurts people’s feelings. On Friday night, it was Bishop Dwenger‘s turn as Pearson sent a dagger at their bench at the buzzer, drilling a three and giving Concordia the conference win with 19 points and 12 rebounds for Pearson. For those counting at home, that is two buzzer beating triples at home in six days. We often see these buzzer beating moments and get to debate which one is best in a season. We never see one guy (or girl) do it twice, especially in one week. Pearson is clutch in the most amazing of ways. If you want to make a statement going into the Holiday Tournament, good luck doing it in any better way. Word of advice for opponents: don’t let Concordia stay close or Pearson is going to hurt your feelings too.
• Earlier this week, I wrote about Snider‘s next steps in bouncing back from a SAC opening loss. Needless to say, they have to be decently happy about their week even if it leaves room for improvement. Tuesday, the dispatched a rebuilding East Noble. Friday, they put 101 points on North Side with Michael Eley, Isaac Farnsworth, Dillon Duff, Karson Jenkins and Elijah Wimby each scored in double figures. Saturday’s win though was the biggest. Snider went to the Champions of Character Basketball Classic at Grace College and put away defending Class 2A state champion Andrean 71-56. Andrean may not be as good as last year, but they are still a very good team and a contender in the top half of the state in Class 2A. Is Snider complete? Still a no. But baby steps are still progress.
JON BARNES’ INTELLIGENCE
Scoring makes headline. We all know that. So here is a scoring line that won’t make the “mainstream” headlines: 3 points, 8 points, 7 points. Those are the scoring numbers in three Snider wins this week for senior Jon Barnes. It also was one of the best weeks of Barnes’ young life.
This frog has been able to watch Barnes on the football field, the basketball court and little bit in life for the past six years and he continues to impress me with his poise, demeanor, work ethic and, most importantly, his intelligence. Snider is loaded with guys who can go on a basketball court, so when you are as unassuming with your skillset at Barnes is, there isn’t enough recognition. Let me be the one to say that every team needs a Jon Barnes. He helps make everything tick the right way because he expects big pressure moments and he knows how to handle the variety of things life throws his way on and off the hardwood. He does intangible things, finds where he can help and thrive in a game and makes it happen.
Also this week, he was a finalist for the Euell Wilson Award, a prestigious SAC football honor, and he earned a large, impressive and prestigious scholarship to Rose-Hulman in Terre Haute, one of the best engineering schools in the country. Barnes has a natural drive that we need more of in society and sports alike.
• Well it looks like Norwell is one of the last perfect teams in the area. It didn’t happen easily, but at the end of the day, the Knights got to celebrate on Saturday night like they just won a title. Honestly, it may have been the next best thing. On Friday, they were struggling opposite DeKalb, but used a 25-5 fourth quarter to assert their dominance. On Saturday, they invited on the top SAC teams to The Castle and sent Carroll packing, handing the Chargers their first loss of the season. Unsurprisingly, it was 16 points and 10 rebounds from Will Geiger that led the way Saturday in the 42-40 win over Carroll, but at the end of the day what matters is that everyone can step up. That guy Saturday was Connor Torson, who was left open in the closing seconds and took the ball to the rim to get fouled and hit two game winning free throws with 3 seconds left. That is making the most of the moment and keeping his team unbeaten.
• I have a feeling that somewhere Bellmont could throw a wrench into the NE8 race even if they won’t be a contender for the top spot. Tyler James, Kade Fuelling, Nic Ellsworth and a Scott James are all capable of scoring big and shooting at a high rate. The first three of those totaled 57 points on Wednesday in a 73-29 rout of Garrett. And the Braves threw some scares in New Haven in an eventual loss on Friday. Keep an eye on Bellmont in 2020.
• New Haven‘s depth, likewise, is scary. While we don’t know what top games with Norwell and Leo will bring, Donovynn Lewis and Thomas Latham aren’t doing things alone this year. Ja’kar Williams and Jamarr Hutchins have been consistent threats, Dre Wright went 6-of-6 from the field Wednesday in a 78-71 win over Wayne and freshman Darrion Brooks has a solid debut Wednesday too, showing flashes of strong play with his long frame playing a crucial role. Also in the win over Wayne, Latham snagged 15 rebounds and really is a huge part of the heart and effort of this team.
• Blake Davison continued a torrid scoring pace on Tuesday with 29 in a Leo win over Northrop. To get there, he only hit three triples. Davison has become one of the area’s best scorers the first part of the season. His continued development is fun to watch and he makes Leo very dangerous even on off nights.
• It is going to take a while to get used to East Noble not being on the tip of our tongues after football season. There is a rebuild on the basketball court and this week’s 0-2 start isn’t a great opening for coach Ryan Eakins’ team with losses to Snider and Columbia City. Getting deeper help for Hayden Jones will be a start. He’s assumed the leading scorer mantle well and Nate Dickson‘s effort in being more than a pocket shooter is another stop gap. Who else in this young and inexperienced lineup will play a big part?
• Joe Reidy‘s 17 points, five rebound, four assist and four block performance on Friday improved Woodlan to 3-3, but more importantly to 2-0 in the ACAC. The Warriors have played solid basketball this year, but their record gets them ignored a little bit. They lost two of three by a combined 10 points, so they were in those games. But the ACAC ones are going to matter most. The Warriors were my preseason favorites in this conference and there is going to be a certain target on their backs because of it. Sure, they’d prefer to be 6-0, but showing up to get wins in conference is huge and Reidy having diverse showings is important for that.
• Beating Southern Wells on Friday gave Bluffton coach Chris Benedict his 400th career win. That is a lot of wins. He got win 401 on Saturday on the road at Garrett. Benedict has been an area staple, here for most of his 28 year career minus a trip to Valparaiso and starting his career at Wapahani. He has won eight postseason titles including last year’s Sectional at Bluffton and Columbia City’s trip to state in 2004. He is now the 23rd winningest current boys basketball coach in the state.
• Speaking of buzzer beaters (see SAC section), Eastside‘s Gabe Trevino had one of his own on Friday night. It took double overtime, but the Blazers out battled Lakeland by having the last shot and the last laugh. Trevino calmly pulled up from around 16 feet in the second extra session and gave himself a highlight reel moment with the 60-58 win.
• Central Noble‘s Connor Essesgian scored 33 points against Hamilton and 20 points against West Noble in a pair of wins this week. That puts Essegian over the 500 point mark for his career as a just a sophomore and is already 20th on the Central Noble boys all-time scoring list.
• Who is rising on scoring lists? Charlie Yoder too. Yoder has really proven to be a generational talent for Westview and Saturday’s win over University at Grace College was a really nice one for the Warriors, with Yoder scoring 32 in the win. It puts the senior just 54 points away from becoming the all-time leading Warrior scorer.
WHO BEATS PRAIRIE HEIGHTS?
There have been some teams that have given the Prairie Heights Panthers unexpected runs. Just Wednesday, they only beat Whitko by 10 as the Wildcats shot the ball very well. Yet, Mike Perkins‘ 25 points and 19 more from Elijah Malone closed out that hope to end Prairie Heights’ unbeaten season.
It anything, that Whitko game awakened a sleeping giant. Brandon Christlieb returned on Wednesday after missing the first six games of the season and did well. Friday, he did exceptional. On Friday, Christlieb showcased his ability to be the best player on the court at various times. He shot the ball so well, he could have been blindfolded and still knocked down triples, he weaved to the basket around defenders and even slammed one home late. Christlieb, who has been a quality scorer in the past, indicated that he could be a monster that beats you at every level. That has to be scary for remaining NECC opponents, including expected contenders Central Noble and Westview. But it also has to be frightening for postseason opponents.
“We should always just play with this energy,” Christlieb said of coach Tony Everidge’s post game message on Friday. “If we have fun, we are going to be good. It is going to be hard to beat us if we keep on playing well and hard.”
And don’t forget, Malone scored 26 on Friday and you can’t outrebound him easily, and Perkins still entered last week as their leading scorer for a third year in a row. The effort and enthusiasm of freshman Chase Bachelor was another pleasant surprise Friday.
“They played together as a team. That is one thing we focused on going into this. We have a lot of good individuals but we have to beat good teams as a team,” Everidge said Friday night.
Bounce is salivating…salivating for a potential Regional meeting with a Blackhawk Christian, if that could come to fruition. The Panthers remain one of two area unbeaten as we start this week. And now the question of who can knock them off seems even wilder.
• Canterbury and Culver Academies joined the list of Blackhawk Christian victims this week and the Culver one, with their talented roster, is a nice statement even with Trey Galloway not in the lineup. Caleb Furst just scored a heavy 32 points in the Saturday win over Culver (versus 43 scored by Culver) and surpassed 1,000 career points.
• Brett Sickafoose had himself a game on Wednesday, maybe putting a little scare into Prairie Heights for Whitko. The Wildcats had a solid week yet again, falling short against PH but beating rival Tippecanoe Valley on Friday in a night that was important too off the court as they raised money for the West family. Early indicators in Bounce’s text messages today are that the fundraiser was a smashing hit and that certainly makes me happy; a great little community rising up for one of their own.
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. 16-21
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