The last full week of 2019 wrapped up on the girls ended with some close games and even more conference clarity. Angola has a commanding lead in the NECC, Woodlan has all but wrapped up the ACAC, Homestead stayed unbeaten in the SAC and Columbia City seized sole possession of first place in the NE8.
We are now at the unofficial midway point of girls basketball season, so what did Bounce learn this week?
• Can anyone beat Homestead? Feels like that question comes up weekly and we have most of our answers lining up with an emphatic no. But not so fast says Bishop Luers. Although the Knights didn’t get the finish on Friday night, they certainly showed that the Spartans are not invincible locally. Luers led from the first quarter into the fourth before an Amber Austin bucket pushed Homestead back ahead. That says big things about the Knights, who endured some tough games as of late. They may get another crack at the Spartans this week and that is a game a lot of people will have circled now.
It also says a lot about Homestead. They were out of it, on the ropes and they didn’t fold. Austin had one of her best games, scoring a team high 14 points and Homestead had zero quit to remain the conference standard. These competitive games are more fun for two reasons: 1) nobody likes blowouts and 2) we learn far more about the Spartans in a game like this than we do in a 30 point win.
• Concordia and Bishop Dwenger put on, arguably, the best game in the SAC this season on Friday. The difference ended up being the free throw game where LonDynn Betts went 6-of-8 and her Cadet team was 9-of-12, all in the final quarter where Bishop Dwenger scored just eight total points. The game, as a whole, was a lot of fun with the teams trading jabs throughout. We haven’t seen a ton of SAC games this year where the result was in doubt. We need more battles like Concordia and Dwenger.
• South Side made a statement on Friday going into the SAC Tournament. Both Olivia Smith and Jaci Jones had monster games against a tough Northrop defense. The Archers helped force Northrop into 31 turnovers, in part thanks to their 12 swipes.
• Ok, fine. I’m in on Columbia City. Not that beating East Noble was as big of a win as last week’s victory over Norwell, but it still made the Eagles the ONLY team unbeaten in the conference and now in the driver’s seat for a title. There are no Power Polls this week, but if there were, the Eagles would be involved.
EAST NOBLE TOUGHENED UP
This has been a hectic two week run for East Noble with some major wins, a close overtime battle and tough losses, including losing their co-hold on first place in the NE8. Tuesday night however was a toughening up process for the Knights. They visited Snider for the backend of a double header with the boys and were forced to take the Panthers to task. Snider is finding themselves still, but one thing the Panthers don’t shy away from is being aggressive in many forms. So to avoid a Panther upset, East Noble girls were forced to get physical in return and earn every rebound and bucket in the paint.
It was East Noble’s game early, even though their jump shooting ways kept them away from the physicality of the post a lot. Avan Beiswanger hit three triples in the second and things looked all the Knights way. Snider rallied back from behind late but East Noble had learned some more toughness throughout the game and got to the line strong in the fourth where they hit 9 of 15 free throws. It was a game that toughened up the Knights physically and mentally for the weeks ahead. Finding the right poise and punch mixture isn’t always easy but East Noble did that Tuesday. Beiswanger led the Knights with 17 points in the win.
• Why does Woodlan beating now 2-9 Southern Wells on Thursday mean anything? It clears a path for the Warriors that will be hard to block. Woodlan will now have to wait for a January 25 trip to South Adams, but they are just one game away from clinching an outright ACAC title. At 5-0, the win over Southern Wells guarantees the Warriors at least a share of the title, but if I know my friends in Woodburn, they aren’t looking to share anything. Nine different players scored in the win over Southern Wells and the leading scorer, well her name wasn’t Bayman, Krohn or Joyce. It was junior Alicia McMahon who led the way with 19 and put the ACAC title so close.
• Rumors of Jay County‘s fall in the ACAC may have been greatly exaggerated. While their loss to Woodlan likely shuts them out of a conference title, don’t count them out come ACAC Tournament time. They picked up wins over Heritage and South Adams this week and Renna Schweiterman has really taken over as a premier scorer with Madison Dirksen right there with her. Schweiterman had a really impressive 23 points on Saturday in the 59-39 win over South Adams.
• As Garrett continue to control their consistency, they got a great week from Nataley Armstrong. On Tuesday, in a conference win over Churubusco, she registered eight steals to go with five assists and eight points. In their win over Lakewood Park, she had 17 points and five assists while hitting five triples.
• Sometimes, I think that Angola is one of those teams who gets undermentioned and lost in the shuffle because they are just going about business in the NECC. Sometimes dominant equals expected. And while we are expecting Angola to do exactly what they are doing in conference, it is still impressive. Coach Brandon Appleton has his girls clicking and that is why they are going to be a threat come the postseason. Hanna Knoll has continued to be a revelation, almost always worth 20-plus points a night. The Hornets are for real and I just want to make sure that doesn’t get lost this week. On Wednesday, Appleton won his 100th game to add to a season that has been and will continue to be memorable.
THAT PRAIRIE HEIGHTS PRESSURE
Churubusco couldn’t handle the pressure on Friday night and at its best, I’m not sure who can in the NECC. Prairie Heights can set up their offense in a variety of ways just off their press alone. The Panthers smothered Churubusco and ran out to a 22-6 lead after the first quarter. The entire thing seemed academic from there but the Panthers’ pressure only wavered when they wanted it to.
Prairie Heights forced 21 turnovers in the 50-34 win compared to just eight turnovers of their own. Five different Panthers registered at least one steal, led by Alayna Boots‘ three.
Boots scored 14 of her game high 18 points in the first quarter alone and Prairie Heights flexed some scoring depth, hitting at all levels of the floor between solid mid to long range work from Boots and Alexis German and a superior inside effort from Kennedy Kugler. The Panthers haven’t seen some NECC games go their way this year, but there more than just signs of life after Friday night. Going into the NECC Tournament, its fair to say that Prairie Heights’ press is rivaled in the conference only by Angola’s. That means, there could be some solid performances and maybe an upset or two brewing.
• Manchester secured a quality win on Friday night, edging out Southwood in the final seven seconds thanks to three free throws from Mackenzie Day. The Squires led by as many as 11 in the final frame, but its the finish that matters.
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: Girls hoops Performance of the Week for Dec. 16-21
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