As we wrap up our coverage of this season’s SAC Holiday Tournament, we want to look back and five players who made a big, different impression on us during the three day outing. Some of these names you may know, some you may not. But the criteria is simple, who left a lasting impression on the MASSES that they had not don’t previously this season?
SAM STRYCKER, CARROLL
If it wasn’t for Jalen Jackson and Ray Vollmer’s title game outings, you could make the argument that Strycker (pictured) was the most valuable Charger in this tournament. He was our player of the game out of the semi final win over Northrop and between that game and the title win over Snider, Strycker compiled well over 20 rebounds. He was a monster on the glass time and time again, gaining positioning and boxing out everyone with five feet. His offensive game showed range, hitting low, from the mid range and even knocking down a title game triple.
SHAY PETERSON, SOUTH SIDE
For the second straight season, we saw an Archer lady step up as a third inside presence. Having Shay Peterson inside made it so much easier for South Side to give Alaya Chapman and Lamyia Woodson breaks along the way. Peterson contributed in scoring, sure, but her main impact was rebounding the basketball and, more importantly, being a ball stopper at the rim. She held her ground as a variety of players from different teams, of different size and statures bared down on her in the post. She stayed steady and prevented a lot of point from being scored. You don’t normally peg a girls basketball player as a “rim protector,” but Peterson played that roll perfectly in the tournament.
ZAK KRUEGER, HOMESTEAD
We hear it now: how can one of Outside the Huddle’s top preseason players be considered a breakout star? Because Krueger, never 100 percent healthy from an offseason injury, had become a little slower and passive in the Spartan game this season than last. That all changed in this tournament against Bishop Luers, and more notably, against Snider in a semi final loss. We got to see the Zak Krueger of old in the semi final, the same one that torched Snider in the tournament a year earlier. He was aggressive off the dribble, a willing shooter that picked his spots well and his tic for tac battle with Jayshawn Underwood of Snider at the point guard spot was a thing of beauty.
Krueger is very good and well established. But after a slow start to his senior season, the tournament was a big breakout performance for this year.
ALISON STEPHENS, HOMESTEAD
As previously noted, Homestead had several underclassmen show off during the tournament. And if it was left at their work in the win over Snider, we could name them all again here as breaking out just a little bit. But when Stephens got the call, in crunch time none the less, of the final game against South Side, she showed off what will make her so special in the coming years. Quickly, she had a big time dump down to Ayanna Patterson for a score and followed it up with two jumpers and five points. Stephens showed little to no sign of hesitancy, which is unique. Even previous varsity minutes can’t really prepare a freshman for the SAC Holiday Tournament finals stage. Stephens was ready, willing and able to make the most of her time.
DEVIN BANEY, NORTHROP
Baney’s stature alone made teams weary of wanting contest him. But in the win over Wayne, he took it to another level, shedding defenders and making the most of his time in the post. Baney was a massive presence for Northrop in all three of their games, giving them a target at times when their shots weren’t falling but also, more importantly, working the offensive glass and cleaning up a variety of knocked away and loose balls. His length is impressive and became a massive force on the glass with 13 rebounds in the win over top-seeded Wayne.
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