Kicking off the year 2020 with a trip down to Bill Green Arena and the annual Marion Classic. This year’s event featured four teams from Fort Wayne and a gaggle more players and coaches with significant Fort Wayne ties.
If you were looking for a day of games to wake you up, this one probably wasn’t it. Blowouts galore sucked the energy out of the gym as Fort Wayne teams, for the most part, struggled to get much going their way.
PIKE 61, SOUTH SIDE 43
Pike started out strong as South is still searching for an identity in their third game without injured point guard Austin Jordan. They went 0-2 without him at Mishawaka Marian on Thursday and while Ashton Johnson is doing a solid job as the primary ball handler, he doesn’t have the speed of Jordan and it also takes away an inside presence for the Archers at the same time. Pike’s rebound advantage was clear early, helping them to a 7-0 lead before South Side’s Treveon Jones scored off an offensive rebound. South did storm back to take an 12-11 lead, but the Red Devils continued to push the break.
The second quarter had be looking a little bit at Xzaevyon Hollister, who hit a nice step back off one foot midway through the period and also played some solid, disruptive, but not flashy interior to midrange defense. The sophomore adds a little bit of understated intelligence to this Archer team. He was also important in trying to isolate Pike’s Noah Gordon, who was certainly the biggest guy on the court. South Sid trailed 34-21 at the halftime break.
Pike’s ball movement, especially in transition, and their energy on the glass was about the only part of the second half that made this one a sustainable watch. The Archers were sluggish in their third game in as many days with Jones’ hustle being their main highlight. Shots also just wouldn’t fall for South, even on open looks on those uniquely springy Marion rims. Yet, not excuse given here, the Red Devils just played at a higher level and their transition game looked solid for a still fairly young overall group.
Pike coasted to the 61-43 win; South Side’s fourth straight loss. Kamron Mitchell‘s 16 points led the way, followed by nine from Jones. The Archers got out rebounded 42-20.
RICHMOND 85, NORTH SIDE 65
Richmond came out with an edge from the tip as Fort Wayne native Cleevas Craig drew a lot of attention in the post from North Side and for a good reason. Craig looks longer and more spry than when we last saw him in Fort Wayne playing last season for Snider. Craig was all over the glass early and North Side had to double team him in the post every chance they got. The Red Devils ran through most of the opening quarter with Tytan Newton setting a solid pace for the game while Andrew Kroft and Jordan Stolle handled the scoring, often in transition.
The Legends picked it up during parts of the second quarter, threading some nice passes through the Richmond defense – especially from Isaiah Moore – but their over aggressive pace didn’t see those passes leading anywhere much. Meanwhile, the Red Devils used a lot of North Side misses to push their own frantic pace in transition and their ball rotation consistently left Stolle open where he certainly found his rhythm from long range.
Again in the third, North Side strung together a few nice possessions, but when they missed, the Red Devils leaked out well and kind of easily. Kroft found himself a pretty comfortable home in front of the Richmond bench where he knocked down several shots and then used the defensive adjustments North Side made to drive baseline and finish. He added 11 points in the third quarter alone. Kroft finished with 27 points and five rebounds while Stolle led Richmond with 31 points and Craig had six points and nine rebounds.
Moore’s 27 led North Side, who also got 15 points each from Jordan Green and Rodney Woods.
BREBEUF JESUIT 45, BISHOP DWENGER 37
When sophomore Brebeuf Jesuit’s Billy Smith opened the game with a pair of three pointers, things weren’t looking great for Bishop Dwenger. The Saints’ scoring looked flat against an athletic Braves line up that flew all around the court in the opening quarter. The return of Owen Shively to the Bishop Dwenger lineup after missing three games certainly was an upgrade to the Saint interior but Xavier Nolan missed the game, weakening the Saints on the perimeter where Smith feasted, hitting four of his first six three pointers.
Austin Ezell and Anthony Hopson were just harassing on the defensive end for Brebeuf Jesuit throughout the first half, giving little to no separation for the Saints. The Braves were just as good on ball as they were off ball and there was nowhere for Bishop Dwenger to go; the Saints trailed 28-12 at the halftime break with C.J. Pieper putting in nine of those Saint points on 3-of-3 first half shooting.
Brenden Lytle, who was held scoreless in the first half, scored just 90 seconds into the second half. It was a major spark for the Saints, who picked up their pace and had a fluid movement to open the half. Lytle pushing the pace cleared up Shively to get comfortable in the corners and his jump shot started falling. Bishop Dwenger closed with in six at 30-24 midway through the third with help of some downhill tough play from Tobe Eke. The Braves fight back quickly, getting up to eightieth the chance of hitting a 10 point lead as the foul numbers worked heavy in their favor; 10 of the first 11 fouls of the second half were called against the Saints, killing momentum pace as Lytle, Ben Schreck and Braden Groves were all forced to the bench in the third.
Once the rather annoying fire alarm subsided just into the fourth quarter, the Saints pulled back within five points on a Shively three but constant Brave pressure kept the Saints from getting any closer than four points as that foul trouble continued to loom, seeing Lytle foul out late with Bishop Dwenger down by just that four point spread. Pieper led Bishop Dwenger with 19 points while Shively added 11 and seven rebounds.
SNIDER 48, ZIONSVILLE 42
Snider started with back to back three point misses from Michael Eley, but still managed to take the 2-0 lead when Jon Barnes sipped the ball from a Zionsville player who wasn’t paying just enough attention after a rebound. I’ve said it before, but I love all these little things that Barnes does consistently. Barnes opened the Snider lead up to 8-0 with a triple near the midway point of the fourth quarter. Another impressive Snider effort in the first quarter came with their guarding and switching against 6-foot-11 Zionsville center Gunnar Vannatta. We won’t pretend that Vannatta is the best player on the floor, but there is this saying that you can’t teach tall. Four different Panthers guarded him at times, even 5-foot-10 Jayshawn Underwood briefly and Vannatta got nothing going.
Zionsville battled back to take the lead in the second, in part because Dillon Duff’s good looking shots were rattling out. While Duff was still drawing a great deal of respect from the Zionsville defense, Michael Eley took advantage of holes he saw well in getting to the rim. Eley’s three with just under a minute to play in the first half pulled Snider back within 21-18 but the Panthers struggled to string together scoring possessions often in the frame and trailed 23-18 at the half.
The Panthers took the lead in the third on the hand of Eley, who was really the only Snide player that could get things going at that point in the game, but Snider fell asleep a few too many times on backdoor cuts and they trailed by a point going into the fourth. With 4:54 left in the game, Elijah Wimby gave Snider back momentum with a triple that tied the game at 35 and then Eley drew a foul on the other end on a moving screen from Vannatta. Snider pulled ahead with 3:06 left, 40-37, on a triple in transition from Duff and Snider never trailed again. Eley went to the line with 32 seconds left and missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Duff grabbed the offensive rebound and Eley was fouled again; this time he he hit two free throws that helped close it out.
Eley finished with a game high 20, Duff had 10 and eight rebounds and Barnes scored 9.
An aside to the actual game, Snider coach Jeremy Rauch got the chance to coach against his own high school coach. Zionsville’s Shaun Busick was Rauch’s coach when he played at Bellmont High School.