Tuesday night is the exact reason that Bounce doesn’t bet on NCAA Tournament brackets. I thought I had it all figured out when I filled out my ACAC Tournament predictions. Was I ever wrong.
First, where I was at, the Bluffton girls looked as good as they have all season by dispatching South Adams. Elsewhere on the girls side, Adams Central stuck another knife in my predictive hopes by destroying Heritage just days after the Patriots had beaten them in overtime. McKenna Dietsch went 6-of-8 from three point range, scored 22 points and almost single handidly got revenge for the regular season loss.
At Woodlan, the girl Warriors won as predicted but Jay County still isn’t the push over some thought they’d be after losing so many players, including their best, to graduation last year. Renna Schweiterman is one of the best freshmen in the area and one ACAC coach told me recently that the 6-foot guard may end up being the best player to come through the conference in that coach’s tenure by the time she is done. And that makes Jay County never an easy out.
The Warrior boys of Woodlan (who I did predict to win Tuesday night too) got over a quick bad start to roll over Jay County. By all accounts, they were running as smoothly as they have after a back and forth start to their season. While we’ve come to expect Joe Reidy and Mitch Mendenhall to be on, when guys like Trevor Wiedenhoeft can hit big buckets like he did on Tuesday, the sky is the limit. That has Woodlan looking more like the champions I predicted them to be in the preseason rather than losing on Friday night in the semi finals like I predicted them to do earlier this week.
They also will be traveling to Berne instead of Bluffton on Friday, so I was wrong there too.
They go to Berne on Friday because South Adams’ boys upset host Bluffton on Tuesday night. I was in Bluffton for that one too and paint me surprised.
But should I be? Should anyone be surprised that South Adams won that game? Bluffton came into the tournament as the ACAC favorite and as the conference regular season leader after beating Woodlan last week. I was primed for a Tigers/Warriors rematch. The storylines would have been good. The social media trash talk would have been humorous. But South Adams had other things in mind. Now South Adams basketball is not quite the ‘greatest show on natural grass’ like they are during football season, moving in monumental moments, yet it is pretty much all the same guys.
That should have cued me in immediately that the Starfires were ready to throw a wrench into things. If you look down at the court and see James Arnold, Nick Miller, Aiden Wanner, Brayden Gilbert and Trey Schoch, chances are that there are going to be some aggressive chances taken right out of the gate. Bluffton counteracted it well; Konner Norman was intelligent pacing the game, Tanner Cooley found great effort and second chances inside and Kain Thornton was a walking bucket in in the first half.
But South Adams never went away. They weren’t here for big plays like everyone saw on the gridiron this fall, but instead they plotted how to chew away at a manageable Bluffton lead. Slowly, they chipped away in a stealth manner; one point here, three points there. It all set them up to take the lead with 12 seconds left and then put it away with a Miller free throw with just a second left on the clock. All game long, South Adams played smart, keeping within striking range in a way that let them feel somewhat comfortable while – intentionally or otherwise – allowing Bluffton to stay in a comfortable place too.
To me, the interior play of Miller and Gibert was the star even if Arnold led South Adams in scoring on Tuesday night; they were after all, the ones to close the game out. They wanted it bad. Is it fair to say they wanted it more than Bluffton? Nah. But it is fair to say that they really, really wanted it.
And want and will is a major difference maker in the ACAC I have learned. Sure makes things hard to predict.
So in the end, I missed on three of my six semi finalist picks in this week’s ACAC Tournament, two of four finalists and my predicted boys champion is already out. Parity reigns in the ACAC and this conference may actually be as difficult to pick now as it’s ever been. Sure will make for some good games this weekend though. Will I try to predict them? Well I don’t like my odds but I can never turn down a fun risk either.
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