Bounce likes seeing players named champions and MVPs. There was plenty of room for that with conference tournaments this week. And I will get to that, I promise.
BUT, there was one moment that stood above everything else this week. So let’s just go ahead and get into that first.
FRIDAY NIGHT: DIFFERENT LIGHTS, SAME DELIGHTS
How do you come down from a night like Friday? Big games, close games, crazy crowds, lots of intensity. And it all paled in comparison to Snider‘s Jon Barnes Jr. hitting a three quarter court heave with less than three seconds left, down two, to beat Homestead.
Though one of Bounce’s disciples was in attendance, I was not there. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything crazier live on video (big thanks, as always, to Bounce’s buddies at Summit City Sports). Bounce’s little heart was beating out of his chest for hours post game. No fans, not because it was a Snider win or a Homestead loss per say, but because moments like that make high school sports special. A wise man told me as much on Friday night. That is a memory forever; for Barnes, for his family, for his team, for fans and little kids in attendance. I am all for making the memories. Barnes finished the night 5-of-8 from three point range, proving too that this big shot was no isolated incident.
Elsewhere, a raucous Westview crowd saw their Warriors fall by one in overtime with a final second free throw from Elijah Malone. It earned Prairie Heights a chance to play for the NECC title opposite Central Noble, where the host Cougars got a win in another intense, fun and wacky environment too on Friday night. Where Bounce was, at South Adams, the crowd was also fired up in the Stardoms as things came down to the wire in a special Woodlan win in the ACAC Tournament. The lights shine bright on Friday nights during the winter too.
• Consistently, Qualen Pettus‘ athleticism is talked about on this website. During football and now into basketball, we have praised Pettus for being a playmaker and a team leader. Yet somehow, I always feel like overall he isn’t valued enough. He is a top 10 player in this area, bent Bellmont to his will on Wednesday with 26 points, eight rebounds and five steals and can get almost anything he wants any time he wants. On Friday against an overmatched North Side, Pettus had 18 points, nine rebounds, five assists and four steals. We need more activity like Pettus produces.
• Here is a name you need to be familiar with in the second half of the season: Arnad Samardzic. The Concordia Lutheran senior missed some games to start the season, but has has become an important piece for the Cadets since. On Friday, in a win over South Side, his 19 points came off hitting 5-of-7 three pointers. He is a lights out shooter that changes a lot for Concordia moving forward.
• Bishop Luers. Is that enough said? Give this team credit because their win on Friday against Carroll made the SAC chaotic, giving five teams a tie in the conference right now. Yes, this is early but the Knights just beat the Holiday Tournament champions less than a month after Carroll nabbed that crown. Snider will argue with me, but could the Knights be the hottest team in the conference right now? Their scoring depth keeps getting better, with John Peterson good for some important baskets nightly now too. Their winning streak ended on Saturday night, but it wasn’t because of their maximum effort. The Knights threw body blows at Blackhawk Christian, eventually falling 67-63 behind Demarcus Hudson‘s 23 points. Is this one of the area’s best teams? They are looking like it.
• Everyone has their opinion of who the best player in the Northeast 8 is. I won’t shy away from my pick of Will Geiger, who had 18 points and 12 rebounds to beat Wayne earlier in the week before putting up 28 and 14 (with three blocks) on Friday to beat/manhandle Bellmont. Bounce gets worked on social media from Leo fans who think I underestimate Blake Davison, who admittedly is very, very good but is now 0-of-9 from three point range in his last two games after a loss to New Haven on Friday. But the biggest takeaway from that game, is Donovynn Lewis right there in the conversation of the best player in the conference? Yes, he is. He had 21 points, hit 50 percent from the field and added seven rebounds and five assists in the win over Leo and has proved beyond a shadow of doubt that he is far more than just a shooter.
• Woodlan stands alone as the ACAC Tournament champions after Saturday night’s 48-35 win over Adams Central in the tournament finals. Mitch Mendenhall was named Tournament MVP after a 23 point outing in the title game while Joe Reidy added 11 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and four blocks in the title game. The Warriors have some work to do to claim the regular season title after a recent loss to Bluffton but this very well could be a tide turner. Coach John Baker was all smiles on Friday after their semi final win and this group really looks to be reveling in being champions. Is that a momentum pusher for a team that has been on the brink? With Woodlan 7-5, Baker now has his winningest season of his career, so there are many reasons to smile.
• James Arnold was a monster for a half of Friday’s ACAC semi final loss to Woodlan. Arnold scored 11 in the first quarter and 17 in the first half for South Adams before second half scoring troubles. It wasn’t the end he wanted to the game, but that and Tuesday’s play in a win against ACAC regular season leader Bluffton showed basketball fans what area football fan already know. Arnold is an athlete who can just score no matter the playing surface. Knowing he is doing all of this coming off two bad injuries between November 2018 and January 2019, it makes everything he does more impressive. Trust me, he is impressive.
THIS WEEK’S ACAC NEWS
• Charlie Yoder breaks records. That should just be the theme of my weekly column. On Tuesday, he became LaGrange County’s all-time leading scorer with a 37 point outing against Lakeland in the NECC Tournament. Despite scoring zero points in the opening quarter, Yoder scored his 37 in the final three. He entered the game just 36 points behind county scoring leader Jacob Heller. He also added 13 rebounds, six assists and six steals in that particular game beause, well why not.
• Central Noble‘s Tuesday win over Eastside was important on the surface because they advanced in the NECC Tournament. But for me, it was notable because Logan Gard had one of his most solid games of the year. The young transfer has been trying to find his groove and 12 points on six of nine shooting my finally line him up in that groove at the perfect time in the season. He played well again Friday night in defending Landen Jordan of Churubusco and Saturday, he was a big part of holding Prairie Heights’ Elijah Malone back in parts of the NECC title game.
• Josh Gross was another guy who made an impact in his two NECC Tournament games. He registered nine steals on Tuesday against Garrett, while going for a team high 16 points. The West Noble senior scored another team high 23 on Wednesday despite a loss to Central Noble. He weaved in decent rebounding and assist numbers in the two games, showing that Gross can do the same thing on a basketball court that he did on the football field: a little bit of everything.
• Someone stop Connor Essegian. No? Well, its probably much easier said than done. The Central Noble sophomore averaged 27.5 points per game over four games this week and was just an unconscious force shooting the ball and getting to the rim, stoic at times and overwhelmed with energy and enthusiasm others.
• Beating Lakewood Park on Friday was big for Canterbury. This team is playing with a lot of emotional and enthusiasm and have been able to find depth despite injuries and illnesses that have kept them far from fully staffed for the last month. Will Shank was a machine on Friday, proving why he remains one of the most underrated players in the area while pouring in 27 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Holidey Stephenson also continues to be someone who can provide a little bit of everything while determining tempo with his 11 points, seven rebounds, six assist game against Lakewood Park.
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: FAN VOTE: Boys hoops Performance of the Week for Jan. 13-18
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