Want your conference races getting fun at the midway point? The SAC still stands four teams tall, the Northeast 8 is down to two unbeaten (and one probably wasn’t on your radar), the hottest team in the ACAC isn’t leading the conference and the NECC is also many, many teams deep at the top.
• If there was ever a question to how Homestead was going to respond after their loss to Snider a week ago Friday, it was a silly one. The Spartans looked in prime form on Tuesday, dispatching a hot shooting Columbia City. They also did so without Grant Simmons, Preston Barker or Zak Krueger, forcing a deeper bench and role players to step in. It doesn’t hurt that Luke Goode put up 30 points in the process but after years of ‘next man up’ play, it was nice to see the Spartans can still go there. Sophomore Andrew Leeper certainly made the most of his time, hitting 3 of 4 three pointers on his way to 14 points. Leeper was highly touted out of middle school and Homestead has taken their time with his development; but his breakout game is good for the team’s overall length and skill set. Leeper again was tough on Friday in the win over North Side with a team high 23 points. If Leeper is going to play like this, the Spartans are tougher especially when they get everyone back.
As for Saturday’s loss to Lawrence North, Homestead played well. And although I planned to talk about shot clocks today, I am actually going to leave that for a full column later this week. So check back on me.
• Carroll got a big conference win Friday too at South Side. It wasn’t that we didn’t expect them to, but one of the fun things about the Chargers is how different guys step up all of the time. When you win by 14, one thing you will take is a role player off the bench dropping 12 points in a quarter. That is what they got from Cody Burkey, an underrated sharpshooter who hit four threes in the second quarter making up his night total of 12 points and really helping the Chargers separate themselves from the Archers.
• Checking in with the third team that is tied for the SAC lead at the midway point, Snider has to be happy with how they are playing and the depth they flexed themselves against Concordia on Friday. Dillon Duff and Michael Eley are going to get theirs, guaranteed. But again this week, there was a different face peeking in with good moments. This time, it was Jade Moore. His 13 points were nice, but better than that is Snider having more size and another guy with good hands to rely on.
THE PATH OF JALEN CAUSEY
There are a lot of great stories behind Bishop Luers‘ season that has them as the fourth of the teams currently tied for the lead in the SAC. But the one that stands above for me is the path that has been taken by senior Jalen Causey (main image). He has been through a lot of unique situations during his career and seeing him succeed has been fun. Causey was a critical and underrated cog in the Regional title team at Luers as a freshman and after things didn’t go as well as planned at North Side when he was a sophomore, he returned to the Knights and bought in to being part of a program rebuild.
Talking to Causey after Bishop Luers’ win at Lakewood Park on Tuesday, I was reminded how much of a soft spoken kid he is that can really transition to a defensive juggernaut on the court. The Knights need leadership and they need a spark plug that has been to the highest heights. Causey is that guy and it is enjoyable to watch him thrive again.
• The Outside the Huddle Game of the Weekend did not disappoint. But that said, it is rare when Norwell or New Haven don’t deliver. Norwell came out fast, but a big 16-7 second quarter for New Haven behind the force of Jakar Williams swung things so heavily in New Haven’s favor, Norwell couldn’t have been certain they’d climb out of a halftime hole. Yet, shortly into the second half when Will Geiger hit a rare three pointer, I started to realize that this Norwell team is special for a reason. The Knights did one thing that we mentioned in our preview: they controlled the tempo and forced New Haven to slow things down, which meant the Bulldogs possibly overthinking shots and forcing things. Luke McBride continued to enhance his solid freshman season and the 14 minutes Norwell got out of Lleyton Bailey was critical with his solid reasoning and decision making. Oh and Geiger had another double-double as Norwell becomes the big favorites in the NE8 at the midway point.
• I talked earlier about Homestead beating Columbia City on Tuesday, but it was a big game for the Eagles too. Mitchell Wilson has had some big games in his career, but putting up 35 against a team like Homestead is nothing to ignore. The night before he signed with Huntington University, Wilson hit 5 of 8 three pointers, all 10 of his free throws and showed off his consistency on a pretty big stage for a Tuesday game. With a win on Saturday over DeKalb – and another 33 points from Wilson – this Columbia City team is tied for the NE8 lead midway through conference season.
• Don’t stop talking about East Noble. That is the point that coach Ryan Eakins‘ team made on Wednesday when they invited recently crowned NECC Tournament champion Central Noble into The Pit. The Knights put up 39 second half points and shocked their county rival Cougars. That is a big win for a team under a rebuild against a team who was as hot in the NECC finals as any team we have seen this season in a single game. East Noble held Central Noble off the offensive glass and out rebounded them to help claim their advantage. The 20 points from Hayden Jones or 14 points and nine rebounds from Gage Ernsberger certainly didn’t hurt either in the 57-51 East Noble win, their 18th straight at home against the Cougar program.
East Noble made another statement on Saturday when they traveled to and beat Leo behind 21 points and 10 rebounds from Jones. The Knights may not have the hype they did a year ago, but they are still game changers in this NE8 as Chris Hood is developing, Ernsberger is active and Brooks Miller has proven to be a two way threat. The Knights have now won 7 of their last 10 after starting the season 0-3.
• In their quest to get back into the ACAC regular season race, the tournament champion Woodlan Warriors have all kinds of momentum steamrolling their way. On Tuesday, they upset Prairie Heights 72-71 with Joe Reidy putting the icing on the cake with a free throw at the end. Reidy finished with 27 points, 11 rebounds and Mitch Mendenhall had 26 points in the win with four assists and three blocks. They did add a conference win on Friday by beating Heritage behind a 23 point night and two handed fast break flush from Reidy.
• Who is Churubusco now? They were dominant with Landen Jordan in the lineup before the NECC semi final loss to Central Noble. We now know they can use their firepower to get my tough defenses consistently with another win over Angola on Friday and they are just rolling along again. The consistent rate of assists coming from Jackson Paul at this point is quite encouraging for the Eagles. They will have a big chance to prove themselves in the week ahead with a trip to Snider and a rematch with Central Noble.
• Triple double alert! Just tack one more big moment onto Charlie Yoder‘s senior season at Westview. Yoder posted a triple double on Friday and it deserves some serious love. Yoder had 26 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists, with four steals to boot, in a win over Fairfield. On Saturday, in a win over Garrett, Yoder had another 26 points, 10 rebounds and seven steals. Is there anything that Charlie Yoder can’t do? Still waiting to see.
• While Yoder stole the show Friday, Fairfield has a little shine too. That came from Owen Miller hitting 5-of-8 three pointers and a game high 29 points.
• Blackhawk Christian continues to take on all comers. They beat Lakewood Park on Saturday, but Monday’s performance against Chicago Westinghouse was good because shows a willingness to take on all comers and in unknown and strange situations and places. Zane Burke scored 20 in that game, followed closely by 18 points from Marcus Davidson. But it was Caleb Furst who caught my eye with his first ever triple double with 16 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists. When was the last time the area had two triple doubles in a week?
• All the big efforts from Canterbury in a Saturday win over Lighthouse Academy with Will Shank being part of the Culver Winter Classic All-Tournament team. In their final game against Lighthouse, Shank had 15 points and 11 rebounds, but the Cavaliers were led by Holidey Stephenson‘s 23 points, six rebounds and six assists.
• I won’t repeat myself here, but just take you back to earlier in the week and my impressions of Lakewood Park and their chances to be a local contender in Class 1A.
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. 20-25
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