With the girls week being kind of sporadic since they wrapped things up Saturday night for the regular season, we go back to just one column this week.
So bare with me if I get a little long in the tongue, but I figured, one longer column is better than a pair of short ones; don’t fret, the other format returns next week with plenty to talk about in girls Sectional play.
• Call this the week of Michael Eley. He started Snider‘s Tuesday win over Churubusco stone cold from the field and then heated up in major ways. He ended that 67-66 win over Churubusco with 25 points and six rebounds and was an absolute walking bucket down the stretch. He turned around Wednesday to scorer 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting in a win at DeKalb while the rest of the team stepped up too in the absence of seniors Jon Barnes and Jayshawn Underwood. On Friday, he put in 16 more points when the Panthers topped Carroll to remain atop the SAC.
• And who still joins Snider atop the boys SAC standings? Just Bishop Luers after they held off a great effort from Wayne on Friday. Jalen Causey is again at the forefront with 20 points, a game high after having another game high 24 on Tuesday in a loss to Norwell. Causey is playing the best offensive basketball of his career right now and it has Luers set up for a February 14 showdown with Snider that could be for an outright SAC title. Who had that in their preseason predictions?
• Missing players continues to hurt Homestead. Zak Krueger was still out of the lineup on Friday with an injury, Jake Archbold was a scratch for unknown reasons and Preston Barker remains out of the lineup. That makes games like Friday against Northrop so much more difficult because of the experience of the guys they are missing. But that doesn’t mean we take away from Northrop who put Qualen Pettus (21 points), Khamani Smith (13) and TeNoah Ridley (11) all in double figures scoring and gutted out the road win on Friday.
• The girls of Homestead however, just stay strong. Friday’s win over Northrop means this: 5 years in the SAC with 45 regular season games. Their record in that time: 45-0. The last time the Spartans lost a regular season conference game was December 1, 2012 to Norwell in the now-defunct Northeast Hoosier Conference. That means 65 straight conference regular season wins for coach Rod Parker and the Spartans.
• Carroll‘s girls got another one of those deep scoring wins Friday against Snider with 13 girls scoring. What caught my eye? Olivia Hoeppner at the top of the list with 8 points on senior night. Hoeppner missed quite a bit of time lately, so with her back at the top of the lineup, the Chargers are even better than they’ve been,
• When talking about postseason momentum, Concordia‘s win over Woodlan on Tuesday in girls basketball had to help. The Warriors will be one of two conference champions in the Cadets’ Class 3A Sectional this coming week, so beating them was nice for Concordia, 46-44 in overtime. LonDynn Betts lead the way with 15, hitting 5-of-10 free throws and triple between the fourth quarter and overtime. Chanteese Craig‘s 14 points inside, 10 of which coming in the first three quarters, kept things close to help force the extra session.
• By beating Lakewood Park on Tuesday, Wayne‘s girls have now won as many games this season as they previous three combined. That is major for this program and their regrowth and rebuilding process. Shabrea O’Quinn was a monster in the win, with a near triple double. She had 20 points, 17 rebounds and eight steals in the 51-35 win over Lakewood Park. Growth is happening at Wayne and that means nothing but good things for these girls and the SAC.
NOT PERFECT NORWELL OVERCOMES
• Did Norwell‘s boys team need to prove anything about their top-ranked status with Outside the Huddle? I sure don’t think so. But beating #5 in the OTH Power Poll and remaining unbeaten against SAC teams and in the area was a major mark for them in Tuesday’s 65-60 win over Bishop Luers. The Bishop Luers Knights has been very good, but Norwell’s win over them meant more for this reason: their record included a win over Mishawka Marian, the only team that had beaten Norwell this season. Will Geiger scored 22 and had 17 rebounds, of course he did. But for Luke McBride to hit 17 points with only two three pointers made shows he continues to become more multifaceted.
On Saturday, the Knights overcame Geiger foul trouble that saw him sit between 8 and 10 minutes of game time (where they outscored host East Noble 10-5). Connor Torson controlled tempo (and took some passes off his face and midsection) when Geiger sat and when McBride’s shot was cold. Norwell stayed the lone NE8 unbeaten in the win over East Noble by holding those Knights without a made field goal in the fourth quarter.
“We kind of switched our defense. When we went into the fourth quarter, we played it straight up and didn’t switch on screens. I think that impacted it a little bit, kept Torson on [Hayden] Jones and limited him,” Norwell coach Mike McBride said. “It’s a tough place to play, we knew it going to be a grind. We kept telling our guys all week, ‘you want a shot at winning the conference, you have to go beat the defending champs on their floor.’ I thought our guys showed a lot of grit, played really hard.”
• All season, Bounce has preached depth. It wins you games, it makes you sustainable as a program. Despite some setbacks in conference in recent weeks, Leo boys hoops’ depth is still huge from this program going forward. On Monday, it was a major interior performances from Zack Troyer that catapulted the Lions past North Side, 81-65, with his 21 point and 15 rebound showing. I love the way Troyer plays, being able to step up when needed, but always being a guy that can clean stuff up. Next to him stood Eric Steger, who is a certainly capable scorer but not one who is always at the forefront. The Lions have guys and while the NE8 is out of reach likely, postseason success is not. On Saturday, in a win over Bellmont, there were nine Leo scorers led by 17 from Andrew Tkacz.
• Whatever lull Thomas Latham has been in, he reminded us all Tuesday that he is a powerful force around the rim. He fought hard, made tough shots, reveled in the contact and got to the line to beat up on the Cadet interior in a New Haven win over Concordia. New Haven has had a lot of guys step up this season, here is a reminder that Latham is a beast. Latham went ahead and upped that game on Saturday with his 27 point, 15 rebounds double double against co-NE8 leader Columbia City.
• I was clearly very wrong about Columbia City girls basketball earlier in the week. Kudos to the Eagles, now co-NE8 champions, for the pouncing they had against Northrop on Tuesday. In the final home game for girls basketball in the current Columbia City gym, the Eagles jumped out 14-9, then had a major third quarter and they never really had to look back at the Bruins. They toughly held TiAuna White to 2-of-8 shooting and were able to force the game inside where they wanted to prove they had the advantage over the long Bruins. It also helps when your scoring can be diverse; seven of their eight scorers had six or more points, led by Gabby Fry‘s 12.
• Norwell‘s girls team, coached by Eric Thornton, claimed the other half of that conference title with a 66-33 win over East Noble that proved a major point. People, myself included, know that East Noble were good at being spoilers this season and Norwell was having none of that. Instead, they spent Friday night honoring their lone senior Breann Barger for senior night and cutting down nets at The Castle after the home win in honor of their conference title.
• Kudos to the Woodlan boys, who despite ending a 6 game losing streak, put in a pretty quality effort against Blackhawk Christian on Saturday in front of University of Virginia head coach Tony Bennett. The Warriors actually led the Braves 16-14 after the first quarter. Ultimately, the Warriors fell 75-61 despite 20 points and nine rebounds from Joe Reidy. It was the second quality game for Reidy this week after posting 18 points and 13 rebounds in a win over Lakewood Park on Thursday.
• Heritage had a good week in their growing boys basketball program. They went 2-1 and scored a really quality conference win against Adams Central. Luke Saylor led the way with 27 points in the win over Adams Central and scored 56 total points in three games as the leading scorer in each Heritage game during the week that included coming so close to knocking off a really solid Angola team.
• Westview won without a big scoring game from Charlie Yoder on Friday. That was a headline in itself on Friday. They rolled by Eastside in every way with Brady Yoder and Lyndon Miller leading the way with 14 points each and 12 from Luke Miller. And Charlie Yoder, he played every minute of the game and scored just 11 while posting his second triple double in as many weeks with 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
• Angola‘s girls picked up wins 20 and 21 this week to close out their regular season, including Wednesday’s 46-41 win over Bellmont; that is an impressive total. That win against Bellmont came on senior night and the regular season end of an important class for Angola’s development. So of course, it was a senior in Kayla Fenstermaker who led the way with a career high 17 points. The win over Bellmont marked 20 straight wins; it was their first win over Bellmont since 1987.
• Lakeland‘s Brady Bontrager joined the 1,000 point club on Friday with a 20 point performance against Garrett. Bontrager became the 7th player in Lakeland boys basketball history to reach 1,000 points, joining older brother Cameron Bontrager, a 2018 graduate.
CHURUBUSCO HAS GRIND
Tuesday’s game at Snider ended in hurt for the Eagle boys. They had a double digit lead inside the final minute only to lose to the aforementioned Jade Moore buzzer beater. But make no mistake, the Eagles were the better team overall on Tuesday. They played an incredibly solid 31 minutes where they were able to get at the rim, finish and just out grind Snider offensively. In that time, they also were able to slow the Panthers for the most part. Snider’s offense is predicated on getting out on the run. It is not as simple as just throwing a zone on the Panthers, but when Busco did so, it made the Panthers take a lot of time to score. Their active hands made life difficult for the Panthers scorers early and Churubusco was able to take advantage.
Moore’s shot and Snider’s final minute stole the show, but let the narrative show that Churubusco, behind a 23 point gutty outing from Jackson Paul and 18 points and 17 rebounds from Landen Jordan, played a terrific game on Tuesday night. For 31 minutes, they deserved to win that game. On Friday, they played that way for a full 32 minutes. The reward for that was a huge NECC victory over Central Noble that was just grinned out. Jordan was a man among boys inside and Paul controlled the pace, but the gritty work on both ends of the floor from Gage Kelly, Luke McClure, Hunter Perlich and Noah Wolfe secured Churubusco’s place back atop the NECC headspace.
• Hailee Kline continued her consistent climb this week as one of the best girls basketball players in the smaller classes in Northeast Indiana. Her 25 point outing in a 59-32 Blackhawk Christian win over Jimtown on Wednesday as exceptional. She hit six three pointers in the game and has become a premier scorer for the Braves heading into the postseason. She added 11 points in a Thursday win over Lakeland Christian.
• We’ve seen a lot of buzzer beaters lately so we don’t want to forget Tuesday night’s win for Warsaw‘s girls against Elkhart Central. The Tigers went to double overtime before Kensie Ryman buried a half courter to give Warsaw a 63-61 win. All buzzer beaters are exciting and this was a great moment to remember for the junior.
• Remember how well Canterbury‘s Noah Drapala shoots the ball? If not, welcome to the party on Saturday night. Despite a loss to South Adams, Drapala canned seven three pointers with 34 points. A nice, poignant reminder that he is one of the area’s best shooters.
• Lakewood Park got another fun day at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Saturday, coming away with a win over Fremont. It is a cool experience to play there, led by 27 points from Josh Pike and 25 from Caedmon Bontrager.
As always, make sure you vote in this week’s Performance of the Week FAN VOTES. Remember, this doesn’t reflect a body of work as much as the best single game performance. Voting is open through Tuesday:
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