POSTSEASON RIVALRIES DON’T DISSAPOINT
Rivalries are great and conference rivalries in Sectional play seem to be even better more often that not. Class 4A saw Fort Wayne’s greatest rivalry go to overtime on Friday where South Side came so, so close to finally taking another status game off Homestead but the Spartans were persistent when it mattered most. It was the interior play of Ayanna Patterson and Sydney Graber that ended up being the catalyst as they beat South 44-41 to claim the title.
3A saw Northeast 8 rivals Bellmont and Norwell battle one more time with the flip result of last season. This time Norwell got the Sectional win by a single point and a much desired title with senior Breann Barger sinking the Squaws with a pair of free throws with 2.9 seconds left. Norwell’s defense wouldn’t allow Bellmont to get a shot up or a chance to steal the win.
2A saw ACAC opponents Bluffton and Adams Central battle in a two point game. The rematch of last year’s sectional title game saw Adams Central get their revenge in a tough affair where Bluffton was able to take control at times but never pull away. That allowed the Flying Jets to close and grab their first title in nearly two decades.
Those three games alone between conference foes were worth the price of admission on Friday. Not to mention Garrett’s one point win over Concordia for a Sectional title in Class 3A.
• SAC teams were fairly inactive on the boys side this week. One monster win came from Carroll, who toppled Class 2A top ranked Shenandoah by seven. Richie Gross led a solid scoring balanced Chargers team that just reminded everyone that they are dangerous every day of the week as we close in on the postseason.
• Norwell boys became the first area boys team to grab a conference title early Saturday afternoon. With their 65-49 win over Columbia City behind a big second half, the Knights have clinched at least a share of the Northeast 8 title. Will Geiger and Drew Federspiel each scored 18 points in the Norwell win. They will visit Huntington North on Friday to try to improve to 7-0 in conference and claim their first outright NE8 title. This is actually their first NE8 title of any kind with the conference now in its fifth season in its current form.
• Massive respect to Mitchell Wilson. The Columbia City senior broke a 60 year old school scoring record on Saturday in a loss at Norwell. Wilson has always been considered a steady hand for a not always steady Eagle lineup, but he has been so much more. Wilson is a premier scorer in this area and basically has been since he was a freshman. He can get buckets on every team and pretty much every defender he runs up against on the Eagles’ schedule. Wilson broke the record set in 1960 by Bill Schwarz; he came into the game needing just 14 points to surpass Schwarz as the Columbia City all time leading scorer and ended with 23. Wilson now sits at 1,656 total points for his career.
• Count Bluffton in on the champions list as the Tigers beat Heritage on Saturday to win an outright ACAC title. The Tigers went perfect in the conference and topped Heritage behind 16 points from Tanner Cooley and 13 from Konner Norman. The Tigers last won a regular season title in 2013 when they shared the ACAC with Leo. They won the conference outright last in 2010.
• A record setting night for Connor Essegian on Monday as the Central Noble sophomore hit a school record 10 three pointers on his way to 40 points. You can’t hate the 10-of-13 consistent shooting effort either. Essegian is already the seventh best scorer ever at Central Noble and is on pace to become the third Cougar to ever score more than 500 points in a single season. Note: this column originally stated that the 40 points was a school record but that was an error. The Central Noble single game scoring record is 43 points, set by Kirk Hanaway.
• Thursday’s slate of games basically got wiped out by ice but Churubusco and Lakeland braved the elements for a big night of numbers. Not only did the Eagles break the century mark in the 100-60 win, but Jackson Paul hit the 1,000 career point mark in the win with his 19 point effort. His dad, head coach Chris Paul, also netted his 50th win at the helm of the Churubusco program on the same night.
• The Garrett girls are Sectional champions behind some great showings including Faith Owen and Morgan Ostrowski on Friday night against Woodlan in a game that came down to the closing seconds. But add Nataley Armstrong to the big moment list Friday when she broke Garrett’s single season assist record, adding seven to her season total. That pushed Armstrong to 130 assists on the season.
• This has been an amazing season of Westview’s Charlie Yoder chasing scoring marks and yet he plays it cool every game out. He scored 60 points last week and his 29 on Saturday in a win over Plymouth has him knocking on the door of two more marks. In 13 more points, Yoder will be third Westview player to hit 500 or more points in consecutive seasons joining Gary Yoder and Ryan Yoder. After that, Charlie will attack another huge mark as he currently sits 33 points away from reaching a landmark 2,000 for his career. And knowing him, he will probably just try to take care of all of that in one night.
• For those who didn’t know, Friday’s loss to NorthWood was the last game on the sidelines for West Noble girls coach Dale Marano. The Chargers went 10-13 this season, ending their regular season campaign on January 31 with an upset win over Fairfield. Marano spent 14 years with the program and has gone 188-130 in that time. Marano led West Noble posted their best record in 2018-2019 when they went 18-6. A 41-39 win over Tippecanoe Valley that season gave West Noble their first Sectional title in 31 years. West Noble rallied off eight straight winning seasons through 2018-19; Marano had 10 winning seasons at the helm in Ligonier.
• Caedmon Bontrager is finding a zone and consistency in his scoring and it shows in how comfortable he is getting. After scoring 22 points on Thursday night in a win over Lakeland Christian, he put up 27 on Saturday in Lakewood Park‘s loss against Whitko. Bontrager overcame early struggles against the Wildcat zone and really took control in the second half, scoring 18 points in the final 20 minutes of the game. He added 16 rebounds against Whitko.
• Blackhawk Christian boys weren’t able to get by a heavy handed Crispus Attucks on Saturday in Kokomo. But as a featured game of Basketball Day Indiana, Brave junior Zane Burke was able to be the next area player to join the 1,000 point club in the losing effort.
• Color me massively impressed by my second in person impression of Whitko this season. Brett Sickafoose played as smoothly as any player I’ve seen this year in putting up 27 points and being a dagger shooter. Who could battle him for that smooth mantle? Drake Lewis was Mr. Do-it-all in Saturday’s overtime win against Lakewood Park and it stood out. If it wasn’t for his extra effort in the closing seconds of overtime to save the ball from going out of bounds, William Rickerd wouldn’t have gotten the chance to beat the buzzer. If you’ve read my past columns, you know I am a fan of players who are loud and low key at the same time. Lewis’ play impacted the game almost every minute but even so, I must admit there was a quiet elegance to his 25 point afternoon.
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:
These opinions represent those of Bounce and Outside the Huddle. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. Follow Bounce on Twitter at Bounce_OTH