It only makes sense, doesn’t it: Carroll visits Homestead to determine the Summit Athletic Conference. Feels like we have been here before during each program’s short, but championship laden conference tenure.
Unlike some of those meetings, the winner of this doesn’t guarantee themselves anything. Instead, the game is just a cog in a crazy SAC even if it is arguably the most important cog now.
1. CONFERENCE TITLE IMPLICATIONS
Both of these teams can win the SAC title with various roads on Friday night. Carroll’s road is tougher, but not because of this game. The Chargers must win and see both Bishop Luers and Snider lose on Friday because those schools hold tiebreakers over the Chargers; Carroll is hoping for upsets from city series originals. For Homestead, a win puts them in the thick of things. There is only one scenario where Homestead doesn’t at least share the SAC title with a win: that scenario is that last place North Side beats Bishop Luers AND Snider beats South Side. Other than that, the Spartans are going to claim a share with a win.
2. DON’T GET FANCY
These are two programs who have gotten to this level by doing some extraordinary things, but mostly by staying the course and following a very specific blueprint. That is what they have done this season as well, yet we aren’t talking about them in the same vein as Snider or Bishop Luers. Why is that? We aren’t entirely sure and are not willing to shoulder all of the blame.
But they don’t WANT this win (see storyline #1) and are going to go all out to do it. But there has to be that blend. WE has always outlasted ME with these two programs. Who can can a little wild, but still stray from the fancy stuff that gets other teams in trouble? That is the team that has the edge on Friday night.
3. BEAT THE BUZZER
Do not let this thing come down to the final stretch. Both these teams have felt that sting in the closing (or last) second against Snider this season. In the recent past, in this series, the names Zak Kruger (just last season) and Tahj Curry should ring a striking bell. Two Homestead assassins that claimed this game by taking it down to the closing seconds.
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
RICHIE GROSS, CARROLL
Gross comes into this week as Carroll’s most consistent scorer as of late. And he isn’t just putting up ok game, he is scoring at a really good rate. If Gross can keep his smooth sailing against Homestead and then the other Chargers file in as they have, that is good news for the Chargers.
ANDREW LEEPER, HOMESTEAD
Since Leeper found his way into a depleted lineup, he has been very productive on both ends of the court. His length is a welcome addition to an already long group. As a tall guy who can also score on the perimeter, he adds to the matchup issues that Carroll could have in this game.
SAM STRYCKER, CARROLL
Homestead is long, that hasn’t changed. But they don’t have a bull in a china shop like Strycker can be. This is the perfect game for Strycker to try and throw his body around and mix it up at the rim. Carroll will need him on the boards for every second he touches the court.
LUKE GOODE, HOMESTEAD
Because, duh. The game will go as Goode allows it to go. If he is on or if he is aggressive, then Carroll already knows they have a big problem on their hands. He has proven time and time again that he is capable of shining in big moments; don’t expect this moment to be anywhere near too big for him.
KEYS TO VICTORY – CARROLL
1. BALL PRESSURE
Carroll is very good at causing chaos on the perimeter. Averaging 6.9 steals per game as a team, they will need to rely on Richie Gross and Jalen Jackson to get their hands on the ball and force Homestead into uncomfortable situations. Carroll is good at that and Homestead is good once they get comfortable; this defense needs to be harassing.
2. RAY VOLLMER’S CONTRIBUTION
The senior is the fifth leading scorer for Carroll, their fifth leading rebounder and fifth in steals. But when Ray Vollmer is active and contributing, it makes them a far and away better team: just ask Snider (twice). He does happen to be the team’s leader in assists, which should tell you all you need to know about his understanding of the game and what to contribute.
KEYS TO VICTORY – HOMESTEAD
1. A STEADY HAND
Turnovers and thoughtless play won’t suit Homestead here, especially with how good that Carroll is at leaking out on the other end and creating easy opportunities for themselves. Take care of the ball, sure. But most importantly for the Spartans is to keep the ball in whatever the most reliable hands are. There are options, there is experience; roll with it and trust it but be ready to make any change needed.
2. THE THREE BALL
Shoot well but shoot poised. Carroll is going to try and run Homestead off the line, so they need to not rush their shots. Use that length and your center well and find open looks. Homestead doesn’t need to live and die on the perimeter but they need to be comfortable out there.
Like the Yankees/Red Sox, Michigan/Ohio State or Duke/Carolina, this is a storybook rivalry and when those happen, a lot of bets are automatically off. Whether they don’t use the first letter of the opposing school all week or what have you, this is going to be an absolute war of attrition. How do I know? It always is. Like I know Tuesday comes after Monday, I know that Carroll and Homestead are neither going to give an inch. Bounce picks Homestead