Circle this one on your calendar for Friday. It is the best game on the last real night of the regular season. Norwell and Homestead have been going at it for years, back to the old NHC before the Spartans made their way to the big city conference.
It is always fun. Always.
1. POSTSEASON MOMENTUM
This is a given for any team this week and especially Friday night. That last second push does matter and momentum does exist. Win or lose, both of these teams are going to want to feel good about themselves leaving this. For that reason alone, it could be a war. Next week matters most but you have to play this week well for next Tuesday morning to be filled with maximum confidence.
2. IS HOMESTEAD LETHARGIC?
The Spartans have now lost 4 of their last 6 and barring a state title run, will finish with their most losses in a season since 2009. There are so many elements at play here including players lost, players sick and players hurt and it has not allowed Homestead to be steady at all in 2020. It also means that the guys who have played all of the games are flat out tired. No excuses here, but it is noteworthy. What kind of legs does Homestead have?
3. NORWELL IS PERFECT VS. SAC
Concordia, Dwenger, Carroll, South Side, Wayne and Bishop Luers. Six teams from the SAC that fell to OTH’s top-ranked Norwell team this year. That should answer the question about how Norwell handles a tough schedule and one put in place on purpose to get them ready for the post season. When this season is over, it will be just Northrop, last place North Side and second place Snider that didn’t play the Knights. Considering that all those teams lost to a team Norwell has beaten and well, let’s just say the Knights have the SAC’s number.
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
WILL GEIGER, NORWELL
It is always hard to put a team’s top player in a watch list. But he truly needs to be watched. There are city of Fort Wayne purists who have probably never seen Geiger and that is a shame. His raw physicality, leadership and IQ his high level. This is as true as it gets: if you haven’t seen Geiger, go watch Geiger.
ZAK KRUEGER, HOMESTEAD
It wasn’t going to be a perfect return for Krueger after a nine game absence and it wouldn’t be for anyone. But Krueger is a heady enough player that he knows he needs to take control of the games down the stretch for Homestead. That starts Friday and making sure he has the tempo in his hands.
DREW FEDERSPIEL, NORWELL
There have been times that the senior has deferred to teammates a lot. And then there are times, like last Saturday at Woodlan, where he turns his aggression up a notch. If Federspiel is attacking and confident, he and his length are a big issue and major weapon.
ALEC GRINSFELDER, HOMESTEAD
Grinsfelder is Homestead’s number two guy this season in scoring and rebounding and if the Spartans have any kind of physical, defensive answer in the post for Norwell, it is him. Watch for Grinsfelder to draw some really tough assignments in this one because of how capable he can be down low.
KEYS TO VICTORY – NORWELL
1. JUST PLAY TOUGH
Norwell is the best time in our power poll in major part because of how tough they are mentally and physically. They don’t get down even when they are down and they are able to power through troubles without causing turmoil. So that…do that.
2. CHALLENGE SOMEONE TO STEP UP
Luke Goode is Homestead’s go to for a reason. He is very good and he puts up numbers to support that a lot; something Norwell will try to change. Now who else can step up on Friday as Homestead’s second option? Norwell has to challenge the Spartans to do that. Norwell has to be the one to dare someone to play a major role. Homestead has a core of guys who call could do it, so Norwell needs to put the pressure on them to see who actually will try and take control.
KEYS TO VICTORY – HOMESTEAD
1. USE LENGTH, GET PHYSICAL
Both of these teams are long. Long legs, long arms, long frames. Now would be the best time for Homestead to try and use theirs in every conceivable way from Goode and Grinsfelder to Andrew Leeper and Grant Simmons because Norwell will use their length and bodies. That plays into the toughness factor too. You can’t play a finesse game purely and beat the work that Norwell puts in.
2. LET CHRIS JOHNSON GUIDE YOU
Chris Johnson has coached a lot of big moments. This one may not have title implications or anything, but it is an important game for a Homestead team that needs to be on a good track before next week. Listen to the man, he has 424 career wins for a reason.
Picking against Homestead is certainly playing with fire. Picking against Norwell is just silly (i.e. they are 20-1 on the season). If Homestead can return to Homestead form, then this is a slugfest. We shall see. To be the man, you have to beat the man. Right now, to me, there is only one “man.” Bounce picks Norwell