File photo of Chris Johnson
Homestead entered Friday night’s regular-season finale against Norwell with questions to answer.
- Could the Spartans be physical enough defensively to limit Norwell stud Will Geiger?
- Was Homestead capable of hitting shots to lighten the pressure on Luke Goode?
- Had the Spartans applied lessons learned from a surprising home loss to rival Carroll just seven days previous?
A 51-34 victory for Homestead over the Knights proved the answers to be yes, yes and yes.
On a night without point guard Zak Krueger, an unfortunate regularity over the last 10-plus games, the Spartans shook off recent shaky play to thoroughly dominate a Norwell team that entered Friday with a 20-1 record and a lofty No. 4 ranking in Class 3A.
“Tonight, our guys showed a lot of grit on the defensive end and they attacked the basket, they weren’t just content with chucking threes,” Homestead coach Chris Johnson said. “That’s what we were missing in terms of being able to get easy buckets. We dictated the tempo, we played to our style and, most importantly, we were in the lead instead of chasing.”
While Homestead played from behind for the entirety of the game against Carroll, it led throughout on Friday against Norwell. The defense was the difference. Senior standout Will Geiger rarely caught the ball cleanly against a hounding Spartans defense.
Alec Grinsfelder got the call to be the primary on-ball defender on Geiger, but he had plenty of help once Geiger caught a pass. Norwell (20-2) turned the ball over 13 times, many of which came from teammates trying to feed the ball to Geiger, who did still finish with 19 points.
Offensively, the Spartans (14-8) knocked down some outside shots, something that it did not do against the Chargers. Luke Goode finished with 17 points but did not knock down a single shot from range. But Homestead did knock down a trio of shots from the outside and 14-of-18 free throws.
Friday was a reality check for both Homestead and Norwell. The Knights get to hit the reset button heading into sectionals, with a loss giving Coach Mike McBride some ammunition when it comes to commanding his team’s attention as the playoffs loom.
Meanwhile, the Spartans found some confidence at a time where they desperately needed it. When the bar is set so high, as it is at Homestead, a 14-8 regular-season doesn’t seem altogether impressive, but Johnson saw some things in his team Friday that brought a smile to his face.
“We have had our issues, we have had our adversity, nobody is going to sit here and cry for us,” Johnson said. “I think at times we felt sorry for ourselves rather than just going out and playing the next play.
“A lot of times (earlier in the season) when things weren’t going our way, it just got worse. Friday, we were able to get ahead and it was different.”
Despite Friday’s result, both Homestead and Norwell are prime candidates to emerge as sectional champions next week.
If anything, the Spartans’ 17-point win set the stage for both for entirely different reasons.