With some unrivaled free time to look back at the prep hoops season gone by, Bounce is now going to break down his own awards for the boys side of things.
ICYMI, I have already given out my own awards for the girls side, met with a FAN VOTE as well:
All this week, Bounce will be giving out some awards for each conference in Northeast Indiana as well as area teams we cover not in those four major conferences, let you get some voting in, and what about one more prediction?
We will break down these conferences and players this week and then on April 15 & 16, we wrap up boys hoops season with our All-Area team and Player of the Year.
Today, we look in at the ACAC.
*You can vote in any of these fan polls for the next 10 days, through April 13
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Hayden Nern, Bluffton
Nern wasn’t the one that I expected to break down here when the season started. But the football team’s quarterback proved her wasn’t a one trick pony by taking over the ACAC with his athleticism, leading to an All-Conference season and an ACAC title for Bluffton. Nern averaged a conference best 17.4 points per game while hitting 52% of his shots. You could also call this a breakout year of sorts for Nern too, even if we don’t list him in that category below. Nern averaged 16.9 points per game more as a junior than he did as a sophomore while playing in 13 more games. His growth on and off the court was essential and it kept Bluffton at the top of the ACAC when we expected a drop-off.
HONORABLE MENTION: Mitch Mendenhall of Woodlan, Joe Reidy of Woodlan, James Arnold of South Adams
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Joe Reidy, Woodlan
As with any of these awards you have read of mine, MVP can go a lot of ways fairly when you discuss the true value of a player to a team. Reidy gets the nod because his games could be make or break. While others on this list and even Woodlan’s team, in Mitch Mendenhall, packed a big punch too, there were so many times – good and bad – that Woodlan went how Reidy went. Just a sophomore, he continued to prove himself on a high level, improving his game in multiple parts of the court. When Reidy bore down and turned up his aggression, he was a major force.
HONORABLE MENTION: Tanner Cooley of Bluffton, Lucas Van De Weg of Adams Central, Kreigh Roush of Southern Wells, Ethan Dirksen of Jay County
Who was the most valuable to their ACAC team in 2019-20?
BREAKOUT PLAYER: Luke Saylor, Heritage
The freshman came in and averaged 12.7 points per game as a major boost for the Patriots, who really only brought back one player with experience from the previous season. Saylor looks pretty unassuming, but put up quality numbers especially down the stretch game after game to keep Heritage in any kind of contention. While there were other players who introduced themselves with a little noise this season in the ACAC, there is zero doubt to me that anyone is more talked about in that vein than Saylor.
HONORABLE MENTION: Ethan Dirksen of Jay County, Harrison Schreiber of Bluffton, Braysen Yergler of Adams Central, Brennan Donovan of Woodlan
Who is your pick for breakout player from the ACAC?
MOST UNDERRATED: Aiden Bayman, Woodlan
This is an easy one because of the ACAC’s All-Conference rules that only allow for 12 total players to be named All-Conference and the absurdity of Bayman being left off that list. The Warriors lost just one conference game and won the tournament title and while Bayman isn’t the first or second best player from that team, he was the pace setter often on both ends of the floor. Bayman was clearly one of the area’s most underrated defenders and had an eye for the ball but he also made some well timed plays and passes to set up Woodlan’s offense.
HONORABLE MENTION: Ben Voirol of Adams Central, Trey Schoch of South Adams, Konner Norman of Bluffton, Brayden Gilbert of South Adams
Who is your pick for the most underrated player from the ACAC?
COACH OF THE YEAR: John Baker, Woodlan
While the Warriors didn’t win the conference (by a game), they did have the best season in Baker’s career and an eight game turnaround while capturing the ACAC Tournament title. This was a major swing for Woodlan with essentially the same roster as the prior season. It was Woodlan’s best record since 2013-14 and they mustered up their first Sectional game win since that same year. The Warriors made huge strides this season and showed by far the biggest growth of any ACAC team, which was highlighted with a title and being just a game away from winning the conference outright.
HONORABLE MENTION: Chris Benedict of Bluffton, Josh Hendrixson of South Adams
Who is your picks for ACAC Coach of the Year?
GAME OF THE YEAR: Woodlan versus South Adams, January 17
This was a fun one for the right to go to the ACAC Tournament finals. The Starfires were rolling right along after upsetting eventual conference champion Bluffton three days earlier in the opening round. James Arnold put together a 17 point first half for South Adams and while the game stayed tight, there was no doubt that South Adams was in the drivers seat on their home court. Woodlan stopped South Adams big in the second half and Joe Reidy became a major perimeter defense threat, something not particularly in his wheelhouse usually. Woodlan stayed poised as a cohesive unit through the second half in the 59-54 win.
HONORABLE MENTION: 12/6 Woodlan over Jay County 42-38; 1/14 South Adams over Bluffton 46-44; 1/24 Bluffton over Adams Central 55-46 in OT; 1/18 Jay County over Heritage 36-34
What is your pick for ACAC game of the year in 2019-20?
WHO WINS THE ACAC IN 2021?: Bluffton
The Tigers are going to lose quite a few pieces next season to graduation, but the emergence of Hayden Nern keeps them firmly in the lead with South Adams, in my estimation, as the team right on their tail. Increased roles for Harrison Schreiber and Lukas Hunt, who played quite a bit this season, will tell the true tail to if Bluffton can repeat as conference champions. They don’t have the most experience, but early vibes tell me that the Tigers are going to be just fine.
Who do you think wins the ACAC in 2021?
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