• North Side‘s win on Friday night over rival South Side brought them the the Reichert-Hey Trophy for the first time. The symbol between the two school’s basketball games was created last season to honor the rivalry, which began on the boys side in 1928. South won it the first year, but the Legends’ win means that the series, with a trophy involved anyway, is now 1-1.
While winning against your rival is good and putting a trophy next to the football team’s Totem Pole retained this fall nice, the game means a lot more. It means that in their first 6 games this season, the Legends have reached three wins. Their previous two seasons combined saw them win just three total games – posting the two lowest season win totals in program history – and they had been victorious just once in the 37 previous games coming into this season. Let’s just say some scoffed at the notion that North would beat South on Friday night. North Side is, by no means, back in a driver’s seat that they used to be in – but massive improvements are being made, helped significantly by freshman Brauntae Johnson, who scored 18 on Friday.
There were times that the Legends looked out of sync Friday night but they still willed their way back from multiple deficits by taking risks in there 64-58 win. One of those risks came on a Chy Wynn three with under a minute to play with North Side leading by a point. Wide open in the corner in front of the North bench, Wynn let it fly and buried the triple. Ideally, not the shot you want when are leading a close game late, but Wynn stepped into the shot with confidence and it was a back breaker for the Archers. Very important to the cause on Friday was Rodney Woods, who spent some time out of the lineup already this season. Woods’ hustle, drive and leadership is not something easily replicated and was a major difference maker all over the court Friday night, finishing with 14 points.
The Legends lost to Marion on Saturday after jumping out to a nice lead. They lost Woods to injury though and for their sake, hopefully he is not out of the lineup for long. North Side is getting stronger and with a heavy four game week against all quality opponents behind them, we will now see how much they learned.
• I mentioned in my column on Friday and again on social media, but there certainly isn’t enough praise to heap onto Carroll‘s Jalen Jackson right now. There are not many players in the SAC that can score at a high level consistently and in so many diverse ways. Jackson is among the elite now and something he really did showcase this summer.
But I am a “see’er to be a believer” type. What have you done for me lately? Well Jackson continues to turn back every defense, getting to the rim in a flurry that really doesn’t let teams collapse on him the way they want to. He has a very dangerous first step and has weaponized his midrange pull up to be nearly picture perfect.
Carroll is 5-0 and Jackson is averaging 24 points per game in that time. Through his first four game, Jackson is shooting 60 percent from the field. He has to, currently, be aiming for status as the most diverse pure scorer in the Marty Beasley era at Carroll. And Beasley has coached a lot of really good scorers, guys that went on to play Division I basketball. Jackson is in a realm of his own right now and it should have the entire area salivating for SAC matchups this season with the likes of Bishop Luers’ Naylon Thompson and Homestead’s Fletcher Loyer, a couple of future D1 guys who can also score at a high level from everywhere on the court.
• Unselfish play will get you a long way and Homestead senior Luke Goode pointed that out Friday night with the phrase “great team win” on his Twitter page. Indeed Goode was right in his assertion that stats and points don’t matter compared to the ‘W,’ of which Homestead had four of after dispatching a season debuting Bishop Dwenger.
The Spartans are not making many mistakes at this point and the wealth of scoring options doesn’t hurt a bit as Fletcher Loyer led the way with 23 against the Saints and Andrew Leeper provided a highlight of the night, cutting the lane for a two hand flush off a nice Goode pass.
They continued that trend on Saturday by getting back a game from New Haven. The Bulldogs eliminated the Spartans last postseason and early, Saturday’s rematch looked closer than expected. Then Homestead pulled away by just spreading things out. Loyer continued to look like a legit threat as the best player in the area with a season high 31 points while Goode (20) and Grant Simmons (11) were right there too. Then came in Kyron Kaopuiki with 11 points playing with a a ton of strength that adds to Homestead’s considerable depth. Homestead ended up beating the Bulldogs by 30 points.
• Welcome to the 1,000 point club Naylon Thompson! The Bishop Luers senior had a heck of a first week of the Knights season, despite a 1-1 record over that span. Thompson was arguably the best player on the court Tuesday in a loss to Leo, but that argument against him wouldn’t hold a lot of water. He has clearly used the offseason to shore up any weaknesses. He posted 27 points and eight rebounds in that loss.
On Saturday, Thompson came into the game with Canterbury just 15 points away from hitting 1,000 for his career. He went ahead and just hit for 25 points, attacking the rim consistently and making the Cavaliers foul him as their only method to stop him. It didn’t work well as they tried to play aggressor with Thompson. He stepped to the free throw line 18 times and hit 16 of those shots. Thompson added eight rebounds and four steals in the win over Canterbury.
Mark it down right now: this coming Friday, December 18, a battle of Thompson and Homestead’s Fletcher Loyer. Could be the best scoring battle of the year.
Snider is another team that is probably surprising some people. While I may not be included in that as much as others, there had to be people who didn’t expect the Panthers to start 3-1 after losing essentially everything on their roster.
A win over Wayne was solid, not only because Karson Jenkins had the best performance of his career. The Panthers are trusting in each other and taking a true team mentality each game. There is a lot of effort every game from Snider and they don’t relent. Everybody gets their shots, everybody gets their opportunities to shine. And even though Jenkins led the way Friday and Aidan Lambert and Jade Moore have taken their turns as leading scorers in Snider’s first four games, they all get looks.
Grant Brown was another impressive piece on Friday, attacking on offense from deep (3-of-5 three pointers) and defending the rim well as one of the guys who has to play a hybrid inside-outside role for the Panthers. Brown had five rebounds while fellow true guard Tylor Harding had six and Lambert added five boards too while Snider tallied 29 rebounds against a tough General interior. Brown also had three blocks and his aggression has been a big under the radar threat so far.
• Leo‘s bid to win the SAC improved this week by beating the defending conference champs. Oh wait, they can’t win the SAC? Well they sure look like one of the best teams against that conference early, now 4-0 with all of those victories coming over Summit Athletic Conference opponents. The Lions still have four more SAC opponents on the schedule, but next week’s game with Northrop is already postponed. It has to make you feel good this quickly into the season if you are Leo knowing you have a better record against SAC opponents than any team in the SAC.
There were areas in the Lions’ win over Bishop Luers that really mirrored last season’s Sectional win over Luers. Namely the Knights’ inability to gain much traction on the glass. Leo won that battle 49-31, also pulling down 18 offensive rebounds, including six from DJ Allen. Leo continues to show they are at their best when they can control at the rim. Allen had nine rebounds, Zack Troyer grabbed eight and Carson Hart and Xavier Middleton each added seven.
• When you speak of teams with some depth, Huntington North is in consideration too. It took them a while. to get playing this season, but they have played strong. The lack of flash may not get them the attention it does other teams, but that really isn’t the way of coach Craig Teagle.
Still, they kept Homestead close, losing only by six before rallying off three straight wins, including Tuesday over Mississinewa. In that one, it was Sam Thompson who stepped into a primary role by scoring 26 points, including hitting 5 of 6 three pointers and snatching away a win for the Vikings. Zach Hubartt added 16 points and a game high nine rebounds and Dominic Cardwell was perfect from the field as the team shot 64 percent.
At this point in the season, consistency is critical and none of us should really be surprised to see a Teagle led team be a model for that. On Saturday, the Vikings edged Manchester with Hubartt hitting 5 of 6 shots inside the arc and finishing with 19 points to Will Hotchkiss‘ 17 points; Hotchkiss went a perfect 7-of-7 from the field. That is consistency.
• Wednesday’s win over Woodlan was more like the New Haven we’ve come to expect. Looking revitalized after a 53 point season opening loss, the Bulldogs came out with a vengeance and took it to Woodlan, playing above the rim and forcing the mostly inexperienced Warriors into uncomfortable defensive situations. This New Haven is a tough team with Thomas Latham, Jakar Williams and Darrion Brooks all taking it to the rim with energy, something that lacked in game one.
The big impression out of this is Latham, who was a non factor for the first half against Blackhawk Christian and only a small factor for a brief time afterward. His 20 point, 13 rebound effort against Woodlan gets him right back to the place we expect of him.
• Woodlan improved to 2-0 for the first time in five years before their loss Wednesday to New Haven. While the loss to the heavy powered Bulldogs was a set back, the win on Tuesday over Angola is certainly something to hang your hat on. The long, active zone late against Angola made Woodlan’s defense terribly difficult to penetrate. Angola had some extended offensive possessions late that they couldn’t get easy looks on, including a last scoring chance from Brian Parrish, who had hit six three pointers already.
Joe Reidy had another one of those games, scoring 32 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. Reidy scored Woodlan’s final five points of the game, including a second chance basket off his 17th rebound in the final minute.
While Woodlan would go on to lose back to back games to New Haven and Bellmont, Reidy would produce games of 19 points and 15 rebounds (New Haven) and 20 points (Bellmont). Braden Smith stepped in to help despite the loss Saturday with 10 points for the Warriors.
• Frustrating doesn’t even begin to explain Heritage‘s start to the season. That first game didn’t take place until Friday. The December 11 start was one of the latest in the state due to the Patriots’ bout with quarantine.
“Since we knew we would be young, we planned to play 15-20 games this summer to give our guys some game experience,” Heritage coach Adam Gray said. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do that. We didn’t have our scrimmage so [Friday] night was out first time playing someone else with this group, which is frustrating. I think are kids are learning about controlling what they can and being resilient. Which is all you can ask for in this season of uncertainty.”
The program continues to grow under Gray, now in his third year as head coach. Although they fell short in their season opener to Bellmont 52-48, there are a lot of positive signs and a whole group of kids who are eager and ready to play. Luke Saylor led Heritage on Friday night with 20 points and six rebounds while Dalton Wasson added 17 points and seven rebounds.
Heritage gets to go back to the court on Wednesday against Fremont and after that long initial layoff, Wednesday certainly can’t come quick enough.
• After a late start of their own to the season, Churubusco was happy to get that first win monkey off their back against a shorthanded South Adams on Friday night. It was an important win for the Eagles for a variety of reasons.
First, they needed a bounce back after a seasoning opening loss to Westview. That game really ignited all of Churubusco’s worst fears about depth and getting a late start to competitive play due to quarantine. The Eagles played strong at the top against the Warriors, but need time to work a lot of young guys in.
Second, the win over South Adams saw their aggressive senior trio stay out of foul trouble, something they didn’t do as well against Westview. South Adams is an aggressive team, essentially all made up of their state finals football team and they can bring out over aggression in other teams. Other than Landen Jordan‘s early two fouls, Busco made sure to keep that mostly a non issue. Jordan finished the game with 27 points and 18 rebounds to fight off that early foul issue while Jackson Paul scored 21 with eight assists and five steals.
The Eagles pushed through Saturday for a conference win, getting by West Noble in overtime while Jordan set a school record with 24 rebounds. Jordan also scored 26 points while Paul added 19 points in the crucial conference win.
• Westview rules the NECC.
Read that again: Westview rules the NECC. Yeah, yeah, it’s still early. But let’s be real, not many people legit had the Warriors as the team to beat in this conference again. Central Noble and Churubusco were going to be those teams. Now Westview has dispatched both of those teams in back to back weeks. And I am in awe, while still plenty shocked.
No disrespect to the Warriors. They returned a lot of guys, brought in a hard nosed winner of a coach and, when all else fails, this is still Westview. But teams don’t regularly lose a longtime coach and arguably the best player in program history and then come out of the gate this strong the next season. Also, they have to do all of this without being able to feed off the traditional Westview home crowd roar. Saturday’s 60-54 win over Central Noble required a significant Cougar comeback to even be that close because Westview consoled the game from the tip. And while Connor Essegian did what Connor Essegian did, the Warriors shut down most of what else makes Central Noble’s offense special. Only Ryan Schroeder added double digit scoring for the Cougars and Sawyer Yoder was held to an essential non factor.
Westview is not a top heavy team. There is no one guy standing out above the rest. Instead, they have been successful by committee. So when Drew Litwiller‘s minutes were hampered on Saturday by foul trouble, Mason Yoder (13 points), Ben Burkett, Luke Miller and Brady Yoder all picked up the slack. Kudos to Westview because they have stolen the headlines in a very good NECC.
• Can Blackhawk Christian win dogfights? That is a question that we hadn’t come close to knowing an answer to until Saturday. To really no surprise, the Braves and Silver Creek stole the show at Southport when they went two overtimes.
Kudos to the Dragons, who overcame a lot of pitfalls to even force the first overtime. The Braves looked to be in control of the Trey Kaufman-less team. All cylinders were clicking for Blackhawk Christian as they lead 20-7 after the first quarter. A lot of help early from Marcus Davidson had the Braves up 11 at the halftime break. And things just got wild in the second half. An 8-0 run to start the fourth quarter had Silver Creek back within three, eventually tying it on a Branden Northern triple, their third of the quarter. Then Davidson and Jacob Boyer struck back and the Braves led by four. The game eventually went to overtime tied at 66. That is an important number when you realize that the Braves scored 94 total points but he time all the clocks expired.
That’s right, 28 points in two overtimes after 66 points in four quarters. That is a Blackhawk Christian flex.
Overtime was a rollercoaster with Silver Creek leading, Blackhawk Christian scoring eight straight and then Silver Creek clawing back into it again to force double overtime. Then the Braves took over, outscoring the Dragons 12-2 in the second overtime for the 94-84 win. This was a test the Braves really needed. Blowouts are great, but you learn so much more about your team when they have to battle like this and are forced to convert on big possessions.
Caleb Furst ended with a near triple double of 23 points, 21 rebounds and eight assists while Zane Burke led the Braves scoring yet again with 31 points and eight rebounds.
Jay County coach Jerry Bomholt won his 550th career game on Tuesday in victory over Southern Wells….Caleb Wright set a new Benton Bucks record, hitting 10 three pointers Tuesday in a win over MCAC. Wright finished the game with 37 points….Angola opened their Friday win over Garrett on a 20-0 run….Jaxon Gould‘s basket at the buzzer pushed Warsaw by Lake Central 50-49 on Friday night; Gould finished with 9 points for the Tigers….Austin Cripe continues to be a beacon of the future in the NECC. He scored a game high 31 points on Saturday for West Noble in a loss to Churubusco.
Be sure to vote in this week’s FAN CHOICE for Performance of the Week poll.. Keep in mind with basketball, this isn’t a player of the week poll. We aren’t taking into consideration every single game on a player’s weekly resume. Instead, these are the best singular games of the week.
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