• It would be weird to start this week’s column out with any focus other than Fletcher Loyer and Homestead, right?
Things are building towards their January 12 showdown with Blackhawk Christian. Both teams currently sit unbeaten with the Spartans at 11-0 after beating Marion and North Central this week. They got there with all all sorts of records, personal or otherwise.
The biggest of those came Tuesday with Loyer’s ridiculously smooth outing in a 92-77 win over Marion. It was quick to make headlines when Loyer dumped 50 on the Giants. It is a program record for a program that has had some pretty high level talent over the years. The mark passes Tim Dunn‘s scoring of 44 points in the 2009-2010 season. It is also the most points even scored by an opponent at Marion’s Bill Green Arena, a place that has seen a good player or two visit.
But looking deeper at the box score for the night is more impressive. Loyer shot 71 percent from the field in the win (20-of-28), hitting six threes while having five assists and five steals. Loyer came to Homestead with a lot of hype and he has justified it all season long. This all came seven days after he hit his 1,000th career point in a win over Brownsburg. Tuesday’s outing isn’t just a justifier, it is a game that has to place Loyer in consideration as the best junior in the state of Indiana.
The Spartans got a career high out of Grant Simmons on Saturday in the win over North Central. He went for 32 points as Luke Goode added 26 and Loyer scored 18. Homestead is very scary right now because who else has this many scorers capable of big nights? Just one team that I can think of. Have I mentioned how much I’m looking forward to January 12?
• South Side has taken some lumps this season, but the team sure isn’t taking the easy path either as they returned to the Mishawaka Marian Tournament this week and came inches from taking home the single day title. Ashton Johnson led a dominant performance over Gary Lighthouse in the morning game with 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists. It was an impressive 74 point outing for the entire team considering they hit just three three-pointers along the way.
Not relying on the long range shot will continue to help the Archers show more consistency as they head into the beef of conference season. South Side did shoot 20 triples in the first game of the day, but being able to score so consistently without those should be an eye opener.
In the final game, South Side saw a buzzer beater rim out in a 47-46 loss to host Mishawka Marian. An all around effort from seven different scorers saw the Archers come so close to claiming that crown. It was a good week for South to end 2020 and they should have a lot of confidence entering the new year. Johnson is playing some of the best, most composed basketball of his career, Austin Jordan is looking stronger daily and freshman Cadell Wallace is getting smoother adjusting to the varsity game.
• It was a pretty silent late 2020 for Bishop Luers. The defending SAC champions enter the transition to 2021 at just 2-3 but they certainly made sure to not go into the new year with a whimper. Naylon Thompson continues to be one of the more eclectic scorers in the area and is able to perform at a high level no matter the opponent. He scored 19 on Tuesday in what was always going to be a tough hill to climb against Class 4A state ranked Indianapolis Cathedral.
A day later, Thompson was in prime form with 28 points in a win over Tippecanoe Valley. Naylon is going to get his and we all should have learned that by now. Luers’ future success will be dependent on who steps up around him. Nick Thompson added 11 in the win over Tippy Valley, but Bounce is primarily intrigued by freshman Isaac Zay. He added 10 points in that win and is consistently playing better basketball.
There is a high number of freshmen playing varsity basketball in the area this season. Ranking them could be something interesting that Bounce takes on down the road, but I know Zay is right up there because of the confidence he plays with and the confidence coach Fonso White clearly has in him five games into his high school career.
• So far, if you don’t take Snider to overtime, you aren’t going to beat them. 5-0 in regulation after surviving a surge from Elkhart on Wednesday, the Panthers have set up some really intriguing 2021 games with how they’ve started. The biggest question is right now, who do you guard?
Karson Jenkins used 23 first half points (30 overall) to lead against Elkhart in a 66-65 win but if it’s not him, Aidan Lambert is scoring big. Jade Moore too has proved he is going to get his points and Snider has to be a confusing point for many future opponents. They weren’t supposed to be 5-2 after losing essentially their entire varsity team. This is a rebuilding year, isn’t it. This is a team that didn’t even start 5-2 in their last SAC regular season championship season in 2016-17.
In Wednesday’s win, it was the three point shot that really stood out for the Panthers. They shot better from deep (45.5 percent) than they did from inside the arc (44.4 percent). The big key here is that even when Snider isn’t hitting 10 triples in a game, they don’t live or die by that three point shot. Even last season, Snider had a tendency to rely a little too much on big moment triples. So it is great to have in your arsenal but even better when it’s not the only thing you lean on.
• There is something to be said about Woodlan‘s youth and the energy they derive from it. The Warriors went 1-1 on the week, but their domination of Fremont on Saturday in a 71-59 win was paced by that energy. At 3-4, the Warriors are in the middle of a rebuilding campaign but they can’t hate what they are seeing in that stretch.
Against Fremont, it was refreshing to see the pace they are willing to push because it is getting them opportunity after opportunity to take shots and find different rhythms along the way. Woodlan isn’t going to stand around and try to figure things out. Obviously a big part of that is the returners they do have. Senior Brennan Donovan and junior Joe Reidy are leading by example, getting out on the break and playing with a frenetic pace. Donovan spent his time learning from older players and now that he is the lone senior, he showed zero issue on Saturday taking the lead himself with his enthusiasm and made some really nice passes along the way.
Reidy is just good. His 26 points and 16 rebounds in the win over Fremont follows up a 20 point/18 rebound effort in a loss to Wayne Trace earlier in the week. It is very difficult for anyone to stop him at the rim and in the instance he missed point blank on Saturday, he just grabbed his own rebound and finished on the second chance.
The Warriors are going to be a team to watch over the next couple of years. Yes, we still have more Reidy left but only having one senior allows for Woodlan to gain long term traction. Braden Smith (18 points) and Dawson Lichty (10 points) both posted career highs against Fremont with Smith being an interesting option in transition shooting. Alex Miller looks confident in his ball handling duties and there is just something about freshman Lincoln Sparks that makes Bounce thinks he should keep his an eye out for.
• As we close in on the ACAC Tournament, South Adams is starting to show exactly why we picked them to take a conference title home this season. Despite starting out down 11-0 on Tuesday against county rival Bellmont, the Starfires were back up 24-18 by halftime. Winning that one 52-45, South Adams had started to right their ship and do it in a balanced way as James Arnold and Brayden Gilbert each scored 14 and Nick Miller added 13.
On Saturday, they won their third game of their last four by dominating Wabash. After losing their first three games of the season and fighting inconsistent lineups, the Starfires are right back in form at the right time with the ACAC Tournament right around the corner.
Saturday’s win saw Trey Schoch not only lead the way, but but pummel his way by Wabash by scoring a school record 47 points. Schoch’s total, just six off of what Wabash scored as a team, broke Nick Teeters’ record of 42 points set in 2010.
• A defensive battle on Saturday night between first place Westview and host Angola turned into a shootout and slugfest in the second half. Coach Ed Bentley‘s return to Angola started quietly with a 16-13 halftime deficit after Angola got out to a 7-0 start. Westview made their runs in the slow scoring first half but didn’t get over the hump into the lead until the end of the third quarter.
The game ended up 45-37 in Westview’s favor, just a quick indicator of how much the flow was altered in the second half. Despite having just two points at halftime, Drew Litwiller was a major difference in this game. He found holes in the defense and his intelligence combined with his frame allowed him to sneak through all kinds of tight spots and double teams to end with a team high 16 points. Litwiller continues to be a big presence for this group. He has seen some bigger moments than a lot of this team and its a reason they expanded their NECC lead on Saturday.
Devonta Dickerson and Brian Parrish made big threes for Angola down the stretch to keep Westview from running away with the game late. The Hornets showed, even in a loss, what they also showed last season: they can be a conference spoiler because of their confidence in shooting the ball and a superior defense played a lot of the time. They are a team to watch out for come NECC Tournament time because of the wrenches their lineup is able to throw at other teams.
Wednesday’s game between Warsaw and Leo was the first ever meeting between the two programs….Manchester won the Wabash County Tournament with wins on back to back days over Northfield and Wabash. Weston Hamby was the tournament MVP, including a 21 point outing against Northfield….Heritage scored a school record 90 points in a win over Prairie Heights on Tuesday at the East Noble Tournament….Garrett and Southern Wells both scored their first wins this week leaving just Hamilton as the only winless team in the area. Garrett did so Wednesday with 30 points from sophomore Tyler Later in a 70-61 conference win over Fairfield. Southern Wells did it Saturday against Northfield as William Rickerd drove the lane and evaded defenders for a lay in with four seconds left to complete his 22 point outing….Thomas Latham had another double double with 20 points and 16 rebounds Saturday for New Haven in a loss to Brebeuf Jesuit….Freshman Drew Pliett scored a career high 22 points (with 5 steals) in a win Saturday for Churubusco over Prairie Heights. Pliett is establishing himself as another strong member of a big freshman class playing varsity ball in the area.
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