• I think I need a Fletcher Loyer and Luke Goode shootout. The two of them on the same team is just meant for steamroller duty, Friday taking out South Side. They each hit four three pointers in the win with Loyer going for 30 and Goode for 26 in the points department. They are both capable of taking over games and a look at the scorebook from Friday indicates that.
In the second quarter, with South Side maybe feeling at least a little both comfortable with how they were playing to that point, the Homestead duo combined to score all 30 of Homestead’s points in the quarter. It is rare to get a 30 point quarter out of a team, let alone two people.
So the question remains for the rest of the still very alive SAC race: how do you stop all of that at once? Loyer and Goode are arguably the best duo in the area right now and the argument is very, very, very slim. There are very few ways to stop either one of them on a regular night and with the momentum they have right now, their flaws are seemingly disappearing along the way. Because of that, they turned a 15-8 game after the first quarter into a 45-21 game at halftime basically just double handily.
• Aidan Lambert. That’s the point the start this section. Virtually silent the first half and some change on Tuesday at New Haven, once Lambert turned up his assault on the Bulldogs defense, that game changed completely. The Bulldogs had a 24 point lead before Snider, led by Lambert’s effort, just pushed and pushed and pushed to the rim.
Everyone else followed. Sure, the Panthers hit some shots in a major comeback that came up short, but it was attacking the basket and challenging the bigger New Haven group that made a difference. It makes me ask, with all due respect to New Haven, is Snider the better of the two still when they are playing up to their full potential? Lambert just stuck out like a sore thumb in the comeback and his growth has been fun.
We’ve talked all season about Lambert and Karson Jenkins and how they’ve gone from small role players a year ago to two of the best players in the conference. That was still the case against New Haven as they finished with 17 and 18 points respectively. But not enough has been said about the pieces around them and how hard they work. As much as Lambert stood out to me on Tuesday, the energy and clear passion of Jade Moore, Elijah Davis and Markell Keal really stood out to me. Moore actually led Snider in scoring with 24 points, not the first time he’s taken he frontrunner seat on the offensive end, while Davis played with a lot of passion every play that I love to see and Keal was critical in the full court pressure comeback.
Snider bounced back quickly into the win column with a conference win Friday at Northrop behind Jenkins’ 22 points, where he buried four three pointers. With the win, the Panthers remain one of three unbeaten in conference teams of the SAC with Homestead and Carroll.
• Leo is looking to find a rhythm as they prepare for next week’s big showdown with New Haven that could decide the conference. Tuesday was a blow boy game as they dominated a still Will Shank-less Canterbury, outscoring the Cavaliers 44-20 in the first half and then holding them to just two points in the fourth quarter.
A balanced effort saw eight different offensive contributors including Zack Troyer‘s 17 points and DJ Allen‘s 14 point/8 rebound effort. It continues to be important how little Leo relies on the three point shot even if they are really good at it. Against Canterbury, they hit just four triples, with three of them coming from the suddenly very important play of Xavier Middleton.
The Lions staved off Norwell on Saturday night despite trailing at several key points, including going into the fourth quarter. Leo ended up taking hope a 10 point win, just proving again that they are finishers.
• New Haven‘s win over Snider on Tuesday was significant for them too (see above). The Bulldogs know that playing to their strengths, which massively include getting the ball to Thomas Latham as much as they can, will make them so much strong than most teams. New Haven is big and they are aggressive on the glass. It isn’t easy for many teams to compete with that size and football player aggression.
What is probably better though is their extended court vision. They rarely put a player on the court against the Panthers that could see the floor extremely well and make plays in transition and off of offensive sets that see open and willing scorers trickle across the baseline. Jakar Williams, Jojo Robertson, Darrion Brooks, Nick Myles, Dre Wright and Latham all made some nice passes usually reserved for the area’s best point guards.
While I took my time this week to drool over Latham’s plays, the importance of Brooks’ engine early in games is important to their success. Its not to say they had an issue getting going against Snider, but Brooks pushes the pace immediately when games tipoff. Having someone who is a fire starter, no matter the game, will be critical against the toughest of their schedule in the NE8 and Sectional time.
Brooks scored a team high 19 points to go with five rebounds and four assists on Saturday as New Haven opened their conference play with a win over DeKalb.
• East Noble‘s barstool begs for respect. Their boys basketball team however just likes to take it. The Knights have had some solid performances this season, but none probably better than Tuesday’s win over NECC favorite Westview. Was it a good win or a monumental win? I guess that depends on where East Noble goes from here.
Chris Hood was an unstoppable force at the basket, scoring a game high 23 points while Braeden Ball added 20 points.
East Noble lead the Warriors from pillar to post and has to be an eye opener going forward. Like I said, East Noble has been solid but not special early this season. The win over Westview is not only special, it couldn’t come at a better time. The Knights have as much momentum as anyone in the area with the best early win of 2021. I like where East Noble is right now and the more games like that Hood has, the harder it is going to be to quiet him.
The Knights nearly added a conference win on Saturday, falling just short to Huntington North. Ball led the way with 17 as the Knights started at 0-1 in the NE8.
• Bluffton has had an up and down start to their season, searching for consistency along the way. But opening up conference play on Saturday with a win over somewhat rival Woodlan is a good place to start in the ACAC. Bluffton is now one of three undefeated teams in conference play heading into next week’s tournament.
A year ago, a win over Woodlan was the one that ended up certifying the Tigers as regular season champions but they turned around and immediately were upset in the conference tournament. So the question is how do they parlay this year’s win into tournament momentum?
The Tigers have not won back to back games at all yet during their 3-5 start but when they’ve won, they’ve looked really good in the process, including stymying a young Woodlan team this weekend. Hayden Nern scored 18 in the win as Bluffton got the fast start their needed, going up 16-6 and 27-13 at the first two quarter breaks. A balanced effort looks good on the Tigers as Lukas Hunt added nine points and Harrison Schreiber scored eight.
• Bounce has a lot of respect for Southern Wells out of Saturday’s loss to Heritage. The Patriots hit more timely shots and it kept them ahead, but the Raiders are a very scrappy bunch who are hungry for wins. At just 2-9, you can tell how much getting in the win column means for Southern Wells and they played like a win would have meant the world to them. You have to admire that kind of push from a team.
Heritage took double digit leads multiple times, yet Southern Wells always stormed back. It not only made Heritage uncomfortable that they only had a two point lead with 30 seconds to go, but it has to be a warning to future Raider opponents that this team is never down.
Will Rickerd showed what I already knew about him and that is that he has a lot of determination to be a difference maker. He showed no issue in taking big shots and when the time came and he was headstrong in pushing to the rim, even taking a hard fall on a foul at the rim late. He took a seat on the bench for all of 15 seconds or so before popping back up and being ready to play after that big fall. Tons of heart in Rickerd.
Seniors Tanner Johnson and Keith Miller lead by example too with their even keel aggression that carries over. Need an example? Look no further than the straight face of Branson Rheinhart as he shoots the ball or how Austin Harris carried himself admirably when tasked when trying to slow Heritage standout Luke Saylor. This is still a pretty young group with just two seniors so their experience in games like this is huge. Not only is Southern Wells always a Sectional contender when getting to play schools their own size, much of this team is back next year.
The Raiders weren’t the winners on Saturday but they came out looking good in my book.
• Connor Essegian of Central Noble had himself a record setting week and even when he wasn’t pushing to break said record, he certainly wasn’t going to relent. Like everyone else in the NECC, the Cougars are trying to tighten things up before this coming week and for them, defending their conference tournament title.
On Tuesday, he became the Central Noble boys program’s all-time leading scorer as a junior, hitting 1,251 career points. Essegian left the win over Wawasee with 1,262 career points after a 17 point night to surpass previous record holder Mike Young; current teammate Sawyer Yoder sits eighth on the all-time list as he chases the 1,000 point mark for his career. With all of the attention on Essegian to get to that point, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he took a bit of a break over the rest of the week.
He instead turned around a night later to drop 30 points on Bluffton in a 75-31 blowout win. Central Noble is tough, but the reality is if we looked at this game in the preseason, we weren’t expecting it to be a blowout. Yoder added 22 points in the win. Coach John Bodey got to hit the record books in this one, tying Paul Baker for the most wins in program history.
Bodey went on to break that record on Friday night as the Cougars made quick work at Garrett, a place where Bodey has called home. Bodey is also Central Noble boys’ winningest coach in terms of winning percentage. On Friday, Essegian scored 15 of the first 17 Central Noble points as the Cougars led Garrett 17-4 at the first quarter break.
• Jackson Paul is officially the top passer in Churubusco history and probably the best one too. The week wasn’t meant with many challenges for the Eagles, but Paul had a mark to break and he wasted no time in doing it. The senior went into Tuesday’s game with Elkhart Christian just eight assists behind James Ford for the program record of 394 assists.
In that first game of the week, Paul broke the record by recording 12 assists in the 109-59 win. The game marked Churubusco’s second straight game scoring in triple digits. At weekend’s close, the Eagles are averaging 81.1 points per game, which is fifth in the state and second in the area behind Blackhawk Christian‘s 86 points per game. Paul also had 29 points and 10 steals in his dominant triple double. Luke McClure added 27 points in the win.
The Eagles had a small drop-off on Friday, only scoring 92 points in a win over Fremont. Paul added to his assist record with four more as he and Landen Jordan each scored 24 points and McClure added 22 for the conference win.
Benton Bucks star Caleb Wright had another big night Wednesday, posting a triple double against Anderson with 30 points, 14 assists and 11 steals….Angola‘s 80-64 win over Prairie Heights on Friday marks the first time the Hornets have scored in the 80s since 2008….Woodlan‘s Joe Reidy scored his 1,000 career point on Saturday with a two hand slam against Bluffton. Reidy finished that game with 23 points and 13 rebounds to follow up a 23 point, 12 rebound effort against Wayne earlier in the week….Manchester‘s Weston Hamby also joined the 1,000 point club on Saturday at Canterbury where he scored 28 points.
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