NOW PREVIEWING: 2021 ACAC girls basketball tournament

Jay County’s Renna Schwieterman shoots a free throw during a January 2 game against Heritage.

This week, we get to one of the most anticipated in season events since long before Bounce existed. The ACAC Tournament is always fun every year. Who is the team to beat this season?

SCHEDULE

Tuesday

Heritage at Adams Central, 8 p.m.

Southern Wells at South Adams, 8 p.m.

Woodlan at Bluffton, 8 p.m.

FRIDAY

Jay County vs. Woodlan/Bluffton winner at Bluffton, 8 p.m.

Southern Wells/South Adams winner vs. Heritage/Adams Central winner at Adams Central, 8 p.m.

SATURDAY

Finals at South Adams, 7 p.m.

THE FAVORITE

JAY COUNTY (12-3)

At 4-0 in the ACAC at this point, the favorite is a no-brainer. The Patriots are paced by sophomore Renna Schwieterman, who averages 15.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per contest.

A reasonably youthful squad, Coach Kirk Comer has seen his group mature over the course of the season with his top four leading scorers all underclassmen.

The draw is favorable with Jay County receiving the first-round bye, making the quest for a second ACAC Tournament championship in three years all the more probable.

THE CONTENDER

Adams Central (9-7)

The Flying Jets took to the road in mid-December and pushed Jay County to the brink, eventually falling in Portland by five.

Considering the two teams will likely match up again in the semifinals of the ACAC Tournament, Adams Central is the team with the best chance at knocking off the favorite, particularly with a veteran roster.

The Flying Jets have three players who average in double digits – seniors McKenna Dietsch (12.2 ppg) and Sage Hammond (10.6 ppg) and junior Alivia Dalrymple (10.4 ppg). This is a veteran squad that, similar to Jay County, is really stingy on the defensive end.

While Jay County has youthful talent, could the experience of Adams Central prove to be the difference?

THE OTHERS

Woodlan (6-8)

With wins over both Bluffton and Adams Central already this season and a favorable draw in the ACAC Tournament, it may very well be the Warriors sitting in the championship game come next Saturday.

Sophomore Avah Smith has been exceptional, averaging close to a double-double on the year with Woodlan fresh off a 10-point win at Bluffton last weekend. A rematch is on tap to begin the ACAC Tournament, with a win over Southern Wells or South Adams all that stands between Coach Gary Cobb’s squad and the final.

Bluffton (8-7)

No ACAC team is allowing less points per game than Bluffton. With a defensive scoring average just over 35 points per game, the Tigers are not an easy team to dismiss because they make every possession count. That type of approach can lead to opponents playing uptight and nervous. Jay County handled Bluffton by 17 but was held below 50 points, while Adams Central amassed just 39 points against Coach Eric Mounsey’s team.

The margin for error on offense is quite slim when facing Bluffton.

Heritage (9-8)

The Patriots have dropped three straight entering the ACAC Tournament, including losses to both Jay County and Adams Central.

Yet Heritage gets a shot at revenge out of the game as the Flying Jets will be the first-round opponent.

While there is potential here that the Patriots could be a sneaky pick to get to the finals, the road is difficult for a squad made up largely of underclassmen, with Adams Central and Jay County lined up as the first two foes.

South Adams (5-8)

Macy and Peyton Pries give Starfire fans plenty to be excited about for the future, with one being a freshman and the other a sophomore. In a year or two, South Adams could very well be in the conversation as a favorite in this tournament.

However, that will have to wait, as this team in its current iteration just is not equipped to knock off the best in the league quite yet. The Starfires should advance to the second round, but going any further will be difficult.

Southern Wells (3-12)

The Raiders have just a single win in the area, coming against Canterbury in early December. While Southern Wells did give Heritage a scare earlier in the year, it also scored just 18 points in a loss to Bluffton and was handled by 35 at Adams Central.

A date with South Adams, a team that beat the Raiders by 14 last weekend, isn’t a good matchup to begin the tournament.

BREAKOUT PLAYER POTENTIAL

Renna Schwieterman, Jay County: There may be no more streaky shooter in the ACAC than the sophomore Schwieterman, who can be as cold as they come from range or be quite deadly.

In a tournament in which games will be frequently in the 40s and 50s, Schwieterman can make a difference with her outside shooting, as well as her ability to cut and drive to the hoop. If she can get hot from the perimeter, the Patriots will be tough to stop.

Sage Hammond, Adams Central: The senior has finished in double digits in three of the last four games and is gritty and physical around the basket. She does the majority of her damage close to the basket and is a force on the boards.

With Hammond, getting the best of the Flying Jets on the inside is difficult. If opponents’ shots are off, Hammond’s ability to corral rebounds, as well as force misses due to altering shots, could be a deciding factor.

Emme Boots, Bluffton: In her last go-around in this tournament, the senior has a chance to leave her mark by potentially guiding Bluffton to its first ACAC Tournament title this century.

Boots scored 16 points against Jay County in the teams’ recent matchup and a senior with a lot of experience could prove to be decisive with many teams in this league dominated by youngsters.

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