So, Homestead…let’s say you and I start over?
Bounce has been on the Spartans bandwagon from the beginning of this season. Yes, the weekly power poll has had Blackhawk Christian ahead of Homestead for the last several weeks, but the respect was still there.
But in watching the Spartans’ 72-60 victory over the Braves on Tuesday evening to stay undefeated at 13-0, this frank frog needs to be honest, both with himself and with you fine people.
Bounce has underestimated the Homestead Spartans – not just in northeast Indiana, but in the state.
Yes, it was the usual suspects making noise for Coach Chris Johnson’s team against Class 2A No. 1 Blackhawk Christian. Luke Goode was as advertised, dropping 22 points while showing the questions around his physicality are in the past while battling Caleb Furst in the post for most of the night. Grant Simmons shined again as that offensive afterthought, the guy that gets the good looks despite his dangerous shooting prowess due to the attention on Goode and Fletcher Loyer.
Oh yeah, Loyer. He struggled for the better part of three quarters on Tuesday, missing both from long-range and bunnies close to the hoop. That changed in the fourth, with a trio of threes putting the game out of reach of the Braves. The junior Purdue commit finished with 23 points.
Prior to the season, Bounce knew that Homestead would be good, but questioned just how they would match up with the best in 4A. A popular scenario around the pond was that the Spartans could win 20 games in the regular season, yet we still wouldn’t be sure just how good they were until Regional Saturday.
But Bounce has seen enough to change his tune. The physicality is there to win battles around the bucket, an open question discussed by many- even Coach Johnson – prior to the year. But this team can bang. Goode actually has something Bounce hasn’t seen in three years – actual muscle tone on him. He no longer shies away from contact. Same goes for junior Andrew Leeper and Simmons, both of whom found themselves opposite Furst at times.
Perhaps most important of all with this group, they genuinely like each other and playing with one another. It is an old cliché that teams win because of chemistry…or vice versa. Frankly, it is an argument as old as the chicken and the egg. But with these Spartans, coaching is made easy that there are no egos. Even with a pair of Division I commits on the team, everyone shares the limelight.
“It is a great win over an opponent we know well, but the best thing is that everyone contributed – guys like Simmons and Leeper and Harmon – all of us,” said Goode following Tuesday’s victory.
A lot of coaches say their teams get along, and even more fans think it is the case. But there is something rare about a team with this much talent not allowing individual goals get in the way. Ask Coach Johnson, who will quickly tell you this may be the most close-knit squad he has ever coached.
The mix of talent and chemistry will be needed come March. While Homestead has convinced Bounce that it is indeed a good enough team to be a state title contender, the road is shaping up to be tough. That brutal 4A regional is currently projected to see three of the top four teams in the current Class 4A AP Poll feed into it – the Spartans as well as fellow undefeateds Carmel and Lafayette Jeff. Suffice to say – that will be a fun Saturday.
So apologies, Homestead. You have proven to deserve more praise than even Bounce has bestowed upon you.
Oh, and Blackhawk Christian? You will be just fine too.
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