BOUNCE: What you need to take away from the Boys hoops week January 11-16

Homestead’s Luke Goode drives against Blackhawk Christian’s Zane Burke during January 12’s game. (Photo by Grant Gishoeski)


• It shouldn’t be too surprising this coming Tuesday when Homestead takes back over the top spot in the OTH Power Poll. The Spartans were in control much of the late play in a 72-60 win on Tuesday over Blackhawk Christian. It firmly establishes the Spartans as the best team in Northeast Indiana and arguably as a one of the very best in the state.

A lot of pointing has been done at Blackhawk Christian’s 0-for-17 shooting from three point range as the primary cause of the loss but its fair then too for Homestead to get some credit. They defended the long range shot well when they needed and hedged their bets when they didn’t. It was an all around effort from the Spartans.

And what can you do when Fletcher Loyer ball fakes you so hard and steps back into a three? Haven’t seen that play from Tuesday? Look it up. Loyer ended up with 23 points while Luke Goode added 22. Caleb Furst had 27 points to lead the game and the Braves,

The Spartans closed up the SAC a bit on Friday by beating Snider and, for the time, taking the Panthers out of the final equation in the conference. Loyer ended up with 30 points while all of Homestead’s “big four” went for double figures scoring with Goode adding 20, Andrew Leeper scoring 17 and Grant Simmons adding 11 points.

Don’t ever bet against Homestead coach Chris Johnson. With their win over Snider, Homestead is 14-0 and have their second best start in program history behind 2011-2012’s 19-0 start.

Carroll didn’t get through their heavy week cleanly, but there was a lot of good mixed in.

Tuesday’s dominant 72-37 win over DeKalb isn’t anything to scoff at. The Barons have played well this year and have some quality wins of their own. They are smart defenders, long and intelligent. And Carroll rolled right through them.

You’ll take Ryan Preston‘s 20 point and Jalen Jackson‘s 19 but there had to be a lot of happiness around Zach Castator‘s 13 point outing. Castator really stepped up around this time last season and the Chargers had to be looking forward to using his boost heading down the stretch of the SAC and into an interesting Sectional. Unfortunately, Castator suffered a season ending injury in Saturday’s game against New Haven. Carroll shot 66.7 percent from two point range against DeKalb.

They also have to be happy with Friday’s win after being taken to their limits against defending conference champion Bishop Luers. The Knights are full of fight for sure and pushed Carroll to overtime before the Chargers took control in at the 64-53 win. Jackson scored 23 this time to lead them, Preston added 17 and Sam Strycker has a tremendous 19 point outing, further bolstering an interior presence that Carroll doesn’t get enough credit for.

The Chargers outscored Luers 13-2 in overtime.

Carroll dropped a tough one on Saturday after leading going into the fourth quarter but in a learning and building week for Carroll, there are plenty of things to take out of the loss to New Haven as well. Cody Burkey had a team high 12 points and Castator scored 11 before his injury. That is a lot of different names stepping up this week for the Chargers, yet again.

Snider’s Elijah Brown attacks the basket against the defense of Homestead’s Andrew Leeper during a January 15 game. (Photo by Leverage Photography)


• For the first time in seven years, Leo has toppled rival New Haven and the Northeast 8 is closer to being in their hands after a stellar 10-0 start.

It was an efficient night on Friday for Leo and when the Lions get going at a high rate inside, they are tough to control. The Lions hit 58 percent from the field DJ Allen shooting 9-of-12 and Zack Troyer hitting 7-of-10 shots. It further’s the debate: how does one….or two, or three….stop this duo on the interior. Leo out rebounded New Haven by 11 and had a 73 percent defensive rebound percentage, stopping the Bulldogs from many second shot opportunities, which is an area they thrive consistently.

And Blake Davison, he was on another level again. He didn’t have to lead Leo in scoring, although 17 points wasn’t too shabby, but he does everything for the Lions. Each and every intangible thing that happens probably has Davison’s finger print on it and that has been the case in each of their 10 wins. Davison finished Friday night with 17 points, seven assists, five steals and five rebounds.

The last time that Leo won 10 straight games to start the season was 2014-2015 when they ended up 21-3. The Lions, right now, are one of the best teams in Class 3A. Their chance at a run in the postseason becomes more and more intriguing.

Don’t fret for New Haven for too long, Jakar Williams still posted 19 points in the loss and they bounced back on Saturday with a big win over Carroll behind Thomas Latham‘s 15 point/13 rebound double double.

• It hasn’t been an easy go for Huntington North this season. Sounds silly about a one loss team, right? Well multiple stints in quarantine have not helped the Vikings gather much in the way of footing.

But when the Vikings have played, just six times this season, they have been nearly flawless. Their only loss came at the hands of Homestead in the season opener. Even then, Huntington North gave the Spartans one of the best games the top team in the area has seen this year.

Huntington North’s fight extended into a heavy back game this week where they upended North Side for their fifth straight win. Previewing this game kind of shows you everything you need to know about the Vikings. One side was flashy, one side was patient. One side was aggressive, one side was relaxed in their approach. So Huntington North just chipped away at North Side’s defense, actually outscoring or tying the Legends in each and every quarter.

When the three point shot wasn’t there, the Vikings didn’t settle and just shot six shots from long range while instead attacking the basket and getting to the foul line 31 times. It was a smart, patient approach as they shot 58.8 percent from two point range, including 83.3 percent in the first half. North Side, meanwhile, shot 33 three pointers. The Vikings had five guys in double figure scoring, led by Dominic Cardwell‘s 14 points, including a perfect 8-of-8 from the free throw line. And in one of the most efficient performances you will see, Cam McCarver scored 11 points and had nine rebounds for the Vikings in eight minute and 17 seconds of play time.

Huntington North is one of the more intriguing teams in the area as we head into the stretch run of the season.

South Adams boys, 2021 ACAC Tournament champions (South Adams Athletics Twitter)


For the first time since 1993, South Adams are the boys ACAC Tournament champions. The third title in program history came Saturday afternoon on their own home court in a 66-41 win over Bluffton.

You can’t hate how the Starfires have recovered from a lot of early struggles. The team got a late start due to the football team’s run to the state title game and then they played chunks of time without one or both of James Arnold and Aidan Wanner. Those two each scored 18 points Saturday in the championship win with Arnold claiming tournament MVP honors.

It is easy to see how valuable both of them are to this lineup, even as other players have stepped up both in their absence and with the team whole. South Adams was Bounce’s preseason favorite in the ACAC and even if they didn’t go into the tournament as my top squad, could fortune roll back their way in the regular season now? They need some help to claim all or part of a regular season title, but momentum is something they have now with the majority of their conference schedule left.

Trey Schoch led the Starfires in the tournament opener on Tuesday with 24 points in a win over Southern Wells while Arnold added 17 points and nine rebounds. Arnold had 27 points and 11 rebounds on Friday in the semi final win over Adams Central.

Fortune certainly favored Bluffton in their hopes to capture the ACAC Tournament title. In their first round meeting with Woodlan on Tuesday, the Tigers trailed by 13 going into the fourth quarter but rallied back to get the win on a Hayden Nern buzzer beater. If that magic wasn’t good enough, the withdrawal of Jay County from the tournament sent the Tigers straight to Saturday’s final. Not a bad shot boosting the Tigers by Nern.

This was the 98th ACAC boys basketball tournament.

Central Noble boys, 2021 NECC Tournament champions (Central Noble Athletics Twitter)


There wasn’t much of a question about Connor Essegian being the best player in the NECC was there? If there was, even if it was a minuscule inkling about it…forget it.

Essegian is the top player in the conference point blank, period. No knocks on others, Bounce isn’t in that business. But in the toughest moments this week, he shined. Not once, but four difference times as the Cougars won their second straight NECC Tournament title. It started on Tuesday with a 19 point outing in the win over Lakeland with 17 of those points coming in the second half alone.

His 44 points on Wednesday against Churubusco gets a standalone paragraph because it stands alone in this tournament. He was untouchable in scoring a career high and setting school best mark against Churubusco. Any game, this is a remarkable outing, but against rival Churubusco it is dynamite. This was the marquee game for this tournament in my opinion and Essegian took any doubt about the outcome out of the equation. The 44 points broke Kirk Hanaway‘s 1974 mark for most points in a game in school and program history.

Essegian scored 15 on Friday in leading his team to beating Westview despite going through a large chunk of the second half without scoring. In Saturday’s final, he again led all scorers with 23 points as the Cougars cashed in on a NECC Tournament title repeat.

Angola deserves plenty of credit for making it to the finals opposite Central Noble. Sure, the top three teams in the NECC were on the opposite side of the bracket, but there aren’t many easy games on a NECC schedule. So by giving Angola their first year with both boys and girls teams in the finals isn’t anything to turn your nose up at. And while I don’t have all the facts, one would have to assume that coach Brandon Appleton is probably the first coach in NECC Tournament history to go to the finals one year on the girls side and the next on the boys side.

In getting to their first final since 2017, Angola beat West Noble on Friday with Brian Parrish and Joel Knox each scoring 20 points.


Angola’s Brian Parrish shoots a three pointer over the outstretched hand of Central Noble’s Ryan Schroeder during January 16’s NECC Tournament final. (Photo by Steve Bowen/Bowen Arrow Photography)


Caleb Wright is making more waves for the Benton Bucks. On Saturday, the Bucks moved to 12-1 in conference play behind 41 points from Wright. He broke his own program record by making 11 three pointers in the win….A midseason change to Lakewood Park‘s roster: leading scorer Caedmon Bontrager has made the move to the prep school level and has joined Fort Wayne based Elevation Prep, the team headlined locally by Michael Eley….Bishop Luers freshman Issac Zay continues to make waves, he scored a career high 21 points Saturday in a loss to Blackhawk Christian.


Remember to vote in this week’s polls. Not only can you vote for the best single game performance of the week, there are two separate polls for the NECC and ACAC Tournaments as well. That is three different boys hoops FAN CHOICE votes this week.

Who had the best single game performance of the week on the boys side?

Who was the best overall performer of the boys ACAC Tournament?

Who was the best overall performer of the boys NECC Tournament?

Churubusco’s Jackson Paul drives to the basket against Central Noble during a January 13 game in the NECC Tournament.

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