• Ayanna Patterson and Homestead are far from a beaten team. I don’t know that they needed to prove that point in the final week of the regular season, but they sure did. And it answered any question about whether Homestead, down this season only by Homestead standards, was still in charge of their rivalry with South Side. Bring on Sectional play.
The Spartans and rival South Side went at it on Thursday and it was known, without Olivia Smith, in the lineup that the Archers had an uphill climb in front of them in ways. What no team could prepare for was Patterson putting out a career night. The junior was electric, the kind of game she’s long been capable of as she put up a program record 43 points in the 96-51 win. Her game was virtually unstoppable from tip to finish as she had 22 points at the halftime break. The mark breaks former Indiana Miss Basketball Karissa McLaughlin‘s previous school record of 40 points. It is the kind of marquee game that really celebrates the player Patterson has developed into despite high praise since the beginning of her career.
The rest of the team rallied behind her too against their rival. Both Amber Austin and Molly Stock posted season highs as Homestead shot 45 percent from the field versus South Side’s 29 percent. Homestead also hit 12 three pointers.
96 points is Homestead’s highest total since hitting 100 in a 2017 win over North Side. On Thursday, South Side opted to hold the ball the final minute to make sure the Spartans didn’t hit the century mark again. Homestead had only ever hit 100 points on two occasions, the 2017 game and a 2015 SAC Holiday Tournament win over South Side at the beginning of this rivalry.
Homestead’s win over Northrop on Friday night locked up their 12th straight regular season with 16 or more wins. Patterson scored 22 in the win over the Bruins and Alison Stephens added 14 points.
• Wayne girls won their seventh game on Tuesday night with a monster comeback against Lakewood Park. The Generals filled it up from deep in the fourth, hitting five triples to beat the Panthers despite another big output from Chloe Jolloff.
Two years ago when Lacia Gorman took over this program, seven wins seemed like a monumental pipe dream. The Generals won seven total games in the previous three seasons combined leading into this season. Bounce doesn’t mean to sound like a broken record about the Generals because this is far from the first time I’ve spent a Sunday talking about them, but I am very impressed. The core is great and the coach is actually developing a program. It’s nice to see.
Sydney Gorman scored 17 points and Aliyah Holbrook added for Wayne. The Generals were led by a monster double double game of 17 points and 16 rebounds from Shabrea O’Quinn.
• Somehow, Friday night’s game between North Side and Concordia Lutheran became the hottest boys basketball ticket in the SAC in my opinion. Not bad for two teams who were and are probably just fighting for a top 5 finish in the conference. But considering that a year ago, North Side finished last in the SAC and Concordia was projected by many in that spot at the end of this season, this week was a big one for the two programs.
It didn’t disappoint either as they traded blows early and Concordia made a solid, but short, comeback at the end of the game. The Cadets’ first seven made field goals of the game were three pointers but North Side used a 20-0 run at the end of the first to rally ahead. Concordia trailed by as many as 14 points in the third and were able to get as close as one point in the fourth. Brauntae Johnson has 21 for North in the 73-62 win; Luke Speckhard managed 17 for the Cadets.
But they both came out swinging to start this week and reawakened the argument of the SAC versus other area conferences. When these two mid-level SAC teams take out two of the top NE8 teams, it makes the argument flow in the favor of the city’s conference.
North Side struck first on Monday, overcoming what was a 16 point second half deficit to hand visiting Leo their first loss of the season. Johnson kept his compelling ‘best freshman in the area’ season rolling and Ryan Collins asserted why he is one of the SAC’s top shooters by hitting four straight triples to motor the comeback. It is the marquee win in coach Gary Andrews‘ career at North Side and in the playing careers of many players on his still young team.
Concordia made an impact on Tuesday beating New Haven, just four days after upsetting Snider. The Cadets shot the ball well, played poised and made their attempts count led by Sam Aumick‘s 20 points. Freshman Ajani Washington continues to shine and although he only scored nine points in the win over New Haven, he is asserting himself more and more into games. Watch for him to keep making an impact.
• Snider is right there, right on the cusp. The Panthers, who sit at 7-7, have now lost five games by a single possession, including three of their last four. It must feel good for the Snider boys to be in that position, but man you’d like to snag one of those wins along the way.
This week was always going to be hard for the Panthers, kicking off Tuesday in a trip to Churubusco. As has been the story with Snider often, they played well and they played good enough to win. They just didn’t. They were able to put those little errors behind them a night later by dispatching coach Jeremy Rauch‘s former team when DeKalb visited. They continued to show their growth on Tuesday; that they have a challenging zone that isn’t littered with openings for shooters. While the Panthers hit 12 threes of their own, they limited a sometimes hot shooting DeKalb to just four triples. Jade Moore his six of his own from deep and looked smooth in the process.
Friday got hard again. The Panthers played like the better team for the vast majority of their SAC battle with sometimes rival Carroll. Again, the Panthers were hot and hit 14 three pointers, building a double digit lead against the unbeaten in conference foe. Snider had Carroll on the ropes before Jalen Jackson happened. The junior’s game had no answer inside, finding a wide variety of ways to score from eight feet in including a basket off a timeout with one second to go that ended up being the game winner. It says something about Carroll’s play calling and execution: you know they want to score at the rim and there was no denying Jackson at that point.
Jackson finished with 35 points to help erase a 12 point half time deficit, hitting 15 of 22 shots from the field and adding eight rebounds. Cody Burkey‘s three point shooting was also nice in Carroll’s comeback after a first half where he wasn’t hitting well and got into a bit of early foul trouble.
While Carroll stayed unbeaten in the SAC, Snider goes back to the drawing board. How do you chip away at this aura that you can’t win close games in the final minute? It’ll happen as they mature. But me, I look on the bright side. This young team is constantly in the game. I’d much rather be there than on the other end of a lopsided loss.
• Speaking again of teams who are below .500 that I can’t stop talking about this season, New Haven‘s girls hit eight wins on Wednesday night to almost equal their win total form the last three seasons combined (9). But unlike Wayne’s girls, this Bulldogs program has not had this level of success in a long time.
Go back to 2010-2011 since New Haven last won eight games and they’ve only won more than eight games once in the past 20 seasons. I don’t expect New Haven to start trending backwards now. Like at Wayne, there has been a change in confidence and expectation in this program.
Avarcia Nard scored a career high 33 points in Wednesday’s victory and the Bulldogs are getting a lot of help from a lot of places. They are in the same Sectional as Wayne and it is not an easy one, but even if they don’t get their first postseason win in 16 seasons, New Haven as a whole has to be thrilled with how things are going. This is a team who has had little luck in previous seasons and although they are just below .500, they are only losing by an average of around three points per game.
The Bulldogs are right in it nightly and really should take a mental win out of Friday’s 55-47 loss to Columbia City where Nard added a 23 point/10 rebound double double.
• Need a statement made? Consider Jay County‘s made.
The knock, if there is one, on the Patriots had been the lack of a signature win against a top area team from another conference. Dominating the ACAC is one thing, but against the likes of Concordia or South Side, they fell short even with quality performances. Monday’s performance against Norwell wasn’t just quality, it was great.
The Patriots raced out to a 37-19 lead at halftime by scoring the first 23 points of the second quarter. Not just anyone can make runs like that against the Knights. In fact, just Carroll and Garrett have really come close. Yes, Norwell struggled shooting the ball in the first half, but Jay County exploited that with great 46 percent shooting and Renna Schwieterman continued her torrid pace with 17 first half points; she finished with a game high 37 points to go along with nine rebounds.
More impressive than the first half was staving off Norwell runs in the second half. The Knights opened the third on a 9-2 run and after three the lead was just nine. Norwell got it as close as three but an Izzy Rodgers basket sparked an 11-5 run with around three minutes to play. Norwell closed the gap again to two, but never got closer as Schwieterman was unconscious from the free throw line, hitting all 17 of her free throws to close out the 69-65 win.
Is a regional rematch in the not so distant future?
• Eastside put their best foot forward to create conference chaos on the boys side Friday night. And they came oh so close to being the first NECC team to knock off Westview this season before the Warriors picked up a 65-60 win in double overtime.
The Blazers were always going to be dangerous in this conference and keeping things low scoring played into the favor of the Eastside, who took Westview to a second overtime tied at 46. Hugh Henderson found a huge open lane to the basket for his 16th and 17th points to open the second extra session but was immediately answered by Mason Yoder. Westview took their lead back from the free throw line when Brady Yoder took a trip to the line with 2:57 left for three shots; he hit every single one of them in front of the most capacity crowd Westview has been able to see this season.
And when it is loud in that gym, it is pretty hard to concentrate as the road team.
Westview’s defense was a difference late when Luke Miller intercepted a pass intended for Santino Brewer on a back cut under the basket. More Brady Yoder free throws extended the lead to five with 2:05 left in the second overtime, which felt huge for the Warriors with how the game had been going. It was a good look at the patience that Westview’s played with in the 2nd OT and why they remain the team in control of the NECC.
Mason Yoder finished with 24 points for the Warriors while Brady Yoder added 20.
• While Eastside didn’t open up the door for Central Noble or Churubusco to enter the conference title argument on Friday, these two rivals went toe to toe again in a game that was close for much of the game until the fight and will of Central Noble took over for another big win.
There were little wins for Busco all night long. Luke McClure was fantastic on Connor Essegian of Central Noble in the first half, holding him to just four points. The last time the two teams met in the NECC Tournament, Essegian had set a school record for scoring in a single game. It also struck me on Friday night that I don’t think there is anyone who has as smooth and pretty of a midrange shot than Jackson Paul and his pull up. It is about the most crisp thing you can see on a night that Busco is on the court and its also the most money shot outside of four feet in this area.
But Central Noble just got more consistent in the second half and Essegian’s three point shooting is also smooth. He hit a second half three out of transition with the quickest trigger we’ve seen this year and once the Cougars started flowing, there was no stopping them. And kudos to the Cougars, it was everybody getting involved, whether it was Essegian or Sawyer Yoder‘s shooting, Ryan Schroeder‘s scrappy rebounding, that Logan Gard alley-pop dunk that caused the crowd in Albion to roar or even Noah Christopher‘s hustle for a huge loose ball late that established a firm momentum. Essegian and Yoder combined to go 8-of-16 from three point range with matching 4-of-8 efforts.
Essegian ended with 20 points and 16 rebounds for the Cougars while Yoder added 18. Paul scored 23 points for Churubusco.
• The Garrett girls completed an undefeated run through the NECC regular season on Friday night in an evening full of historical moments.
The title that they had already clinched on Tuesday aside, Garrett gave coach Bob Lapadot his 150th career win on Friday by beating Lakeland 62-49. Lapadot is now 150-76 in ten seasons while Garrett has their most wins since 2013-14 when they went to the Regional round.
The game was also the 1,000th game for the girls program in the Bateman Gym. During that time, Garrett has gone 604-396 after the win over Lakeland. Bailey Kelham led the Railroaders with 20 points while Taylor Gerke added 15.
Last Saturday, Kaleb Keysor of the Benton Bucks joined the 1,000 point club against Grand Rapids….Eastside boys used a closing seconds putback for a quality NECC win over Fremont on Tuesday. Santino Brewer converted the second chance basket with 10 seconds to play for the 40-39 win….Kameron Colclasure of Fremont passed grad Tyler Rex for the program’s career steals record on Tuesday in a loss to Eastside….Nyles Knapke is in the Heritage record books again. On Friday night, he tied the program record with seven made three pointers. Knapke had just tied the record the first time on January 9….On Friday, Homestead boys’ top three scorers each had 20+ points for the first time this season led by Luke Goode‘s 25. Fletcher Loyer scored 24 and Grant Simmons had 20….Churubusco‘s Landen Jordan had his 10th and 11th double doubles this week including 31 points and 17 rebounds on Tuesday against Snider….Jaxson Gould played spoiler again on Saturday with another closing seconds winning shot for Warsaw. This time it was a leaner in the lane with 2.1 left to upend Elkhart. He finished with 23 points.
Central Noble girls played their longest game in school history on Monday in a three overtime loss to Bethany Christian. Meghan Kiebel led the way in the loss with 21 points in what was the first girls hoops 3OT team in the state this season….Bellmont girls hit 21 of 29 free throw attempts on Wednesday in a win over Angola. Lauren Blake and Sydney Keane led Bellmont’s balanced scoring with 13 each….Despite losing the Bellmont, Angola‘s Hanna Knoll scored 27 points on Wednesday to pass Fremont grad Tyler Jenkins as the third leading scorer in Steuben County history regardless of gender….Blackhawk Christian girls set a program record with their 16th regular season win on Thursday against Adams Central….Don’t forget about South Side‘s Olivia Smith. She returned from missing multiple games on Friday with a 27 point outburst against Bishop Dwenger….Carroll girls wrapped up a perfect run through the SAC on Saturday with a win over Wayne. It was a program record 21st win of the season.
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