HOMESTEAD SHATTERING RECORDS/RIMS
The Homestead Spartans keep breaking things.
Tuesday, they broke it all.
By hitting 20 wins in a victory over Wayne, the Spartans now have the longest winning streak and the best start in school history, which was extended later in the week to 21. Who had Homestead at 21-0 on their preseason bingo card?
While this is the seventh time in school history that the Spartans have won 21 games or more, it is crazy to think they’ve never hit 20-0 with all the talent they’ve had go through their program. They picked up the 85-34 win over Wayne even without Luke Goode in the lineup.
They also broke the rim. Well, specifically Andrew Leeper did. Was it years of wear and tear from a variety of powerful dunkers or was it just the power of Leeper? We’ll go with Leeper just for fun conversation. The brunt of Homestead attention has gone to their top three this season, but Leeper has been crucial for this group. He rebounds well, has shot well in spots and, as we saw Tuesday, gets to the rim with authority.
Homestead added to its big season on Friday, improving to 21-0 by doubling up Concordia behind Loyer’s 28 points with Leeper adding 17. Loyer became just the sixth Spartan to ever record 500 points in one season as he sits at 509 points. The Spartans face Carroll on Friday with the SAC title and a perfect regular season on the line.
RICHMOND’S BIG YEAR
Cole Richmond continues to make a case for the most improved boys basketball player in the area regardless of conference or class. Every night, win or lose, it seems like Richmond is right there at the forefront of it all with his scoring. He had 21 points and five rebounds on Monday in a loss to Leo and that is important. Players don’t just put up 20- point games on the Lions, whose zone defense is designed to slow down scorers and never give them much of a look at the rim from any level of the floor.
Richmond kind of threw that away. While Leo was able to slow and stop many of his teammates, Richmond still got his shot and still found his range. Some of the very best players in this area have failed to do so against the Lions. And despite his scouting report of being a lights out shooter, he did what he did against Leo while shooting just 1-of-2 from deep.
Richmond continued his ways on Friday night, though DeKalb fell short of a victory again. The Barons went three overtimes with Bellmont, where Richmond tallied 24 points and had five assists.
It has been a stellar senior season for Richmond, who has shown that he can be counted on in pretty much any role that has been shoveled his way, both as a DeKalb Baron and during the summer months. His ability to adapt and thrive is something that is genuinely fun to see happen.
All four major area conferences with outright champions with zero losses in conference? Hey, it could happen. In fact, we are one Westview win away from having four outright and undefeated in conference champions for the first time since 1996 when Bishop Dwenger won the SAC, Angola won the NECC, Woodlan won the ACAC and DeKalb won the then Northeast Hoosier Conference. How long ago was that really? Well nobody playing in any of these conferences today was alive yet.
• We told you that we’d get clarity in the ACAC on the boys side this week and here you have it. South Adams essentially took Jay County out of the conversation on Tuesday behind Aidan Wanner‘s 25 points, setting the Patriots up for a Friday game with first-place Heritage that could clear things up, possibly for good. Jay County was solid in the Tuesday loss and missed a game-tying triple at the buzzer. It was led by Ethan Dirksen‘s 20 points and a career-high 18 from Dusty Pearson.
On Friday, Heritage ended the conversation, holding off Jay County’s attempted late surges for a 50-44 win. That makes Heritage 6-0 in conference and outright champions. Heritage last had the title in 2017 as it shared it with Woodlan. Luke Saylor (12 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 steals) and Kiel Eldridge (12 points, 10 rebounds) led the way against Jay County in the title clinching performance.
• Leo has wrapped up a sole NE8 title on the boys side by beating Columbia City on Friday 69-52. It gives the Lions a perfect mark in the conference and senior Blake Davison was big with 28 points, four assists and a couple of blocks. As we talked about Homestead earlier in this column, it is important to note that Leo has less losses than any area team not named Homestead at this point.
The Lions are now 13-1 in the past two seasons in NE8 play and are the fifth-straight team to go perfect for an outright conference title. The only time in the young conference’s history it wasn’t won outright: 2016, its first season in existence, when four teams tied with a 5-2 record, including the Lions.
• Westview is inching closer to an outright NECC title after guaranteeing themselves at least a share of the crown Friday in a big win over Prairie Heights. Lyndon Miller scored a career high 19 points to get the Warriors the win. The Warriors have a couple of non conference opponents before February 23’s game with seventh place Fremont that could complete an undefeated NECC run if they get it. But for now, they at least know they will share the title no matter what with only Central Noble having the chance to catch them.
• The SAC, as mentioned above, comes down to Friday night’s game between Carroll and Homestead. No tiebreakers or convoluted formulas this season. The winner will move to 9-0 in conference and be outright champions. Snider was the league’s last outright, undefeated champion in 2017.
• The NLC isn’t considered an area conference by OTH, but they do have a very good area member. By beating Plymouth on Friday night, Warsaw has won a share of the NLC title for the 6th time in 7 years. It’s the first time that Warsaw has had both the football and boys basketball conference titles in their possession in the same school year.
WRAPPING UP REGIONALS
We will send two teams to the semi state girls basketball round this season after sending zero just a season ago. My congrats to Norwell and Carroll, the top two area teams pretty much this entire season.
They both go to semi state after getting a bit of a monkey off each of their backs on Saturday night. For Carroll, even with a win over Homestead already this season, the Spartans are always going to be that big challenge and Carroll got it on Saturday night after beating McCutcheon fairly smoothly in the morning game. Norwell had to get revenge on Benton Central after losing to them in last year’s Regional final. They will both play at LaPorte this Saturday with a chance to go to the state finals on the line.
When only two win, it means that six area teams saw their season close on Saturday.
In Class 4A, it was Homestead who has a lot to be happy about as they rebounded from a rough start to the season to win a sectional and come close to getting a regional crown. They will graduate some nice pieces but have a lot of their core back next season. Ayanna Patterson as an absolute beast in the title game with 33 points and Ali Stephens shot the lights out in the morning win over Noblesville with 20 points, hitting six of nine three pointers.
In Class 3A, both Angola and NECC cohort Lakeland are out after Saturday. Angola fell in the morning game to Norwell but put up one heck of a fight down the stretch of a game that at times could have looked out of reach. Angola legend – we can call her that now, right? – Hanna Knoll scored 19 in the loss and in the process became the highest scoring girls basketball player in Steuben County history as she finished her career with 1,526 points by passing former Fremont player Shae Rhonehouse. And what a career it was for Knoll, who’s 476 points this season ranks first in history of the county for a single season, boys or girls. Lakeland did win their morning game, running by Griffith with their stellar defense leading the charge. The Lakers then were very much in the title game for three quarters before South Bend Washington surged ahead for the win. It also wraps up the legendary career of Bailey Hartsough, who will go down as arguably the best athlete period in school history. Hartsough finished with 514 points on the season and scored 22 in the Regional final loss.
Class 2A saw Bluffton top a young and talented Fairfield in the semi final game before falling themselves in the championship to North Judson. With the top end of Bluffton established, it was actually Monroe Heller that stepped up to lead the way in the semi final win with 21 points while Emme Boots added 16. Bluffton trailed by nine going into the fourth quarter against Fairfield but pushed back to force overtime and then a second extra session. In that second overtime, Bluffton held the Falcons to just one point to earn the win.
In Class 1A, Blackhawk Christian fell 46-40 in the Regional morning game to Triton. No statistics were provided.
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