Bounce and one of his closest confidants had a discussion prior to Friday night’s Homestead at Carroll rivalry game.
The final say in that conversation came down to a simple agreement: if the Spartans were to lose to the Chargers, it was of both of our beliefs that they would win the state title in April.
Bold? Sure. But aren’t most regular season state final predictions?
Homestead has dodged a whole bevy of losses this year. Carmel, Hamilton Southeastern, Lawrence North and now, Carroll. It has played with fire and come out stronger on the other side.
The Spartans’ 22-0 mark is beyond remarkable and there should be heaps of praise thrust upon this squad, the players, the coaches and program. It is something that teams just don’t do; not just in the SAC, not just in our area, not just in the state of Indiana. A 22-0 regular season is virtually impossible.
But to win a state title is just as hard. Harder? Well I guess that isn’t for me to say, but it is incredibly hard. It would help to go into the postseason with a renewed fire in your belly, even as a 22-0 team.
Here is a reality about high school basketball: sometimes you can’t get that fire lit without being beaten or being broken. That isn’t to say that the Spartans are content after their 55-50 win over Carroll on Friday. In fact, if you know the workhorses they are in the gym on their off days or if you’ve ever had a conversation with Luke Goode, you have to know that there is no such thing as “good enough” and no job is every truly finished.
Homestead was tested by Carroll after having a comfortable early lead. Jalen Jackson, Cody Burkey and company made it incredibly difficult for the Spartans. They kept the game at their own pace and made Homestead play with them, cruising and low scoring. Carroll even led at halftime and that isn’t a hole that Homestead is all together used to either.
So was it enough? Was there enough fear on Friday that a perfect season and a SAC title could slip away that Homestead’s focus has been forced into a impenetrable stare? That is the question that we have a full week and then some to consider.
Homestead is done with the regular season while others will play on next week. A loss, as I’ve said, would have made me supremely confident that the Spartans were going to win a Class 4A state title. That confidence doesn’t go away, they are one of the top teams in the country for a reason. But I just keep asking myself, and now I am asking you, was Friday enough?
There were plenty of things to be impressed about on both ends of the floor on Friday. Carroll was playing for a lot of things. Sure, it’s Homestead, the rival, and in those games all bets are off. And the Chargers have worked so hard for the SAC title that slipped through their fingers in defeat. But they also built up a blueprint on how to try to beat Homestead should the two teams get to meet again in the regional round. Could they play spoiler then? The Chargers played awfully well against the state’s top team without Ryan Preston, one of their own top players, in the lineup.
On the other side, Fletcher Loyer lead Homestead on Friday with 23 points, going 15 of 16 from the free throw line. Goode added 20 points while Grant Simmons was limited to just five and Andrew Leeper was held scoreless. It gives another perspective of how Homestead can win any game, any time, under any circumstance and that bodes very well for the near future.
Anybody who has seen Homestead or even cares about area basketball has to be excited about the possibilities that lay ahead, starting with Sunday’s sectional draw. This team is as good as and certainly as dominant, or more so, than any team we’ve seen in the area in the past 10 seasons, including the Spartan team that won a state title in 2015.
But it does get harder from here. In the past 10 years, just one boys basketball team has gone undefeated to win the state title; Warren Central in 2018. Furthermore, just four Class 4A teams have done so since the inception of class basketball and just 13 teams have ever done it, none from our area.
This Homestead team is easily one that could rewrite that history behind its two Division I prospects, its future Hall of Fame coach and a roster full of capable guys that can fill roles.
So do the Spartans have the fire? You be the judge. Let’s see how it all plays out.
These opinions represent those of Bounce and Outside the Huddle. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. Follow Bounce on Twitter at Bounce_OTH