Class 3A State Finals Primer: Leo versus Silver Creek

STORYLINES

ZERO PRACTICE TIME

It is an eye opening experience to step onto a NBA court under those bright lights. It can wow almost anyone, even if you have been there before. And here are two striking differences between these two teams: Silver Creek has been there before and Leo has not.

Usually, that playing field can be evened by the simple fact that the teams get a practice in on the floor at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. In 2021 though, things aren’t the usual and there has been and will be no practice in Indianapolis to prepare for this game. Replicating the feeling of this arena on your own home high school court is impossible because of the size and the shooting background. The first time either of these squads will step onto this floor is to warm up after the Class 2A game has finished. How big of a deal this is depends on how big you let it be as a team.

KAUFMAN-RENN’S MR. BASKETBALL RESUME

There has been a lot of talk about the 2021 Mr. Basketball race and add us in to those who are stumped.

Is it between Trey Kaufman-Renn and Blackhawk Christian’s Caleb Furst as many project it to be? They have incredibly similar stat lines. They are going to the same [in state] college with commitments to Purdue. They both won state titles as sophomores, were favorites as juniors and return to their state games as seniors. So Kaufman-Renn is going to want to have a big game to separate himself in the argument.

This day is all about a team title, but a resume builder will be big for Kaufman-Renn as well. Expect him to work hard to build on his already tremendous career.

THE LEO DEFENSE

Before two weeks ago, Leo’s offense was what people looked at. The inside duo of Zack Troyer and DJ Allen as well as the high motor of Blake Davison is what pushed this team. That is different now because of the second half of their semi state win over South Bend St. Joe.

Yes, they stopped the Indians’ top player but their defense was incredibly efficient throughout the second half. Stopping one player wasn’t going to get them back into a game they trailed by 16. How everyone on the court stepped up in their own role reopened eyes of what Leo’s defense has been doing and been capable of all season. It also had to make the opposing team this weekend rethink some things about the Lions. Their entire starting lineup is very capable defensively and the guys they bring off the bench have incredible energy too.

SOMEONE ELSE’S MOMENTUM

This was also listed going into the semi state round but it is true. While the fan bases likely won’t be sticking around to support each other, having another local team playing before Leo in the state finals is big for them.

The Lions got to sit in and watch Blackhawk Christian win a semi state title in Elkhart on March 20 before they took the court themselves. There is a certain energy drawn from a potential win before you by a team you know and a team you’ve played. And then there is the celebration. If Blackhawk Christian does get the win in the Class 2A game, Leo is going to want that same energy.

On State Saturday, you take any kind of momentum you can get. This does matter.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

BLAKE DAVISON, LEO

This was a no brainer even before the semi state round. Averaging a team best 16.8 point per game, the Lions are led by Davison’s hard charging mentality. Why is he one who is more “to watch” this weekend than others? Because at the end of that semi state game, he didn’t just win the game in the closing seconds. He did that, yes, but Davison just flipped a switch down the stretch. Despite struggling to find his shot all game, he came down in the closing minute with zero worry to put up a three in transition that gave Leo a late lead. Davison is just here to win and his ability to flip that switch is astonishing.

TREY KAUFMAN-RENN, SILVER CREEK

As mentioned above, Kaufman-Renn is one of the Mr. Basketball frontrunners. He is an incredibly dangerous post at this level with some range in his game. Kaufman-Renn is averaging 25 points and 11.9 rebounds per game while hitting 66 percent of his two point shots. Silver Creek is going to attack with Kaufman-Renn often and dare Leo to find a way to slow him down. That is hard to do and even when he is sent to the free throw line, Kaufmnn-Renn has hit 68 percent of his 179 free throw attempts this season. Kaufman-Renn has hit 25 more free throws than anyone on Leo’s team.

Leo’s Blake Davison during March 20’s Class 3A semi state game played in Elkhart.

DJ ALLEN, LEO

Size became a big factor in the second half of Leo’s semi state win and it will be a factor from the get go against Silver Creek. Allen’s size combined with his athleticism could play a crucial role in the state finals game. Allen is averaging 13 points and 7.7 rebounds per contest. His second chance giving ability with offensive rebounding is one of the most important attributes of any player on the Lions roster.

KOOPER JACOBI, SILVER CREEK

On literally any other team, Jacobi would be the best player on the floor. He proved that in Kaufmann-Renn’s injury absence earlier in the season. Averaging 21.4 points and 11.2 rebounds per game, Jacobi is a high level player who steps up every time he has been called upon. The 6-foot-7 senior Toledo commit is ready and willing to shoot the ball a lot and has only scored in single digits once this season. He scored a season best 44 points in the opening game of the season and then scored 33 a few weeks later against Blackhawk Christian.

KEYS TO VICTORY FOR LEO

DON’T BE AFRAID TO MAKE CHANGES

One of the things that has propelled Leo throughout this season and did so again in the semi state round was not being afraid to shake things up. Need a sub to alter some stagnant play? Coach Cary Cogdell doesn’t mind going to Carson Hart, Eric Steger and/or Brody Hiteshew to shake things up. In the semi state round, although Ayden Ruble’s defense was solid, South Bend St. Joe’s JR Konieczny still was getting the job done so a switch to Xavier Middleton’s defense on him swung things Leo’s way.

This is the biggest stage of them all, don’t rest on your laurels now. If there is a change that can help for a quarter, for a half, or just for a couple of minutes, make it.

REBOUND THE BASKETBALL

Another of the flaws in Leo’s first half during the semi state round was their lack of success rebounding and boxing out South Bend St. Joe players. It doesn’t get any easier this week with Silver Creek averaging 34 rebounds per game to Leo’s 33.4 rebounds per contest. Kaufmann-Renn, Jacobi, Brandon Northern and Isaac Hinton are all feisty rebounders so Leo will have to gang rebound themselves beyond the usual suspects of Troyer and Allen.

While Leo’s second half emergence on the boards two weeks ago was big in the win, they don’t want to wait that long this time.

KEY TO VICTORY FOR SILVER CREEK

AVOID GETTING FLUSTERED

Hey, ask South Bend St. Joe how that went. Leo pushed them against the ropes, bodied them and the Indians shrank in the moment. The Lions are going to throw everything but the kitchen sink at you and they may do that too if Cary Cogdell can find one. Silver Creek is the heavy favorite in this game but they have to be like rubber and let all those shots bounce off of them. If you are Silver Creek, you have to worry about what Silver Creek can do and not what Leo does. The Lions are very good at getting other teams flustered, we’ve seen it all year.

BOUNCE’S PREDICTION

There are very defined paths to victory for Silver Creek, the [technically] defending Class 3A state champions. Those paths are a little rougher, a little more wooded for the Lions.

Everyone outside of Leo and Grabill is going to project this one in favor of the Dragons and if you’ve read above, there are some pretty good reasons for that outlined. That said, it doesn’t mean there are not paths for Leo to get there. They are going to have to shoot the ball extremely well and play the most complete 32 minutes of the season but there are some paths.

If Silver Creek does what it has all season though, that path narrows significantly. This is Dragons team that has not lost since January 30 and avenged their only Class 3A loss with a win over North Harrison in the Sectional round. There hasn’t been a lot of breathing room in their last five games but they’ve gotten it done twice by double figures in that time.

Hey, we all know what’s up. Outside the Huddle is a Northeast Indiana website; we want Leo to win this game. I projected them to lose in the semi state round and was very glad I was wrong. Hope I’m wrong this time too.

SILVER CREEK 67, LEO 57

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