With his future head coach Matt Painter of Purdue in attendance, Homestead senior Fletcher Loyer did not disappoint, dropping 31 points in the Spartans’ 50-38 victory to open the season on Thanksgiving Eve at Huntington North.
The win was Homestead’s 24th consecutive regular-season triumph dating back to 2020 and was a good start to a campaign that has high expectations again for the Spartans.
But it only took one game to notice that this year’s team has a different makeup than a season ago. Yes, that is obvious when you lose an Indiana All-Star in Luke Goode along with some stellar complementary players. But while that team began the season with a litany of proven scorers, this is different.
Loyer leads the way, and brothers Andrew and Grant Leeper will be counted upon offensively, but Coach Chris Johnson’s team will need to develop other offensive threats over the course of the year. Of the 42 shots that the Spartans took against Huntington North, only 11 were by players outside of that trio – including just three of 22 three-point shots.
Yet Homestead has already adjusted to its different identity. Defensively, the Spartans were incredibly stingy. While the Vikings shot 43 percent from the field, it struggled to get clean looks in extended possessions in the half-court. Huntington North is notorious for working the ball in its offense until a scoring opportunity arises, no matter how long it takes. But Homestead showed that it could be patient and stick to its assignments, even forcing some turnovers in the half-court as the Spartans showed quick hands and the ability to crash the passing lanes.
Rebounding was also key, as Homestead grabbed more offensive boards (16) than it notched on the defensive end (15). Those types of plays lead to second-chance opportunities, of which the Spartans turned into 11 points for the game.
It was just 32 minutes of basketball, which is a very limited look when it comes to an entire season. There is no doubt that Homestead can be one of the best 4A teams in the state again, but the journey may not be as smooth or familiar as it was in 2020-21.
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