Boys basketball has tipped off. Girls basketball is in full swing a month it. Is there a better time of the year?
Some weeks, my Sunday column will be two and we will separate the boys and girls from each other. But some weeks, like this week, we will have a longer Sunday column that touches on both.
And yeah, this week there is more focus on the boys because it was a big opening week.
NOBLE COUNTY BATTLE
There were a lot of reasons people were paying close attention to Tuesday’s game between East Noble and West Noble.
While we like to call Thanksgiving Eve the official tip off of the boys basketball season, there were a few games on Tuesday like this one. We got to see one of the area’s best players in West Noble’s Austin Cripe, we got to see a country rivalry and we got to see the debut of new East Noble coach Brandon Durnell.
The game itself didn’t disappoint. East Noble actually controlled a lot of it and that was a big opening for Durnell, who became the second youngest person to coach a varsity game in the history of the state on Tuesday. While the Knights weren’t able to close things out and lost 59-48, there are big teachable moments for East Noble.
Teaching a team to finish games is a lot easier, in my mind, than teaching them how to start. And East Noble certainly started. A big part of that start and a heavy first three quarters: the inspired play of Spencer Denton. Once one of the area’s best freshman prospects a couple of years back, Denton’s last two seasons have been plagued by ACL injuries. His first real game back was Tuesday night and Denton probably outplayed the expectations of many. He finished with a team high 19 points and was a revelation that the Knights do have a big time playmaker ready to roll.
In the end though, it was Cripe proving his significant worth. He finished with 30 points and reminded those in the area just how dominant of a scorer and shooter he can be. His lights out play on Tuesday has immediately put the NECC on notice; he can take over games at the drop of a hat.
West Noble teammate Julio Macias scored 16. Just before the game he committed to play college football at Purdue.
West Noble did a great job of making zone oriented adjustments against the Knights and held Chris Hood to just seven points.
As much as I love the traditional Thanksgiving Eve games, I can’t complain about this one being one of the season’s openers.
THE NECC GIRLS
The Garrett at Angola girls game on Tuesday was eye opening. The Railroaders got the win with some dominant second half defense.
But as a whole, this conference still feels wide open as several of the teams are making waves.
Angola is starting to find their rotation better. Kylie Caswell was aggressive and the Hornets need more of that from players in their lineup. Caswell, when she was able too find her lane, got to the rim well but there is need for added dimension. That too could be said for Lauren Leach, who is so strong and showcased that early in Tuesday’s loss. Garrett adjusted well and cut Angola’s offense down which will need to see more players step up. Leah Snyder was good at positioning herself down on the block and getting good pins in the post.
Central Noble draws interest, even with a couple of tough games behind them. Madi Vice is an absolute beast and one of the best scorers in the area right now. She scored 27 points in a monster win over Lakeland, also on Tuesday while Meghan Kiebel also scored 17. Lakeland had their own two headed monster with Peyton Hartsough’s 22 points leading them.
This conference has some major scoring that I am loving to see.
On Saturday against Prairie Heights, Garrett’s Nataley Armstrong came two rebounds short of a triple double. She had 14 points, 12 assists and 8 rebounds in the win. If you want to look real deep, those two rebounds and five more steals would have given her a quadruple double. Those are some big time numbers.
So, did these guys miss scoring or what?
Bounce was sure when he saw Fletcher Loyer put up 31 points (15-15 from the free throw line) for Homestead on Wednesday night that nobody was going to touch that so early. Little did I know that it was only going to end up being the fourth best scoring effort of opening night. Sure, games got played Tuesday but we all know that Thanksgiving Eve is really when things tip off.
Jalen Jackson had 32 points and seven rebounds in his Northrop debut as the Bruins dispatched DeKalb. It certainly was a weird sight to see Jackson playing opposite former coach Marty Beasley, especially when Carroll was even part of the game.
Joe Reidy led a mild upset of New Haven on Tuesday with 37 points. The Woodlan senior also had 17 points and four blocks. His point total was the highest of the first week of boys action in a winning effort.
But the highest point total in a single game this week came from Concordia. The Cadets showed a lot of early life against Leo. Ajani Washington forced a five second call of the first play, then the Cadets followed it up with a steal and a block. Concordia led Leo 10-1 before DJ Allen scored the Lions’ first basket of the night. And Leo did get the last laugh and the win but Washington was the star of the show. It was certainly his most breakout game in a Cadets uniform, hitting nine three pointers and scoring 40 points on Wednesday night.
For those keeping track, including Austin Cripe’s 30 ball for West Noble on Tuesday, that is five 30-plus point games in those first two days.
Elsewhere on Tuesday, a new look Garrett team came up a shot short of upsetting Heritage. That is a big start for the Railroaders under new coach Andrew Evertts. The Railroaders rallied from down 10 to start the fourth, but fell short. Heritage was led by Luke Saylor’s 12 points in the 42-41 win.
In Poneto, visiting Bellmont took the win by jumping ahead early but both teams contributed to the night of big scorers. Isaiah Wellman hit five threes and scored 22 points for Bellmont while Southern Wells’ Austin Harris scored 20.
Columbia City got four scorers in double figures led by Mason Baker’s 18 points and four three pointers in their win over Whitko on Wednesday. Kyler Krull led Whitko with 17.
THE FIRST FIVE
Just a quick note here: all four of this season’s boys ‘First Five’ that played last. week scored 31 or more points in their first games of the season.
Fletcher Loyer with 31, Jalen Jackson with 32, Joe Reidy with 37…that’s all been said.
On Saturday, Central Noble opened their season with a win over Canterbury with Connor Essegian scoring 35. In doing so, Essegian now sits just one point away from being the school’s all-time leading scorer as he sits at 1,740 career points. He trails current Ball State player Sydney Freeman by one point now in the school’s history, regardless of gender.
Again, who would have thought that Loyer’s 31 would be a low for this list? Snider’s Karson Jenkins, the fifth of that ‘First Five’ group, tips off his season on Tuesday as the Panthers host East Noble.
The follow up games have been strong too with Reidy adding 29 on Saturday in a win over Bellmont, Loyer adding 28 on Saturday in a loss to Alter (OH) and Jackson adding 20 in a loss to Brownsburg.
Mackenzie Sokol of Bishop Dwenger joined the buzzer beater world this week. On Monday, she hit a three pointer in the closing seconds to give the Saints a 52-49. win over North Side….Ayanna Patterson surpassed 1,500 career points in Tuesday’s win over Huntington North for Homestead….Columbia City outscored Goshen 69-20 in the first three quarters of Tuesday’s win….Columbia City’s Addison Baxter had the best single game in the area this season in steals with 10 on Tuesday against Goshen….Columbia City took a relatively close game and turned it on its head Friday, outscoring Luers 22-7 in the fourth quarter to improve to 7-0 overall and 4-0 against the SAC….Peyton Pries also got in on the buzzer beating with a pre halftime shot for South Adams on Friday in a win over Bluffton….Angola outscored Concord 43-17 in the second half of Saturday’s win.
Westview saw the return of Coach Rob Yoder on Tuesday with a win over Bethany Christian. Yoders led the charge all around as Mason Yoder had 20 points and Brady Yoder scored 19….Jakar Williams and Darrion Brooks look like a major scoring force. The pair combined for 50 points (28 for Williams, 22 for Brooks) in a season opening loss for New Haven to Woodlan….Watch out for Omarion Washington of South Side. With the Archers’ usual suspects struggling, Washington scored 30 in a loss to Leo on Saturday….On Wednesday, Luke Saylor moved into the top 10 in Heritage boys all-time scoring….New Eastside coach Ed Bentley went 2-0 this week and Saturday’s win over Dekalb was just the third for the Blazers in the last 35 years….Leo coach Cary Cogdell became the program’s winningest coach on Saturday, getting his 242nd win over South Side….East Noble’s win over Lakeland on Saturday gave coach Brandon Durnell his first career win, making him the second youngest coach in the history of the state to secure a varsity win.
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