After beating Prairie Heights in the morning game of their own tournament on Tuesday, East Noble center Chris Hood took to Twitter to say this: “@Bounce_OTH gotta stop doing this.”
He shared that message along with my Bounce’s Picks column from Monday where I picked the hot hand of Prairie Heights to take home a win in that matchup. East Noble won by 38. It is also possibly a carryover from earlier this month when I picked Woodlan to beat the Knights. East Noble won by 40. It’s a fair assessment from Chris, but really what is a frog supposed to do?
Going into Tuesday, the Knights had not strung together back-to-back wins or back-to-back losses all season. During those first nine games, they were scoring 62.6 points per game to their opponents’ 61.6. A close loss to a really good West Noble was followed by a close win over a not real good Lakeland, they split games against SAC opponents and then beat that Woodlan team with one of the area’s best players in Joe Reidy 78-38. If that isn’t at true Jekyll and Hyde situation, then what is?
So I feel you Mr. Hood, but Bounce is really confused about East Noble. And I think that is fair too.
If you can get out in transition against East Noble, you have a good chance to leaving with a win, Big Blue Pit or not. But if you get trapped in the half court, you could be in trouble. East Noble continues to shine in their zone because it stays unpredictable. Sometimes, that 2-3 effort can be low key and relaxed, really just moving around with the offense and other times, the length and ability to jump passing lanes just destroys what you think you can do against it.
In the first half of Tuesday night’s Max Platt Holiday Tournament final at East Noble, the Knights showed just how dangerous their defense could be while running neck and neck with John Glenn. Even when Hood – who can be just dominating under the basket – wasn’t in the game, the Knights controlled things in the zone. They do it because they have a steady rotation, like watching Keegan Foster rotate down into the post and sneakily rob a John Glenn post of the ball to start a quick transition. And when Hood is in, you may as well never even look at the post because he will treat you like a defensive lineman who is in his way.
That transition offense is a bit underrated. That comes when you merge styles like East Noble’s traditional slow down look with an up and down grind like coach Brandon Durnell brings from playing in the SAC during high school and in the Crossroads League in college. Spencer Denton has been a big part of that; his return from years of injuries was questioned because who could Denton be and who would be be? We’ve found out very quickly that the one time future star of the NE8 has gotten a lot of his tenacity and skill unrusted from his layoff. Going into Tuesday, he was averaging 14.6 points and 3.7 assists per game.
The movement on offense for peak East Noble is also good. The back cut play to Max Bender in the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s title game that pulled the Knights within 41-40 with just under five minutes to play is a great example of that. When the Knights move and don’t stay stagnant, they can score in a lot of ways.
In the closing minute of Tuesday’s final, it was Hood who stepped up to grab a big defensive rebound with 44 seconds to play before getting fouled. Hood missed the free throw attempt forcing the Knights to foul John Glenn’s Bryce Hannah with less than 30 seconds to play; he hit one free throw to extend John Glenn’s lead to two, but Denton couldn’t take the lead with a three pointer the next East Noble possession. John Glenn snuck away with the win moments later to stay unbeaten on the season.
The loss Tuesday night dropped the Knights to 5-6 on the season and still without winning or losing two straight games.
With the way this season is going, East Noble may always have a love/hate relationship with Bounce. Makes sense, their coach long had that with my amphibian predecessor. I will pick East Noble to lose again, they will probably prove me wrong some of those times. But because of that, in a season where it is hard to pinpoint a ranking on most teams in the area outside of the top 3-4, East Noble is still full of intrigue.
An inconsistent team that could be dangerous enough to knock off almost any team on any given night? That is going to draw Bounce in, but may also keep me and Chris Hood at odds too.
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