It has been a minute since your trusty frog friend has put together his list of the top 10 teams in the area.
What changed over the holidays? What didn’t?
Bounce takes a look.
No. 1 – Homestead Spartans
Records: 9-4, 3-0 SAC
Previous rank: 1
Why #1?: Yes, the Spartans are still atop the area in Bounce’s mind, but the margin between them and the rest of the field has shrunk significantly.
While Homestead does have four losses, all have been to ranked teams out of either Indiana or Ohio, and no one has beaten it (yet) in the area.
But there are concerns. Scoring per game is down close to 17 points per game from a year ago, and the Spartans have struggled to identify consistent scoring around Fletcher Loyer.
Sparty is still the standard in this area. Will it last?
Why not higher?: It doesn’t get better.
Best win: Carmel
No. 2 – Blackhawk Christian Braves
Previous rank: 4
Why #2?: Remember when we thought that losing Caleb Furst, Zane Burke and Marcus Davidson would mean that this team dropped out of state contention?
Instead, the Braves are undefeated, up to No. 2 in Bounce’s rankings and look like a legit team in Class 2A again in terms of a deep run in the postseason.
Why not higher?: Well, Blackhawk Christian takes on Homestead tonight (Tuesday), so it could jump with a victory.
Best win: Brownstown Central
No. 3 – Central Noble Cougars
Records: 11-0, 5-0 NECC
Previous rank: 3
Why #3?: Central Noble remains at No. 3 despite an unblemished record and a historic start to the season for the program, an 11-game win streak to begin the year.
Connor Essegian is as advertised, but it is a supporting cast that includes Logan Gard and others that is truly pushing this team into 2A state contention.
The NECC Tournament dominates the schedule this week for the Cougs.
Why not higher?: The lack of games against some of the power teams in the area makes it difficult to ascertain how Central Noble matches up with the top squads. That said, with a big league and multi-year contracts, it can be tough to find non-conference opportunities that line up with other teams.
Best win: Barr-Reeve
No. 4 – Snider Panthers
Records: 7-2, 2-1 SAC
Previous rank: 2
Why #4?: Inexplicably, Snider got steamrolled by North Side in a 21-point rout in mid-December. But other than that, Snider has looked the part of one of the best teams in the area.
Bounce is all about forgiveness, so we are gonna chalk up that performance to an 18-day layoff between games.
Karsen Jenkins and Aidan Lambert may very well be the best 1-2 scoring punch in the region. In fact, Bounce is here to say they are indeed the best, combining to average 51.2 points per game.
Why not higher?: Well, the North Side game still happened, and the Panthers look shaky against Northrop last week. In addition, only Wayne and Bishop Luers are allowing more points per game among SAC teams than Snider is.
Best win: Huntington North
No. 5 – Leo Lions
Records: 8-1; 2-0 NE8
Previous rank: 6
Why #5?: Three straight wins since that loss to Northrop, the Lions have gotten back on track in the new year. Destroying a solid Huntington North team by 23 merely three days after falling to the Bruins showed the ability of this team to learn quickly and move forward.
Similar to Snider above, the Lions got a mulligan for that Northrop defeat. Why is Leo ranked above the Bruins? Consistency. Despite the head to head, Leo has shown game after game its a contender.
A road trip to New Haven this Friday is a sneaky tough matchup.
Why not higher?: Some would argue even the No. 5 spot is too high for Leo.
Best win: South Side
No. 6 – South Side Archers
Records: 5-4, 2-1 SAC
Previous rank: Not ranked
Why #6?: Consider that South Side’s four losses have come to teams a combined 36-10. Included in those defeats are a five-point loss to Leo and a six-point decision at the hands of Homestead.
In other words, the Archers are playing the local power teams tough, something not many others can say.
Junior Omarion Washington has been one of the year’s best breakout stories thus far, coming out of nowhere to be huge for the Archers and average over a dozen points per game.
Why not higher?: South has let some wins get away late, so a schedule that has just three games between now and December 28 means Coach J.J. Foster has plenty of practice time to work on the little things to shore up those late-game miscues.
Best win: Northrop
No. 7 – Norwell Knights
Records: 8-3, 1-1 NE8
Previous rank: 7
Why #7?: While still a reasonably young squad, Norwell has looked the part of perhaps being the second-best team in the NE8 behind Leo. Despite losing the Lions last weekend, the Knights were in it throughout before falling by seven.
Also impressive has been Norwell’s ability to close out games most notably over the holidays in Noblesville against Chesterton.
This team is still learning, but it may be ahead of schedule.
Also, congratulations to Coach Mike McBride on career victory No. 200.
Why not higher?: The loss to Leo really solidified to Bounce where Norwell is in this power poll at this point. But the rest of January includes a lot of favorable matchups for the Knights.
Best win: Chesterton
No. 8 – Northrop Bruins
Records: 6-7, 1-2 SAC
Previous rank: 5
Why #8?: Feels like Northrop is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Is this the team that beat Leo by nine and a nine-win Lawrenceburg squad by 17? Or is it a group that lost to a mediocre Richmond team by 15?
Basically, you never know what you’re getting from Northrop every time out. This team can be very good at times, and other times it can completely forget the basics on both ends of the court.
The next few weeks will be telling as Northrop has both North Side and Wayne in SAC play, two teams that are perfectly capable of knocking off the Bruins if they aren’t locked in.This is the only sub-.500 team in the top 10. What else do you want from Bounce?
Best win: Leo
No. 9 – Eastside Blazers
Records: 11-0, 2-0 NECC
Previous rank: NR
Why #9?: Coach Ed Bentley’s style isn’t for everyone, but the style works.
At his third NECC school in three years, Bentley is helming Eastside to a historic season so far, with the most wins ever for the program to start the year. Overall, Bentley has reached double digits in wins for the seventh straight season.
The tough-love style of coaching works in Butler because the kids get the very same thing on the football side. Everyone around the NECC is wondering how Eastside will match up against Central Noble. We may see that showdown as soon as this week in the NECC Tournament.
Why not higher?: No true impressive victories, yet.
Best win: DeKalb
No. 10 – Huntington North Vikings
Records: 8-4, 1-1 NE8
Previous rank: 9
Why #10?: The Vikings continue to hover around the bottom of the poll, with four-consecutive victories helping their cause.
Zach Hubartt is averaging 18 points and six rebounds a game, a player that many inside Allen County don’t know too much about. The complementary pieces are solid as well, while the defense is stingy, per usual under Coach Craig Teagle.
A test on the road at Columbia City looms on Friday, the first game on the road for the Vikings since Dec. 21.
Why not higher?: Huntington North has eight wins, zero of which came against teams currently sporting a winning record.
Best win: North Side
In the Conversation
Columbia City (8-3)
Jay County (8-2)
North Side (7-7)
East Noble (7-7)
New Haven (4-6)
Concordia Lutheran (5-5)
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