Leo’s top ranking in Class 3A didn’t last long and they can thank longtime rival New Haven for that. After what has been an inconsistent year for the Bulldogs, they pulled off a major win on Friday and has brought some balance to the Northeast 8 Conference. Behind Jakar Williams‘ big night, led by 19 points, the Bulldogs now have sole possession of first place in the conference. New Haven went on to clear out their week by beating Carroll on Saturday behind 17 points from Darrion Brooks.
Do I have more respect for New Haven now as I was asked on Twitter? Of course. The Bulldogs have pulled even on the season with three straight wins and control a tough conference. A game with Norwell this weekend will say a lot.
While there is a whole column that helps talk about Snider‘s win over Homestead on the boys side Friday, we have to mention it again just because of Karson Jenkins, if for no other reason. While the entire Panther lineup was huge in this win, Jenkins’ smoothness was almost Reggie Miller-like as he continued to dagger the Spartans. It wasn’t a huge upset, but an upset none the less.
Columbia City‘s undefeated run on the girls side came to an end on Saturday at the hands of Huntington North. Earlier in the week, the Eagles did pick up a win over Wawasee behind 23 points from Addison Baxter. But Saturday was all about the Vikings who have now forced a three way tie at the top of the Northeast 8 with the Eagles and Norwell; each team has two conference games remaining.
Taylor Double had another great game, leading the way with 15 points while Grace Sell and Molly Daugherty each scored 8. The Vikings have two of the most impressive in-area wins this season adding a victory over Columbia City to their win over Snider. Huntington North has now won 11 of their last 12.
A lot can be said about both of these teams out of this. For Columbia City, sure it ends a historic run but what a fun one it was. Could this help refocus the Eagles for a hefty postseason ahead? It doesn’t change how good they really are.
For the Vikings, it continues to show that their brand of basketball, controlling tempo is one of the hardest to figure out in the area. Huntington can play at multiple paces and if they can make a team stay behind them in that pace, they remain very dangerous.
THE COMMON DENOMINATOR
This week, Outside the Huddle has produced two stories talking about the biggest game in town every year and the biggest SAC games/rivalry that exist. There was one common denominator in both of those stories: Homestead.
So what makes them that denominator? Is it the coaching, the players, the culture, the reputations?
No matter how you cut it, Homestead has just become the measuring stick yearly at this point and that is impressive. They don’t always win, but they are always the team everyone wants to beat and the team that most can measure their successes or failures against; that goes for both the girls and boys sides. And it extends beyond their Spartan careers. Right now, we can see with with Karissa McLaughlin hitting another scoring milestone at Marquette this week, Brandon Durnell’s early success coaching East Noble or even Onye Ezeakudo earning a scholarship this week at Pitt after years of being a walk on with the Division 1 program.
After all, they do say Homestead versus everybody, right?
WHEN THINGS GO AS EXPECTED
Conference tournaments are fun and you just never know where that upset or even surprise champion lurks. When the ACAC and NECC align each year to have their tournaments the same week, you always have to expect something a little wild to go down.
But not this year.
Save for Eastside girls’ win over Fairfield and maybe even the Bluffton boys win over Heritage, all in opening round games, the tournaments played out basically how you’d expect. There aren’t “number one” seeds like the SAC had in the past but really we all know Garrett and Jay County girls and Central Noble and Jay County boys were the favorites. And now they are all 2022 champions.
Central Noble became the first school since Westview to three peat as champions on the the NECC boys side.
It was a banner week for Connor Essegian. On Tuesday, he surpassed 2,000 points for his career and became Noble County’s all-time leading scorer. Essegian broke Steve Anspaugh‘s county scoring record that the West Noble grad set in 1969. Both marks were impressive Tuesday as Essegian showed no signs of fatigue while being face guarded, as per usual. Essegian scored 28 points in the win over Angola. On Wednesday in the quarterfinals, Essegian scored 34 in a win over West Noble and then on Friday, he scored 24 as the Cougars topped Fremont. With his 39 points in Saturday’s title game, Essegian is now the 42nd highest scorer in the history of the state passing George McGinnis and Caleb Furst, among others, along the way this week. He also sits 59 points behind Charlie Yoder as the top scorer in the history of the NECC.
While Angola appeared in their 5th straight conference tournament final on Saturday, it was all Garrett as expected from before the tournament began. Bailey Kelham scored 21 points and had 7 rebounds while Morgan Ostrowski added a 17 points/11 rebound double double, Nataley Armstrong had a 15 point/10 assist double double and Faith Owen added 10 points.
Owen and Kelham each had 15 in the first win of the week against Hamilton. Ostrowski led the way as Garrett overcame their first actual challenge of the tournament, scoring 14 and having 10 rebounds in a win over Eastside after the Blazers had just upset Fairfield. Friday’s in over Prairie Heights saw Kelham drop 22 points, while Owen (11) and Ostrowski (10) each hit d double digit scoring too.
Renna Schwieterman became Jay County girls’ #2 all-time leading scorer on Tuesday by getting to 1,079 points as a junior. She trails first place Shannon Freeman only now. Freeman, a Hall of Famer, has 1,458 career points as a Patriot.
Sometimes, there aren’t surprises. Sometimes things go just as expected.
Norwell‘s Luke McBride reached 1,000 career points on Tuesday in a win over Wayne….Fletcher Loyer of Homestead reached 1,000 career points just as a Spartan on Tuesday in just his 40th game with the program….In his 4 win week, Central Noble coach John Bodey collected his 100th win at the school. He ended the week with 103 wins as a Cougar.
Congrats to South Side girls coach Juanita Goodwell for picking up career win 200 on Saturday against Concordia. Goodwell now only trails legendary South boys coach Don Reichert (234) in wins for the school in basketball….Northrop‘s Niya Bell hit a game winning three pointer Thursday against Bellmont. The Bruins got the three point w in behind Nevaeh Jackson‘s 18 points….Warsaw is the only area girls team to have clinched a regular season title. At 6-0 in the NLC, the Tigers will own at least a share of the crown. 14 teams across the state have clinched at least a share of their conference title to date.
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