On a wild final Friday of the boys basketball regular season, one of the top-ranked teams in the state in Homestead took down NE8 champion Norwell.
It was the best team in the SAC dispatching the best of the NE8; it was also the area’s clear-cut best team beating the squad that was considered the second-best in the area going in.
But is that where we draw a line?
While the Knights held a decent pace 10 or so points behind The Spartans for much of the game, it was pretty clear from the opening possession – a Fletcher Loyer steal and uncontested layup – that the game was quite possibly just academic. Homestead was just better, the more willing team offensively with a higher overall ceiling.
With Loyer having one of his better games of the season, the Spartans celebrated senior night and put a bow on the regular season as Norwell lost for just the fourth time all season.
A big part of me wanted this game to mean something more than it did, but it probably doesn’t.
That is because, as I have said multiple times, the entire season was basically nonsense. I would hate to be the one to have to put together an algorithm of who could be better than who based on wins and losses. Everybody just kind of beat everybody.
Norwell had lost to Leo. Leo lost Friday to Woodlan. Woodlan has a loss to Central Noble. The Cougars have a loss to South Side. The Archers lost Friday to Blackhawk Christian. The Braves in turn have lost to both Snider and Homestead. Snider beat Homestead but lost to Bishop Dwenger. The Saints have lost to Norwell.
While there are plenty of other wins and losses mixed in, it shows what kind of mess the top teams in the area really were. There has been a lot of good basketball, but where does that leave us really?
Now the area heads into the postseason with some murky waters ahead of who will win sectionals and, more importantly, if anyone can advance to a state title game inside the confines of Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
Don’t get Bounce wrong, there are paths for some teams to get there, but for the first time in a while there isn’t a favorite to do it. Bounce doesn’t know if we have a state contender. Just as I am unsure if we have one, I am equally in the dark if we don’t.
I mean, Homestead looks good so they should be one right?
If Leo could make a run last year in 3A, why wouldn’t this Norwell team be able to do the same?
A regional with Central Noble/Eastside and Blackhawk Christian in 2A has to produce the north’s representative at state, doesn’t it?
Fremont didn’t build a tough non-1A schedule just to flounder against smaller schools in the tournament.
Welcome to the world where this all makes sense to me, but simultaneously makes zero sense. How can we have all of the possible contenders and also maybe no contenders?
The year has been more odd than last year, which was riddled with inconsistencies, masks, postponed and cancelled games and that big glaring pandemic. Sure, this year was victim of some of that outside craziness too, but on the court is where the confusion has really stemmed from.
I guess, as maddening as it has been at times for yours truly and other fans watching, it should be a great year for coaches. Isn’t that something that is preached? It could be any team on any given night that earns the win? Welcome to 2022, where almost literally anybody can beat anybody. Hurts my head.
Friday was the antithesis of that. Bounce projected Norwell to win beforehand. Why? Because it is good and the year has been wild, so why not? If I was a gambling amphibian, I would have steered clear, because the reality is it was probably 50/50. Even as Norwell was trying to churn themselves back into the game at the free throw line in the fourth quarter, I thought to myself “they could still win this game.”
That is how microscopic any gap between the top teams this year is and has been.
To Homestead’s credit, it turned back every Norwell surge. Loyer did Loyer things, the things that have him as a Mr. Basketball candidate as he put up 36 points opposite Norwell and became the first Spartan to ever score 600 or more points in back-to-back seasons.
Grant Leeper shined too, using his length and aggression to go at Norwell’s Brody Bolyn early, which gave Homestead an edge inside. That inside edge was critical two years ago in the same gym against Norwell in a huge win just before the postseason.
It’s like Coach Chris Johnson remembered, like he knows that if you can beat Norwell on the inside a couple of times, there is a tone you can set.
Leeper finished with 10 points and Kyron Kaopuiki added 11.
Despite Luke McBride’s 20 points and the 19 from Lleyton Bailey, the Homestead defense was tough too. Perhaps a tad underrated, the Spartan D constantly hounded Norwell, made it uncomfortable and forced the Knights to take some tough shots just to try and get a look at the rim.
It certainly was a fun game on a fun night that put a bow on a wacky regular season.
And what does the win gor Homestead mean for it going forward?
That’s the tricky part: it could mean nothing and it could mean everything.
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