With boys basketball postseason coming around quickly, Bounce is here to quick preview and discuss the area Sectionals, starting in Class 1A.
SECTIONAL 51 AT FREMONT
Projected Winner: Fremont
The field has one of the worst records in the state with the team coming in at 41-69 overall and just two teams above .500. That too can be misleading as of those two just above the .500 mark is Fremont at 14-8, much of their loss column accounted for by being in a very tough conference.
The Eagles though are the class of this field in a Sectional that they won a year ago. That was their first title since 2005 and the Eagles have never won back to back titles dating back to their first Sectional crown nearly 100 years ago in 1925.
Fremont has a lot of things working for them right now, including momentum. They just knocked off Bethany Christian with an Ethan Bontrager buzzer beater so the confidence has to be flying high right now for this group. A Bontrager ice in his veins shot is huge too because a confident and assertive Bontrager makes this team so much better. That said, there are so many weapons and the Eagles can hurt you in so many ways.
But surprisingly, it may not be offensive potential that has this team in the favorite position. Instead, look at their defense and how they have a starting lineup full of stoppers. That lineup starts with the aggression and intelligence defensively of Logan Brace and Gabel Pentecost, perhaps the area’s most underrated duo. They have the size and physicality to be a real problem for any team that wants to live around the basket. Ethan Bock, Bontrager and Corbin Beeman add to that, willing to use their bodies to stop surging opposition. Just a few weeks back against Canterbury, Beeman took two charges on the perimeter, a rarity on this level that shows what he can do defensively with his footwork.
Senior player you can’t miss: Beck Willems, Bethany Christian
There are a lot of options here and while I was highly considering placing Logan Brace of Fremont here because he’s just a fantastic grind it out player, those unfamiliar with Willems should try to see him.
Just on the edge of the area in Goshen, Bethany Christian plays a lot of teams in our area and Willems has shined each time, including in the regular season finale opposite Fremont. The solid 6-3 senior is basically positionless but expect the ball in his hands quite a bit. Willems recently became the program’s all-time leading scorer at home in the final game he would play at Bethany Christian.
Willems scored 24 points in the loss to Fremont, his ninth 20-plus point game of the season. Willems has been held to single digit scoring just once all season while he hits 47 percent of his shots and averaging 18.4 points per game.
Don’t be surprised if: Lakewood Park sets up next season
The Panthers probably don’t have the power to pull off an upset title this season, but there are a lot of good things going on with this program that could mean good things for the future. That doesn’t mean much for their group of seniors, but with the underclassmen they could make a wave or two in the Sectional still, especially if they get by Elkhart Christian on Friday.
Junior Mason Posey has had a breakout year, averaging 15.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3 assists per game. His emergence, alongside fellow junior and second leading scorer Cameron Hindle has us a bit intrigued about the Panthers heading into next season.
A run to a title right now seems cloudy, but momentum is a real thing, even at season’s end. This could still be an important week for the longevity of Lakewood Park.
SCHEDULE AT FREMONT
Hamilton vs. Fremont, 7 p.m.
Elkhart Christian vs. Lakewood Park Christian, 6 p.m.
Bethany Christian vs. Hamilton/Fremont, 7:30 p.m.
Championship, 7:30 p.m.
SECTIONAL 53 AT SOUTHERN WELLS
Projected Winner: Southwood
Lakeland Christian is the only team in this bracket to have a winning overall record going into the postseason, but they don’t have the pedigree or experience that Southwood has.
That starts with legendary coach John Burrus, in his 15th year at the school. Burrus has won nearly 300 games in his career and was in semi state last year after taking Southwood to the state title game in 2018, not all that long ago. With Burrus on your sideline, that is a good start.
Southwood has a core lineup of six guys that all help out and all play nearly every game. With only one senior among that group, their best work is probably still ahead of them, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t ready to win now. Two juniors, Cole Winer and Nathan Lehner, may be the two best overall players in this Sectional. 16.2 points, 6 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game for Winer are high end numbers; the kid has eight games of 20 or more points and has led this team successfully against a lot of potential Sectional opponents. Lehner adds 12.3 points and 2.9 steals per game.
Senior player you can’t miss: Dustin Woodward, Southern Wells
After a slow start to the season, Woodward’s production hit a solid level and stayed there. This is a team that needs Woodward to perform and as the only “area” team in this Sectional, we encourage you to see Woodward. He shoots 51 percent from inside the arc, averaging 10.5 points per game and had 16 points the last time Southern Wells played Sectional favorite Southwood.
Don’t be surprised if: Southwood just dominates
Usually, Bounce would like to give you an actual surprise here but don’t expect one.
John Harrell himself gives Southwood a 55.93 percent to win this Sectional and that may be too conservative. Southwood could plow completely through this thing without anyone touching them. They a are significantly better than their record indicates even though this is the second worst Sectional based on overall record of all teams.
So is there going to be a surprise? Only if you think Southwood won’t win. Then you will be surprised.
SCHEDULE AT SOUTHERN WELLS
Northfield vs. Southwood, 6 p.m.
Smith Academy vs. Lakeland Christian, 7:30 p.m.
North Miami vs. Northfield/Southwood, 6 p.m.
Southern Wells vs. Smith Academy/Lakeland Christian, 7:30 p.m.
Championship, 7:30 p.m.