With boys basketball postseason coming around quickly, Bounce is here to quick preview and discuss the area Sectionals, moving on to Class 2A.
SECTIONAL 35 AT WESTVIEW
Projected Winner: Central Noble
Here it is: Central Noble is the best team in this Sectional. And I feel like some teams or players may take that as a swipe at them and it’s not.
This is a loaded field. Good, maybe great, basketball is going to be played and there is zero guarantee that the Cougars are winning this thing. But top to bottom, at their best, the Cougars are the best team even if they don’t have a regular season NECC title to prove it. Sectional week is more like the NECC Tournament and Central Noble does have a trophy for that.
On top of Connor Essegian, we have to look at Logan Gard. There have been roadblocks the last two years in the postseason that have got in Gard’s way. Not only are those two posts I’m talking about gone but the battles with them over the years made Gard so much better. He has gone from a serviceable post to a guy who can assert dominance in some games and he can absolutely will the Cougars to a title. Gard is in for a big week.
But there is Essegian. He is still here and his presence looks as large as any presence in the area this postseason. He’s a Mr. Basketball candidate and Essegian is far and way the best player in this Sectional. I, for one, can’t wait to see the week Essegian has.
All of that said, we are expecting a round three for Central Noble and Eastside. While the focus of this preview isn’t much on Eastside, there is no doubting them at all. The historic season that Ed Bentley and crew have assembled has been awe inspiring. Take their battles with Central Noble out of the equation even and the Blazers are one of the hottest properties to rise above a year with a lot of ok basketball. Eastside isn’t ok, they are very good and even great versus program history. Gabe Trevino is certainly the name most associated with the Blazers yet he still doesn’t get enough praise for what he has meant to the program his entire career, especially how he has turned up to a whole different level in the midst of a coaching change. Eastside is team 1B here and that’s not a shot fired by me, simply stating they are very good and neck and neck with the Cougars.
Senior player you can’t miss: Mason Yoder, Westview
With Westview not on the Sectional radar to the level that we probably expected them to be when the season started, there should still be emphasis on Yoder. If he is not on your radar, he should be because he is a top two scorer in a Sectional full of high level scorers.
Can a guy like Yoder alter this Sectional by himself? Yes he can. And that is about the best praise that can be heaped on Yoder here. He can lead the Warriors to an upset of anyone in this bracket and that is just wild to think about when you look at the teams that Westview may come across. He finished the season as the third leading scorer in the loaded NECC at 21.3 points per game. Yoder is a walking bucket and while this should be a destination Sectional no matter what because of the level of competition involved, if you wanted go just to see Yoder on his home court for the final time or times, nobody would blame you in the slightest.
The whistler will be loud and Yoder will be hitting, regardless of how the games turn out.
Don’t be surprised if: Fairfield muddies the waters
New head coach, new high level scorer. And all of the sudden, Fairfield has the third best record in this Sectional. They have a great balance between experienced players like Braedon Helms and newcomers like senior home school move in Caleb Wright. They have a young and intelligent coach and the Falcons have proven that they can compete at a high level.
They are not the favorites. They are not the second most likely team to win the title. With this bracket being played at Westview, they may not even be the third most likely team to win this thing, but make zero mistake Fairfield could really change things. They have the power to beat Bremen, the wherewithal to upset Eastside and by that time they could have the momentum toupset Central Noble too.
Fairfield could be really exciting to watch this week.
SCHEDULE AT WESTVIEW
Churubusco vs. Central Noble, 7 p.m.
Fairfield vs. Bremen, 6 p.m.
Eastside vs. Westview, 7:30 p.m.
Prairie Heights vs. Churubusco/Central Noble, 6 p.m.
Fairfield/Bremen vs. Eastside/Westview, 7:30 p.m.
Championship, 7:30 p.m.
SECTIONAL 36 AT BLUFFTON
Projected Winner: Blackhawk Christian
This has to be a no brainer. And this isn’t a bad Sectional by any stretch, but the Braves are on a completely different level as usual. They have bounded through this season with a couple more roadblocks than we may be used to, but they remain a state title contender in Class 2A nonetheless.
To get to a state final, they do have a lot of work in the Northern half of the state and this Sectional provides them with a lot of random styles to work against. The Braves though have the experience to roll over almost any challenge at this point, including guys like Jake Boyer and Gage Sefton that contributed in last season’s state title game. The Braves have a lineup that can equal almost every positive trait that anybody else has. Sefton has become one of the most proficient scorers in the area while Boyer, Lewis Jones and Josh Furst are all capable of scoring 20-plus points themselves. When things get clicking offensively and more than one of these guys go off in a single game, the Braves are unbeatable locally.
Recently, we have seen Jimmy Davidson get more and more comfortable in this lineup and if you know anything about the Davidson kids, it is that once they get comfortable. and rolling, they are going to have success after success.
Senior player you can’t miss: Max Stoppenhagen, Bluffton
The Tigers haven’t had the best season but a tough as nails guy like Stoppenhagen is always worth getting another look at. The kid plays all out, all of the time and his motor significantly churns at all times. He is averaging 12.5 points per game but no stat, good or bad, could ever really explain the impact Stoppenhagen has for Bluffton.
The team goes as he does and the ball is in his hand a lot. He flies around the court with speed and a bit of recklessness. Sometimes, that recklessness isn’t great but the reality is that the energy he has still gets his team going. His shot has continued to improve throughout he season and I just love how he plays.
Don’t be surprised if: Canterbury makes the final game interesting
It is not a given that the Cavaliers can make a Sectional final. The team that won six Sectional titles between 2011 and 2018 has made it to the final opposite Blackhawk Christian each of the past two years and there is a path to get there again, but Bluffton, Wabash or Adams Central won’t just roll over.
That said, Canterbury has had an “almost” type of year under new coach Deric Adams. As in, they have almost won a lot of games to finish the regular season at 8-14. Just last week, they almost beat Wayne. They’ve almost beat New Haven, Fremont, North Side, Bishop Luers and Adams Central. Almost.
What gets lost in that if you just check the scores and haven’t seen Canterbury play is that this is a really solid team that is underrated because those “almost” moments just turned into losses. Adams isn’t shy about using depth and also isn’t shy about pulling the plug if something isn’t working. Canterbury’s ability to adapt on the fly during games has been one of their biggest strengths of the year. IF they can make its to the Sectional final again, likely opposite Blackhawk Christian again, don’t be shocked if the Cavs make things interesting for part, most or all of the game.
Sophomore Devon Lewis has been the hard charger for this team, averaging 14 points per game while junior Will Russell is always a possibility to pop off with a huge game.
SCHEDULE AT BLUFFTON
South Adams vs. Whitko, 6 p.m.
Manchester vs. Blackhawk Christian, 7:30 p.m.
Wabash vs. Adams Central, 6 p.m.
Canterbury vs. Bluffton, 7:30 p.m.
South Adams/Whitko vs. Manchester/Blackhawk Christian, 6 p.m.
Wabash/Adams Central vs. Canterbury/Bluffton, 7:30 p.m.
Championship., 7:30 p.m.