This Saturday represents arguably the best day all season of boys hoops – regionals. Four teams, three games, one title.
OTH is breaking down each regional involving area programs.
Here we go with Class 2A.
NORTH JUDSON REGIONAL
Projected winner: Blackhawk Christian
Listen, everybody – in this area at least – is clamoring for a Blackhawk Christian versus Central Noble final. It is the hope, is the expectation and Bounce will go as far as to say that it will absolutely happen.
The Braves have won regional titles in three of the last four seasons. And the only season they did not win one, it took a pandemic to stop them. So why think that anyone in this Regional will have the ability to do so this year? That’s no knock on anyone else, that is just highlighting how powerful the Braves are in the postseason. “But Bounce they don’t have a superstar this year.” OK, there is the best argument against them. But what they do have is a team with depth, postseason experience and a drive to make sure this season is not the one that comes up short of the state finals. Plus, if you pay any attention to the Braves, you know that while there may not be a “superstar“ like Caleb Furst or Frankie Davidson, that Gage Sefton is right there on the cusp of that stardom.
The Braves are playing with a little bit of everything right now. They have talent, they have that drive that is always instilled in Blackhawk Christian players and clearly they have a lot of emotional fuel this postseason. In fairness, this may be one of the more difficult Regionals they’ve had to get through in recent years, but my theoretical money is still very much on them.
They are a load to handle around the rim with both Josh Furst and veteran postseason player Jacob Boyer, Sefton is nearly a star as I said and Lewis Jones has had one of the best breakout senior years that we’ve seen in a while. And what shouldn’t be surprising is they have an x-factor in another Davidson with Jimmy, who has really turned it up in the last month of the season. We should know by now that a Blackhawk Christian team with a Davidson on the court is always dangerous.
Senior you can’t miss: Connor Essegian, Central Noble
This is a no-brainer. For all the snubbing that may have happened last postseason, there should be a little doubt that Essegian will be all-state, an Indiana All Star, and should be in the Mr. Basketball conversation near the very top of the list.
Is this weekend the end of his career? Nobody really knows as the Cougars are clearly favorite 1B in this Regional and it’s hard to really project how a meeting with Blackhawk Christian will go. It’s actually one of those kind of dream games that we were lucky enough to get in the postseason.
All of that aside, Essegian’s career has been nothing short of brilliant. He has tackled every scoring record that has stood in his way and no matter what happens on Saturday, he will go down as arguably the best player in Central Noble history, in the argument as the best player in NECC history and has certainly staked his claim to be a top 10 player in all of the area in the last decade.
Essegian has been smooth for years. The fact that he has gotten so much progressively better each year is something that is rare. He faces increased workloads, every kind of junk defense you could imagine and more and more pressure and scrutiny every time he’s on the court. But what we’ve seen for the last four years is an innate ability to throw all of that aside. Connor Essegian has been and is bigger than anything thrown at him and something tells me that finally getting his hands on a Sectional title last weekend is just going to make him hungrier. A hungry Essegian is a very dangerous Essegian if you are not wearing the same jersey.
Don’t be surprised if: Central Noble wins their 2nd ever Regional title
My love, respect and prognostication for the Braves aside, Central Noble is very much a threat.
They can be a bit of a match up nightmare because they’ve had guys that are consistently able to step up and chip in next to and behind Essegian. You can read above to know how I feel about Connor and everything he’s going to bring to the weekend. And every team is going to do what they can to stop him.
The problem there is you can’t be too shortsighted with the Cougars. Essegian can finish you, but there are a lot of other people who can hurt you on the way to that happening. Logan Gard has improved tremendously and has to be considered a top post in his Regional. He is stronger, he is smarter and he controls his emotions better. So whoever the Cougars face at any point on Saturday can’t lose track of Gard and how he can alter games. There there are the guys who may not get as much attention, but also can get very dangerous when you are forgetting about them and let’s be honest, sometimes teams forget about them. Jackson Andrews and Conner Lemmon can both be flamethrowers, they can both be tenacious enough to really hurt teams that aren’t giving them proper respect.
And Ryan Schroeder? Well if you have ever read anything I’ve written about Schroeder, you know that I love the scrappy, all out play that he has in him. Schroeder is the kid that every team should fear. Sure, the Cougars have a big inside threat, some ancillary guys that make important baskets and plays and the superstar to top it off. When you bring in an intangible guy like Schroeder that can do literally anything, he really can throw off game plans and make you second-guess your lineup, your defenses and everything you’re doing as a team. If Ryan Schroeder plays Ryan Schroder basketball, the Cougars are significantly tougher and you shouldn’t be surprised if they come out of this with a Regional title and attempt to make a run at state.
NORTH JUDSON REGIONAL SCHEDULE
North Judson (21-5) vs. Blackhawk Christian (22-4), 11 a.m. EST, 10 a.m. CST
Hammond Noll (11-12) vs. Central Noble (25-2), 1 p.m. EST, noon CST
Final, 8 p.m. EST, 7 p.m. CST
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