Any proponent of increased games in the regular season between area powers should have a field day after Saturday night. We rarely get Regional round matchups between two area teams and when we do, it is more like Saturday morning’s game between conference rivals Leo and Norwell in 3A: something that we’ve seen before.
Saturday night, we finally got one of those dream matchups, like a fantasy booker lined it up as Blackhawk Christian looked to win their fourth straight Regional title against a Central Noble team still on cloud nine from that elusive postseason title they gained a week before.
The outcome saw Central Noble win in overtime. It showcased why Connor Essegian IS a Mr. Basketball candidate, why Logan Gard is severely underrated and how scrappy and intriguing that both of these programs are. All season long, as the Class 2A state rankings bounced around, we had to wonder what it would be like if these two teams met. It was never a given though; Central Noble’s Sectional wasn’t easy and this Regional was challenging too.
Getting the game was fantastic. How it turned out was golden.
Blackhawk Christian game out on fire, jumped up 16-7 with the experienced hands of Jake Boyer and Gage Sefton leading the way. That part made sense, these guys have been there and done it all before. Boyer, specifically was a heavy to lead the Braves’ charge. The senior earned state titles a freshman and a junior and he was on a mission Saturday night. Most impressively, the Braves held Connor Essegian scoreless in the first period. Needless to say, the first quarter told us everything we already knew about Blackhawk Christian and I’m sure gave the naysayers plenty to chirp about when it came to Central Noble.
But that wouldn’t have made for a good story, would it have?
Essegian’s five point run in the second quarter woke some things up. While neither team was at their best early, they certainly were playing even, trying to figure each other out. That was the peak of this dream matchup: two teams who know about the other, who hear a lot about the the other but despite the scouting reports that were done, they don’t really know each other. They found it out quickly, but the feeling out process was fun too.
Boyer and Essegian were the highlights, which in itself was interesting. Here you have this Cougar star, one of the best in the state. Blackhawk Christian, void of a star at the level they’ve had in recent years, fired back to each Essegian basket with the most workman-like player we’ve had around the area in years with Boyer, who just doesn’t have the quit bone in his body. The two exchanging baskets in the third quarter and into the fourth was the peak of this game, or so we thought.
And then, all of the sudden, Logan Gard was the star of the show. Remember how I said he proved again how underrated he was? Well, it was always going to take other players stepping up big for Central Noble to get over the top. So of course, it was post player Gard who stepped up and drained a three pointer with less than eight seconds to play to force overtime, tied at 49. Everything about the fourth quarter was amazing as each team tried to land a knockout shot only to be countered.
Then end result of overtime was a Central Noble win. Essegian, Ryan Schroder, Jackson Andrews all having pivotal moments in the extra frame. 58-53 was the final, the emotion of the Cougars’ celebration was captivating. Essegian finished with 30, just hours after he had put down 47 in a semi final win over Hammond Noll.
We need more games like this, more opportunities to see the area’s high level teams compete against each other even if they are not in the same conference. A tournament, a shootout, different regular season schedules…I don’t care. Saturday night gave us a taste of how good these fantasy matchups can be and I can’t fathom turning back now.
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