BOUNCE: Class 2A State finals boys basketball preview and projections

Central Noble’s Connor Essegian (10) streaks down the court on his way to a big slam dunk ion the first half against Carroll (Flora) Cougars in the Class 2A semistate championship on Saturday, March 19 at Elkhart North Side Gymnasium. (Photo by Chad Ryan)

It is time for state boys basketball once again and the area has a representative after a season where we really didn’t know if we would have one.

Central Noble looks to join Homestead as the only school in the last 10-plus years with state titles in both girls and boys basketball.


Providence (20-6) vs. Central Noble (28-2), 12:45 p.m. Saturday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis

Projected Winners: Central Noble by 9

We have to start with what we know and what we know is the Cougars have met and exceeded all expectations. Once they got into a comfort zone in the semistate round, there was no looking back and a lot of the same should apply on Saturday. If Central Noble gets comfortable, there is no looking back.

Providence is a confident group which really pulled things together in the postseason. It held Eastern Hancock, a team averaging 64.5 points per game, to just 33 last week. Hancock scored just three points in the fourth quarter. That was huge; despite outscoring Providence in two of the four quarters and trailing by just one after the first, that fourth quarter changed everything. So Central Noble has to be geared up to build a lead because the Pioneers are capable of coming back on you if it is too close.

The Cougars should be ready for the defense though. Despite being held to10 points below its own season average last week, Central Noble was still able to put up 54 points against a stingy Carroll (Flora) defense. They did it by working hard in transition and using their own defense to create instant offense. Even better, when the Cougars did get put into a half-court situation, they bred their own version of patience (see part three below) and found the open shot. Central Noble will need to do that again as Pioneer is pretty disciplined and not handsy at all, only committing seven fouls last week in the victory over Eastern Hancock.

The question is, does Providence try to guard Central Noble straight up or take a gamble in a zone, testing the three-point strength of the Cougars? Pioneer has NOTHING to defend Connor Essegian one on one, so it will need to be top tier in deciding how to handle the Mr. Basketball candidate.

Grant Seebold and Max Beatty are both hot hands for the Pioneers, knocking down three three-pointers each last week. Their offense isn’t top notch but they are capable of major runs and have a habit of getting teams behind. Last week, they bookmarked the game with those, going up 10-0 and then that 16-3 fourth quarter run. Grant Williams and Tyler Simmons will also contribute to the offense for Pioneer.

The Cougars got in a Friday practice at Gainbridge Fieldhouse and that is critical. Get in under the bright lights, get used to the playing surface, the big court, the more spacious backdrop behind the rim and settle into it all. In both football and basketball in recent years, most of the teams who were unsuccessful in the state finals were teams you could tell one thing about in advance: the moment was too big. The venue shouldn’t matter, the stakes can’t matter; Central Noble should have used Friday to settle in so Saturday is just a business trip.

Central Noble head coach John Bodey, center, gives instructions to the Cougars during a timeout in the fourth quarter of their 54-48 win over Carroll (Flora) in the Class 2A semistate championship on Saturday, March 19 at Elkhart North Side Gymnasium. (Photo by Chad Ryan)

Matchup to look forward to: Connor Essegian vs. Max Beatty

Connor Essegian is THE guy and we all know it, so now is the time to show it on its best level. He needs to pick and pop against the Providence defense.

This is a great chance for Connor to be loud about how skilled he is and take the fight to a defense that is pretty terrific in the overall but doesn’t have that once standout guy that can really defend the individual game. Essegian can take real advantage of that.

It also means that Beatty has to have a huge night. He is willing to take the big shot, he is confident in how he works a defense and finds his open looks. He will want to do that more often, but will the different backdrop of Gainbridge Fieldhouse throw him off too much or at all?

Both of these guys can go off for big games, which one goes bigger?

What Central Noble needs to win: A lack of patience

That’s right, read it again.

Central Noble, as noted, had its own brand of patience last week and it kept Carroll off kilter. The team from Flora stayed zoned in at times and really made Central Noble make the most of its offensive possessions.

But unlike what we saw from Leo in the game after that, Central Noble had some speed to its patience. The Cougars weren’t stagnant, they didn’t hold the ball on the perimeter looking for holes in the defense. Instead, they swung the ball, moved it in and out of the post and created the the holes that they could ultimately exploit. So do it again: don’t be too patient. Too patient means too low scoring and a game like that could swing the edge to Providence quickly. While I picked Central Noble above, don’t think that the gap can’t be overcome, this is the state title game and Providence wouldn’t be there if they weren’t really good too.

So there has to be buy in to the attack. Go to the post and get Logan Gard his touches because, like with Essegian, there is not true one on one match for him. Providence will need to double and maybe even zone to hold down Gard. Expect them to double on the catch, which means Gard needs to make quick decisions to attack and maybe even draw contact or to kick it out and be able to find the open man.

This is where the perimeter becomes crucial in not being patient because they can’t be stagnant. They have to constantly be moving and making Pioneer play catch up. That Sam Essegian, Conner Lemmon, Ryan Schroeder, Jackson Andrews crew has the chance to make a big splash while Providence is worrying about Gard inside and Connor Essegian wherever he goes.

These opinions represent those of  Bounce and Outside the Huddle. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. Follow Bounce on Twitter at Bounce_OTH

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