WHAT IS ON THE LINE?
Nothing short of the SAC title.
Well, not technically yet. But the loser of this one could very, very easily be out of the championship equation.
There are three teams tied for the top spot in the conference right now and no way that more than two come out unbeaten in the SAC because of this one. So right now, it really is for the co-conference lead or bigger. And beyond that, a win against the other team will be big for momentum.
Momentum is big and really might be bigger for Snider because they will turn around and play that other SAC unbeaten Homestead just a week later. So it is go time for the Panthers.
It also means momentum for the postseason. Not only because both are incredibly capable of making waves in that postseason, but because there is a good chance we could see them playing each other come Sectional title. A regular season win in the potential series could be a blessing our a curse depending on how you look at it.
Are you seizing the momentum or are you giving your opponent ammo to come back strong off a loss?
WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT SNIDER (13-3)
Snider started 2-3 and let’s be honest, there were some questions abound. Snider answered resoundingly that they were just warming up. After they dropped to 2-3 on November 15, they have been perfect: 11 straight wins.
As they’ve done so with an abundance of consistency at the top of their lineup. Jordyn Poole has never stopped being a menace as she leads the Panthers with 14.5 points and 4.1 assists per game and there is every chance she is the biggest threat in this game. Northrop’s goal has to be to slow her down by throwing some length at her defensively.
But she’s been far from the only threat thanks to Johnea Donahue’s inspired play during this winning streak. Averaging an incredible 5.4 steals per game, Donahue is arguably the best current defender in the entire area, on or off ball. She alters games and gets Snider into transition, as does Tia Phinezy and her 3.6 blocks per contest. That defense to instant offense is difficult to stop and the Panthers thrive at a frenetic pace.
Ciara Sims and Gabrielle Barnes have also been strong as they add in a bit of whatever Snider needs on a given night, whether it is a scoring punch or added rebounding efficiency.
WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT NORTHROP (13-1)
Well the fact they just beat a pretty good Northridge team by 39 is all you should need to know. Outside of a close loss to one of the state’s best in Noblesville, the Bruins are about as perfect as you can get, even as they’ve dealt with not having game changers Destini Craig and Brooklyn McLemore in the lineup full time throughout the season.
What is impressive though is when lacking one of those two upper echelon players, the Bruins have had ways to fill in, also flexing their depth and dependability as good or better than Snider.
Niya Bell, Lexi Castator, Riley Pepple and Swynn Jackson have all had big breakout moments throughout the year and lets be honest, you just don’t see that much from teams that are so top heavy. Yet those four have helped prove that 1-8, the Bruins are untouchable in the area to this point. The freshman Jackson has been tough across the board, including leading the Bruins at 2.2 blocks per game, immediately asserting her presence on the varsity level this season.
And then, there is always Saniya and Nevaeh Jackson, the senior twins who just get work done. Saniya recently passed the 1,000 point career scoring mark and leads this team at 15.3 points and 3.5 steals per contest. Nevaeh is right there too at 15 points per game with a very balanced stat line that should be reminding people how big of a threat she is in every aspect of the game. The two of them have been rolling and that adds some swagger to Northrop’s overall approach.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Tia Phinezy, Snider
Last year, Phinezy was not around to try and alter games between these two. Now, she will get that chance and she’s shown she can make waves. Who has really been able to challenge potential inside dominance of Phinezy? This will certainly be her biggest challenge in the area this season but if she’s able to succeed Friday, expect her to make sure she does so loudly.
Riley Pepple, Northrop
The kinds of players that have given Snider fits in their three losses are built from the same game that Pepple excels in. We just watched her have a really nice night in the aforementioned recent win over Northridge. Pepple can be really good at controlling a chaotic game and altering the tempo of that game to align with her style.
Some sites and predictors are going Northrop by 20 without even breaking a sweat. To me, there is a reason to sweat. Yes, everything Northrop has done this far has indicated that they are the team to beat here and that we should all be picking the Bruins.
But, here is your warning: Snider is very good. They have proven that they can match up well and have the speed to make games a real problem if they control the tempo. This is not a walk in the park and lets even say that the score ends up being close to that +20 some are giving Northrop…I can guarantee if that happens, it didn’t come easy.
The Panthers are going to throw everything, plus the kitchen sink, at Northrop on Friday night. Will it be enough? We shall see. But this game isn’t going to have many, if any, gimmes for either side.
BOUNCE PICKS NORTHROP