Before we get to the Outside the Huddle All-Area Team and our end-of-year awards, Bounce wanted to take some time and take a last glance at area conferences and hand out some league-specific hardware.
Last up is the SAC.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jevon Lewis, Wayne
Here is the end of the discussion as far as Outside the Huddle is concerned. Other websites, blogs or Twitters may feel differently. It was a tight race at the top; Will Jamison may be the best basketball player in the SAC, Brauntae Johnson may be the best athlete in the SAC and Ajani Washington may combine those two traits the best. But at the end of the day, Jevon Lewis had the moments that broke the tie; and, he’s got the trophies and the net to back that statement up.
When the numbers are close, the moments matter.
Lewis had the moments that gave Wayne their last three wins of the season. Hits two free throws with less than 10 seconds left to beat South Side by 1 in the Sectional semi final. That very night, he hits a buzzer beater in a tie game to top Homestead for a Sectional title. A week after that, he hits three total free throws over the final 20 seconds of a two point Regional title win over Noblesville.
That doesn’t even take into consideration his winning shot the first time Wayne played Homestead.
And none of that is to say that Lewis, an Indiana Junior All-Star, isn’t possibly the best basketball player or athlete in the SAC. Its simply a statement to say that while the other three all had high qualifications, Lewis just had the right combination of skill, stats and importantly, superstar moments to be the SAC Player of the Year in our eyes.
Lewis did average 16.6 points, 6.4 assists and 2.1 steals per game as well.
HONORABLE MENTION: Brauntae Johnson, North Side; Will Jamison, Homestead; Ajani Washington, Concordia
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Omarion Washington, South Side
This could have gone a lot of ways and I really thought hard about it. In the end, Washington was so much of the heart and soul at South Side that it is hard to ignore the contributions he made to keep his team a constant contender while still being on the bottom end of the SAC standings. It isn’t easy to do that, yet South Side was a game to game contender right down to the moment they lost in the Sectional semi finals.
Washington carried a heavy load as South Side figured out rotations and matchups this season. He averaged team highs in nearly every category and waws a wizard with the ball, scoring from all three levels most nights. Some others at South Side came along as the season progressed, but Washington was often in a league of his own and really helped to drive home the things that did and could make South Side successful.
HONORABLE MENTION: Sam Campbell, Bishop Dwenger; Cadell Wallace, Bishop Luers; Chase Barnes, Wayne; Brashawn Bassett, North Side; Will Jamison, Homestead; Jaxon Pardon, Carroll; Dalman Alexander, Northrop
BREAKOUT PLAYER: Jaxson Fugate, North Side
Fugate’s entrance into the SAC was a more than noteworthy one. Despite missing half of North Side’s season with an injury, there is nobody that saw the Legends play that could discount just how ready that Fugate was for the rigors of a tough SAC schedule. While he certainly wasn’t an unknown area name before his move to North Side, Fugate constantly put himself on others radar with his intense play. He averaged 12.5 points for the Sectional champions, second best among players who saw action in at least half of North Side’s games. He also led North with 1.7 blocks per game and established himself as a must see player into the summer and next season.
HONORABLE MENTION: Preston Comer, Wayne; Eugene Young, North Side; Zachary Belcher, South Side; Aslan Nolan, Bishop Dwenger; Drelyn Truesdale, Carroll
COACH OF THE YEAR: Byron Pickens, Wayne
What Pickens was able to do while leading Wayne was nothing short of phenomenal. He has spent time building his program up and while there are so many back next year for a run, Wayne and Pickens were not satisfied with that notion, instead sending out a senior class on a high note for all their work to make the process smooth at Wayne. Pickens earned SAC, Sectional and Regional titles and made Wayne the talk of the north half of the state for their winning ways and cardiac kid mentality. How he commands a sideline and earns his team’s respect show all you need to know about Pickens.
HONORABLE MENTION: Phil Brackmann, Concordia; Gary Andrews, North Side; Ryan Abbott, Carroll
EARLY 2024 NECC CHAMPION PREDICTION: Wayne
Repeating as SAC champions is not easy; this is not a conference where many nights are guaranteed wins even if expected wins. That said, minus Marquette Lee and Monte Smith, every significant piece for Wayne returns next season.
And if the last year has taught us anything, it is that they will all only get better.
Four of your top 5 leading scorers are back and that is critical, not only because of what Jevon Lewis and Chase Barnes did all season this season, but because HJ Dillard and Preston Comer were getting better and better towards the end of the season. Kharrington Terry and Ziare Sullivan bring significant depth as well.
Nobody brings back what Wayne does. And that alone puts you near the top of the SAC conversation. To return so much from a championship team? That pushes you over the top.
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