Most parents at some point talk about how fast their children grow up. One day, they are changing diapers and preparing bottles at 3 a.m., the next they are teaching their kid to drive and dropping them off at college.
There is a similar feeling at this point in the basketball season, which as usual, has gone way too fast. It seems like just yesterday we were previewing the teams and looking forward to the tip-off of the campaign in November. Now, the girls are in sectional week and the boys are nearing the finish line of the regular season.
With that, the storylines this weekend take an even more important tone, with sectional championships and regular-season crowns to be decided.
Let's take a look at what we will learn over the next several days:
1. Some clarity (maybe) in the ACAC.
With three teams still atop the ACAC standings with 4-1 records, it is becoming a definite possibility that we could see a few teams share the league championship.
But there are still some big games that could weed out that possibility. The big one this week is tonight at Garrett as two of those 4-1 squads collide in the Railroaders and Heritage.
Both are coming off losses, but Garrett (11-4) had a more disconcerting one in losing at Churubusco last Friday, a team that entered the game with just two victories on the season. The defeat ended a three-game winning streak and likely gave the Railroaders a dose of reality, so expect them to come ready to play tonight.
Meanwhile, Heritage (6-7) fell to a solid Eastbrook team on Monday and needs to refocus quickly. The Patriots have played their best basketball in conference so far this year, and that will have to continue tonight.
Consider the magic number in this game to be 56. If Garrett scores 56 or more points, the Railroaders will win.
Heritage is 0-4 in games where the opponent has scored 56 or more.
2. Can Snider continue to impress?
To put it simply, Class 4A teams in the area, particularly in the East Noble Sectional, better be very wary of the Panthers come playoff timer. Coach John Todor's team has run off eight straight victories and 11 of 12 overall, with the lone defeat coming to North Side on a buzzer beater in the SAC Holiday Tournament championship game.
The latest win was a clutch one-point win over Class 3A No. 4 New Haven on Tuesday and Snider travels to Blackhawk Christian (9-7) tonight.
What's been the key for Snider's run? Balance. The Panthers have gotten the ball to their playmakers in big spots, but have also gotten contributions from players across the board. Trey'Von Covington is playing tremendous, Malik Williams continues to grow into his role and Leander Williams is the most underrated backcourt player in the area.
And do not discount the contributions of associate head coach Dan Kline, whose veteran presence and assistance in game planning has proven to be a significant addition to the coaching staff.
Snider (13-4) concludes the regular season with Carroll, Homestead and Marion, which will all be tough tests. But the Panthers appear right now as a team who could put a scare into North Side in the sectional.
3. Can Homestead string together some wins?
First off, let's point out that there is nothing wrong with the Spartans right now, despite dropping a heartbreaker to New Haven last weekend and falling to Wayne in late January.
Instead, this question is more in regards to seeing if Homestead can end the season on a run to get momentum heading into the postseason.
The Spartans routed Bellmont earlier this and take on Norwell today, followed by three straight SAC opponents to end the regular season.
The biggest of the remaining contests has to be against North Side on Feb. 28 at home. It will be a good primer for both teams heading into the postseason, and the atmosphere should be intense.
But first things first, Norwell as always will be tough to beat even at home for Homestead.
4. Can anyone give the Homestead girls a game?
If you are having trouble sleeping, the best thing may be to head out to a Homestead girls' basketball game. Not because the Spartans are a boring team to watch, but the game is practically over midway through the first quarter.
Homestead has straight dominated opponents this season, including a 51-point romp over Wayne to begin sectional play. Its next opponent (read: victim) is Huntington North on Friday.
South Side should present a challenge in the sectional championship game on Saturday at South, at least we hope so.
For the season, the Spartans hold a point differential against opponents of almost 33 points a game, and that's including a 25-point loss to top-ranked Bedford North Lawrence.
Competition will no doubt stiffen for Homestead as the playoffs continue. But let's hope at least one game this weekend holds some intrigue out at South Side.
5. Who wins the Garrett Sectional?
There may not be a bigger game in the northern half of the state on Saturday night as there will likely be at the Class 3A Garrett Sectional. With Concordia Lutheran's victory over Bishop Luers on Wednesday, it narrows the field of contenders only slightly.
Leo (17-4) and Class 3A No. 3 Garrett (21-0) will face off in the first semifinal at 6 p.m. on Friday. The winner of that should play Concordia Lutheran in Saturday's final provided the Cadets can advance out of the second semifinal.
Let me go out on a limb and predict a Garrett-Concordia showdown, one that will be the biggest game in the area so far in girls' basketball. The Railroaders have overcome every challenge this season, but the largest one by far is knocking off the Cadets. This game will be a true test for Garrett as well as Concordia, which has some youth in key positions.
It should be an exciting Saturday night in Garrett.