Those that had Bishop Dwenger and Homestead as the final two area boys' basketball teams left alive in the state tournament should be commended, although there are likely very few of you.
This is not to say that the Saints and Spartans are not good teams, just that the road to semi-state for both looked very tough.
Regardless, the two Allen County schools are still alive heading into Saturday as one of four teams remaining in their respective classes.
What are the chances at one more victory to earn a state championship game berth? Let's break it down …
Keys to a Homestead victory over Lake Central:
The ability for the Spartans to reach semi-state has been predicated on stepping up late in games and rolling with what the opponents do. Kokomo was extremely physical in the regional semifinal and Homestead adjusted accordingly. Against Hamilton Southeastern, Coach Chris Johnson's team adjusted to the shooting ability of the Royals and worked to limit that.
Against Lake Central (21-3) , Homestead will be faced with a different challenge. Throughout most of the postseason, sophomore Caleb Swanigan has been able to do what he wanted to inside with not much stopping him. On Saturday, Butler signee Tyler Wideman will present a challenge to the big man as he averages 15.8 points and 7.2 rebounds a game. At 6-foot-7, 240 pounds, Wideman will be someone that is not going to allow Swanigan to dominate the paint.
Homestead (20-7) will need to grind this game out, as Lake Central is comfortable playing games in the 50s and 60s. That means making big shots and getting stops defensively because every possession will be at a premium.
Keys to a Lake Central victory over Homestead:
The Indians will be looking to attack Swanigan early and often in an attempt to get the sophomore in early foul trouble. That is easier said than done, however.
Swanigan is able to adjust his game once he picks up his first foul in the first half, including not leaving his feet on defense. A lot of players at the high school level – even with their height advantage of Swanigan – go for the huge block instead of standing their ground with their hands up. Swanigan keeps his feet firmly on the ground in the interior.
But if Lake Central can relegate Swanigan to the bench, junior Dana Batt will have to pick up the slack for the Spartans.
Lake Central will also look to its secondary scorers as bigger options. Forward Cory Dickelman at 6-5 and shooting guard Joe Bannister are capable of hitting big shots for the Indians. This game may come down to which team's third and fourth scoring options have bigger games.
Keys to a Bishop Dwenger victory over Bowman Academy:
The Saints know that Bowman Academy presents the biggest challenge in terms of athleticism and physicality that it will have seen all year. Forwards Justin King and Davon Dillard are both 6-foot-5 beasts in the paint, with the junior Dillard sporting an offer from Purdue.
The full-court pressure Bowman Academy utilizes will be unlike anything Bishop Dwenger (17-8) has experienced all season.
Meanwhile, the backcourt of Arthur Haggard and Anthony Cole is extremely tough to match up with. Haggard has drained 62 three-point shots this season and Cole shoots 68 percent from the field, all of which have come inside the three-point arc.
To pull the upset, the Saints need to play grind-it-out basketball.
Bowman Academy (21-4) can go 10-deep on the bench with plenty of scoring options. Bishop Dwenger needs to be able to slow the game down and not allow easy transition buckets. Protecting the basketball is paramount as well as forcing turnovers themselves.
Muncie Central couldn't protect the ball down the stretch against the Saints in the regional final, but Bowman Academy will present a bigger challenge in the backcourt.
Keys to a Bowman Academy victory over Bishop Dwenger:
Coach Marvin Rea's team lost four times this season, none of which came to Indiana schools ranked below Class 3A.
Simply put, the Eagles have more talent than anyone in the class, let alone anyone left remaining in the playoffs. That said, just because you have the most talent does not always equates to state titles. But Bowman Academy has been rolling through Class 3A heading into Saturday with a mix of dominance inside and deadly slashing and shooting ability from the perimeter. The Eagles are averaging 91 points in five postseason games, including a class basketball sectional-record 117 points against Gary Wallace.
Bishop Dwenger is not going to beat Bowman Academy in an offensive shootout, meaning the Eagles will want to push the pace and pile up points. It would also be advantageous to pound the ball inside with King and Dillard, as the Saints will have a difficult time matching up with the forwards.
Perhaps most important for the Eagles will be forcing the Saints into turnovers with their press defense. If Bishop Dwenger has trouble consistently getting the ball across the time line, the chance for an upset is slim.