5 things to watch for: South Side's tough schedule
Also, clarity begins to take shape for ACAC girls when Jay County faces Bluffton.
Friday, January 06, 2017 1:25 AM
1. South has a tough schedule, but is it worth it?
The Archer boys have played the toughest schedule in the state with opponents holding a combined record of 39-9 as they head into a Friday/Saturday schedule of Homestead and Marion, far from easy tasks themselves. But with a 1-5 record, at what cost is this schedule coming?
Trejean Didier has long established himself as one of the best pure scorers in the area and Cortney Shorter continues to be a thorn in opposing defenses, including Tuesday's overtime loss to Blackhawk Christian. The question remains, what is morale like in the Archer locker room. The team continues putting up strong point totals and competes nearly every game, but even that lone win came under unique circumstances. For the sake of the rest of their season and the player mentality going forward, do the Archers need to pull an upset this weekend? Expect their best effort to make that happen and turn things around.
2. How bad were Bellmont girls underestimated?
While their next two games (Columbia City and North Side) shouldn't tell us much more about the girls, but at 13-3, they have already won more games than their last three years combined and have their highest win total since they went 14-8 in 2007-2008. It is all together likely that Bellmont has been highly overlooked as a win on Saturday over the Eagles will send Bellmont to 4-0 in the conference and in the driver seat to be a surprise conference champion if they continue their run.
Bellmont has now won 11 straight games and with their next two opponents holding a combined record of 7-26, it is possible that they could enter next Tuesday with the most wins for the program since the 1990's.
3. What happened to Snider's production?
Since Snider scored 76 points in a win over North Side on December 16 in an instant classic, the Panthers are just 2-3 and averaging 58 points per game, most recently coming off a 63-51 loss to New Haven on Tuesday.
Senior Malik Williams' scoring output hasn't wavered and those around him continue to contribute in major ways outside of the offense, but is that scoring production coming back any time soon? Part of the slow down comes as teams have found that running a zone defense has slowed down the run-and-gun game plan of the Panthers. DeKalb, Bishop Dwenger, Homestead and New Haven have all put the Snider half court offense to the test even if the Panthers got out of two of those games with wins.
With Northrop (tonight), a Homestead rematch and Warsaw the next three games on coach Jeremy Rauch's agenda, the Panthers are going to need more scoring production. While Jordan Gorman has been the next most consistent option, seeing freshman Dillon Duff or aggressive senior Deangelo Stroud step up soon could mean a lot to a Panther hope for a regular season conference title.
4. Who falls in ACAC title eliminator?
It is already possible that Jay County will not win their third straight conference title since joining the Allen County Athletic Conference in 2014 after a December 23 loss to South Adams. Saturday's meeting between the Patriots and Bluffton will give one of the two teams their second loss in conference play and with a tight race at the top of four one-loss teams (Jay County, Bluffton, South Adams and Woodlan), that loss will likely eliminate regular season title hopes.
This weekend's game comes directly before the ACAC tournament and with both teams coming off back to back losses, the last thing they will want is to pick up a second regular season conference loss.
Bluffton has seen more girls step up lately, including the Tigers' Gabrielle Streveler and Jay County's Britlyn Dues, which could mean good things as depth will be important in this one.
5. Which New Haven shows up Saturday?
The Bulldogs are 7-4, winners of their last three, as they host DeKalb on Saturday in a Northeast 8 conference game. When they are on, there are a variety of scoring options. Whitney Harris, Diamond Towns, Joey Rowan, Ivan Upshaw and Keshawn Moore have all shown that they are able to lead the Bulldogs and James Gardner has been on the cusp of triple-doubles on multiple occasions. But when they go cold, they all seem to go cold.
Losses to Homestead and Northrop showed weaknesses in the Bulldogs' ability to play outside of their own pace. DeKalb will likely look to keep New Haven in check and one of their big six need to squash that plan early on.
For more prep basketball news, follow Dan Vance on Twitter at danvance.