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Prep hoops: Five things to watch this weekend

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Snider on the rise; logjam at top of ACAC

Thursday, January 23, 2014 - 12:01 am

While the winter weather has wreaked havoc with school schedules and travel, the high school basketball season has continued to trudge along.

Some games have been canceled and moved, but luckily the majority of conference matchups and weekend slates have been unaffected.

Some enticing nonconference games have been lost, but overall the schedule has remained intact.

Let us hope that trend continues this weekend, where another few days' worth of conference showdowns will further enhance the league championship picture.

Here are five things to watch this weekend:

1. Can the Snider boys keep rolling?

Largely under the radar, coach John Todor's Panthers have been rolling lately, winning seven of their last eight games dating back to before Christmas with the lone defeat being the loss at the buzzer to North Side in the SAC Tournament championship.

The recent 7-1 run for Snider is the best in Todor's reign and the most impressive stretch for the program since it won 20 straight games in 2008-09 under coach Ray Sims.

The Panthers are doing it by playing to their strengths, which are length and size. Few teams can match up with Snider in those areas, and taking advantage of those advantages have allowed it to dictate the pace in recent matchups.

Snider (9-4, 2-2 SAC) hosts Concordia Lutheran (4-7, 2-2) on Friday night.

Keep an eye on the Panthers the rest of the season, as we will know whether this run is a true testament of this team as the schedule heats up with games against New Haven, Bishop Dwenger, Homestead, Carroll and Marion in the coming weeks.

2. Can the Wayne boys stay in the SAC race?

Things have gone south in a hurry for the Generals, losers of four of their last five games.

Without two of its best players – Kye Black (season-ending injury) and Jescus Mitchell (medical reasons) – Wayne has struggled to get any amount of consistency since Christmas.

The schedule has not been kind to the Generals (6-5), with losses to North Side, Snider, Norwell and Blackhawk Christian along with a victory over Bishop Dwenger sandwiched in.

Coach Aaron Rehrer's team faces another tough task Friday when it hosts upstart Bishop Luers (8-2, 3-1 SAC). With a 2-2 league record, the Generals need to secure a victory to stay in the race for the SAC title.

3. Can the Bishop Dwenger boys turn things around?

Another SAC team attempting to recapture its mojo, the Saints enter Friday's game with visiting Northrop losers of four of their last five after beginning the season 5-0.

Bishop Dwenger (5-4, 2-2) picked up a solid victory at Carroll on Wednesday to end a four-game slide and now has a chance to start another winning streak when it hosts Northrop (4-8, 1-3) on Friday night.

What has caused the Saints' recent struggles? It seems as if coach Matt Kostoff's team prior to Wednesday had lost its edge in terms of physicality and technique. No one will outwork the Saints when they are all on the same page striving for a common goal. But when that intensity wanes, Bishop Dwenger becomes a much easier team to beat.

After a midseason swoon, the Saints can continue the upward trend against the Bruins.

4. Who will start to separate themselves from the rest in the ACAC?

After an exciting boys ACAC Tournament last week that saw Woodlan capture the title for the first time in 17 years, the focus goes back on the race for first in a league that enters the weekend with six teams tied with 2-1 records.

Two games Friday pit 2-1 teams against each other with Bluffton going to Adams Central and Woodlan hosting Heritage.

This is as wide-open of a league race as we have in the area, and despite the assumption that Bluffton and Leo are the teams to beat, Woodlan is surging with six consecutive victories and Adams Central appears to be a team to be reckoned with much like it was in 2012 when it went 7-0 in the ACAC.

This race may come down to which team can steal a game or two on the road against another squad in contention for the league crown.

The next three weeks should be very interesting in the ACAC.

5. Who stays unbeaten in the NHC – New Haven or Norwell?

With three boys teams still sporting unblemished 3-0 records in the Northeast Hoosier Conference, it was only a matter of time until those squads would begin playing each other.

The first of those showdowns is Saturday as New Haven travels to Norwell to see who can move to 4-0 in the league.

The Class 3A No. 5 Bulldogs (8-2) have seen their recipe for victories change somewhat this season. Gone are high-scoring games led by V.J. Beachem, with New Haven's scoring average down 11 points per game to 58.1 heading into Wednesday's game with Leo.

Conversely, the 47.8 points per game allowed is the lowest for the Bulldogs more than 20 years.

Norwell likes to win the same way, which means Saturday's matchup between the two teams will likely come down to a possession game and defensive play.