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Prep basketball notes: Homestead's Swanigan no slouch from outside (with power polls)

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For more on area basketball, follow Justin Kenny on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/jkenny_ns

Sophomore was money from long range for Spartans on Friday

Monday, February 3, 2014 - 12:09 am

Some people were surprised after Homestead sophomore Caleb Swanigan hit back-to-back three pointers – including the buzzer-beating bucket – to lead the Spartans to a victory over DeKalb last Friday.

Spartans coach Chris Johnson was not one of them.

“He has a good stroke from outside,” said Johnson about Swanigan. “When he was younger, he was just staying on the block and throwing (shots) up. At the varsity level and as he goes on, he can't just stand in the blocks. He has to move off the ball and he is doing that for the most part.”

The first three-pointer came with Homestead down 38-35 off of a play that was called to be a high-low option with Dana Batt on the inside. Johnson always leaves the option for anyone to shoot if they believe it is a good decision, including Swanigan.

“I try and make it where kids have some freedom,” Johnson said. “People say I am probably crazy, but I want people to feel confidence to hit a shot.

“(DeKalb) left him open and he hit it.”

The second three-pointer that earned the Spartans (12-4) the 41-38 victory was a set play that began to break down. Swanigan leaked out from the paint to the perimeter and the ball swung to him. The shot from the corner was spot on for the player getting looks from both Indiana and Purdue.

“We still want that inside game (from him),” Johnson said. “But we are not afraid to have him leak out, (especially) if he keeps stroking shots like that.”

Although not an outside shooter by trade with less than 10 three-point attempts this season, Swanigan has hit over 50 percent of those shots so far.

North Side players understand tradition

High school kids rarely spend time studying the past, let alone appreciating it. So when Redskins coach Shabaz Khaliq heard his team talking about North Side basketball history prior to the SAC-clinching victory over Bishop Luers last Friday, it jumped out at him.

“It is nice for (our seniors) to come and be able to do it back-to-back, which hadn't been done since 1978-79,” Khaliq said. “Those guys pointed that out to me. They were pretty excited about that. Obviously, they know the history of the school so that's a big deal for them.”

With now 26 SAC, city and NIC championships to their name, the Redskins are one of the most storied programs in the area. Many athletes roll through high school strictly focused on what they themselves accomplish, but with team photos of previous championship teams surrounding the auxiliary gym at North Side, players are reminded frequently about the past.

The current team knows they will now be part of that history.

“I am happy for my seniors, they are a great group of kids,” said Khaliq, whose team is now 16-1 and No. 5 in the state in Class 4A. “They work hard and they deserve it.”

Garrett scores profitable weekend

Rarely do you get to have a weekend like the Garrett Railroaders had.

Due to rescheduling, Coach John Bodey's team played two conference road games in two nights on Friday and Saturday, emerging with a pair of wins over Bluffton and Southern Wells.

The victories pushed Garrett into first place in the ACAC with a 4-1 record with home games against South Adams and Heritage remaining in-conference.

“It was not an ideal weekend for us,” Bodey said. “Bluffton and Southern Wells are two long trips and Bluffton is well coached and (Southern Wells coach Brody Tarter) has his team playing so hard and physical.

“It was a tough weekend but a major step for us for one of our goals.”

Bluffton used a box-and-one defense on the area's leading scorer Justin McCoy on Friday to bottle him up for most of the game. But Garrett (10-3) was able to free him up in the second half to help lead the team to a seven-point win.

Southern Wells hung with the Railroaders for most of the game on Saturday before Garrett put them away with an 18-4 fourth quarter for an 11-point victory.

“It was kind of scary letting (Southern Wells) hang around,” Bodey said. “But we persevered against adversity to find a way to pull it out.”

The Railroaders are looking for their first-ever ACAC regular season championship and its first league title since winning a share of the NECC in 2004.

Quick hits

* The Garrett girls' basketball team is one of three (Princeton and Attica) teams in the state that remain undefeated on the season.

* The Allen County Athletic Conference has the second-best winning percentage in the state in girls' basketball at .730 (54-20). Only the Duneland Conference at .753 (55-18) is better.

*In girls' basketball, Bishop Luers has won the most sectional titles in the area at 20, followed by Huntington North (18) and Columbia City (17).

* In boys' basketball, Bluffton has won the most sectional titles in the area at 31, followed by Columbia City and South Side (28 apiece).

Power Polls

Remember to keep in mind that this poll is not based on what a team has done the entire season, but rather how I believe the teams rank in terms of their play right now.

Boys Area Top 10

1. North Side

2. New Haven

3. Snider

4. Homestead

5. Norwell

6. Wayne

7. Woodlan

8. Garrett

9. Blackhawk Christian

10. Carroll

Girls Area Top 10

1. Homestead

2. Concordia Lutheran

3. South Side

4. Bishop Luers

5. Canterbury

6. Garrett

7. Norwell

8. Leo

9. Heritage

10. East Noble