SHOOTER: Hey guys, Homestead boys basketball is still a contender
This column is dedicated to 2017 Homestead graduate Brandon Durnell. It is dedicated to him because there is nobody who has ever tried to make Shooter as pro-Homestead Spartans as he has.
Because, let me let you all in on a little secret: the Homestead freaking Spartans are unbeaten in the Summit Athletic Conference and play North Side this Friday with major, extensive and sizable conference implications.
Homestead was the last area team to win a boys basketball state title, which they did in 2015. Three seniors on that team have gone on to have some success: one has something called a “NBA contract,” two more are contributing at Missouri and Colgate, respectively, on the college level. But the point really is, that after that state title win, their big three left.
One year later, the Spartans weren’t going to be anywhere near as good. I said as much. And then Tahj Curry spit at the notion, stripped the conference title away from the likes of Carroll and North Side and ran away with The News-Sentinel’s Player of the Year honor before heading off to Ohio Dominican for his own college career.
One year later, the Spartans weren’t going to be anywhere near as good. That is where Durnell comes in. He didn’t like that notion, it became a point of contention between us. We recently came to terms with our battles, but Shooter didn’t think last season’s Homestead was going to compete at the highest of level with Durnell, Jack Ferguson and Parker Manges leading the way. They lost just four times to a total of two teams.
So when this season started, Shooter said ‘heck with it’ and put the Spartans in his preseason top three teams. And on the eve of Thanksgiving, they got demolished by Huntington North. Again, Shooter was ready to abandon ship. And then the calming tones of Durnell let me know through Twitter an important stat: the last time the Spartans lost their season opener to the Vikings, they then went on to win six straight, 20 overall and a regional title.
So why am I surprised that we sit here as we do this week, with Homestead in the driver’s seat to, maybe, win a conference title? I shouldn’t be.
It has been 11 years since Homestead coach Chris Johnson saw the backwards side of a losing season. He has been the winner of 20-plus games in five of his last six seasons at the helm at Homestead.
I have been impressed with the Spartans’ resolve. Like before (again, I shouldn’t be surprised), they have adapted to play to their current strengths. They had North Side on the ropes for the first half of their SAC Holiday Tournament game and showed extreme resolve in their overtime win over South Side. Shooter really thought the Spartans were out and then Luke Goode drains a buzzer beater to force overtime. Only at Homestead should you expect a freshman, who has been casually consistent, to just bust out and all of a sudden become one of the biggest names in the area.
Is this Homestead team any of the last three? No, it isn’t. But outside of that Huntington North loss, its other five losses have come by 19 total points. Onye Ezeakudo, Sam Buck and Grant Raber have all done what the guys before them did: slid smoothly from complementary roles to featured ones. Curry had to do the same thing a few years ago, so did last season’s big three. And with their roster ever-changing, but their formula ever-consistent, shame on anyone for not considering the Spartans a threat every single game of every single year.
Shame on Shooter.
So when Ezeakudo, Buck (I think he likes me as much as Durnell once did) and Raber go, it will be up to Trevin Taylor, Jake Archbold and Goode to hold me accountable. And Durnell. Durnell is always going to remind me.
Records don’t matter. Roster changes don’t matter. This is Homestead. And they’ve proven me wrong too many times before.