DAN VANCE: 5 things to watch for in boys prep hoops Regionals

North Side junior Keion Brooks Jr. pulls up for a three pointer during a February 16, 2018 game at North Side against Carroll. (Photo by Dan Vance of The News-Sentinel)

Regional basketball takes off tomorrow with seven local teams remaining covering all four classes. Arguably the best day of the high school basketball season will see teams needing to win twice to advance for another week.

Here are five things to watch for in area prep hoops tomorrow:

1. Can North Side contend with Zionsville’s size?

Not every post in Zionsville lineup makes as big of an impact as leading rebounder Nathan Childress and none make as big of an impact as guard Isaiah Thompson, a Purdue recruit. But that doesn’t chance that he Eagles are big; very big.

Behind the 6-foot-5 Childress is 6-8 Hogan Orbaugh, 6-6 Will Alcock and 6-5 Anthony Scales. They are not all big time scorers and rebounders, but when you have so many guys to spell Childress for a brief rest or the event of foul trouble, the Legends will have a lot to contend with. Zionsville also boasts 6-9 Gunner Vannata, who only plays 2.2 minutes per game but a 6-9 body, if needed, is always valuable.

If North Side is to be successful in the morning, they will need to rebound by committee, yet a brunt of that burden is going to fall on the shoulders of Keion Brooks Jr. and Lucas Kroft.

RELATED STORY: North Side senior Nate Carbaugh embraces his non-star status

2. Does the Kreiger era end?

Scott Kreiger doesn’t really know much about losing, let’s be honest. He has coached at Canterbury since 2000 and only had three seasons end without some sort of postseason title. Needless to say, his record is pretty solid on both the girls and boys sides.

At season’s end, Kreiger will no longer be a coach at Canterbury. At year’s end, he will head to Florida and probably spend more time on the beach than much of us can even dream of. First, does he have one more rabbit to pull out of his hat? In Sectional play, Kreiger led his still young Cavs to a win over surging Churubusco and well as a well coached Bluffton squad.

Canterbury could be a surprise for teams in Class 2A’s North Judson-San Pierre Regional. If they can find a way to will themselves by 24-1 Westview, would they have a shot to take down a middling Marquette-Catholic or a reasonably inexperienced Andrean at night? Canterbury is built for the future, but with seven guys who have played in 20-plus games, they have to be comfortable in their depth with young guys like Noah Drapala, Noah Wolfe and Will Shank.

RELATED STORY: Family and championships mean business as usual for Canterbury’s Scott Kreiger’s final run as coach

3. Homestead getting to the basket

When the Spartans fell to North Side last year in the morning game of the Regional round, they did so because North Side was able to consistently run them off the three-point line without any idea of where to go from there. This Homestead team has not shown any traces of having that mind frame. At times during the year when they have heat up from downtown, teams have been successful at chasing them off the three point line. But most of those teams have not been successful at stopping them from getting to the basket.

Following the lead of senior Onye Ezeakduo, Homestead has shown a strong aptitude for getting to the basket to create contact and finish. The trick on Saturday morning? Not many teams have a player like Carmel’s 6-foot-9 John Michael Mulloy to make that trip to the basket so difficult. Need a blueprint if you are Homestead? That same North Side team a year ago provides somewhat of one: don’t be afraid of Mulloy. Homestead doesn’t have someone to match him in size, but the Spartans have players like Ezeakduo, Sam Buck, Grant Raber and so on that can match anybody when it comes to effort.

Any of those three, or Luke Goode or Zak Krueger can get hot from outside. But you can beat Carmel if you outwork and out aggress them. We know that coach Chris Johnson led teams can outwork most of anyone, they just have to keep the aggression up when faced with the presence of Mulloy.

4. A big setup for Blackhawk Christian vs. Southwood

Lets just say this first: don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Both teams will have to win two games Saturday to get the opportunity to play each other in the semi state round. So if you are reading this and play for Marc Davidson or John Burrus, ignore me and listen to your coaches.

The biggest team in the way for Blackhawk Christian is likely a potential Regional final meeting with Gary 21st Century, the two time defending Regional champion led by 21.9 point per game scorer DeAndre Gholston. In the morning Blackhawk will take on the state’s 8th ranked Covenant Christian (Demotte), who has had the second best turnaround season going 23-2 a year after a 9-16 effort. They are also a team who has just two games on the resume against anyone outside of Class 1A, where Blackhawk Christian has played 16.

Southwood’s road to semi state looks cleaner. Nothing in the ways that North Vermillion (15-13), Southern Wells (11-14) or Seton Catholic (8-18) play indicate that they can stop the 77.6 per game clip that Southwood scores at. In this area, this is a time fans have been waiting for to see Blackhawk Christian placed right in the middle of their hyped season and a meeting with Southwood would be an expected outcome. You have to play those other Regional games first, but should that keep us from getting our hopes up?

RELATED STORY: PREP HOOPS NOTEBOOK: Blackhawk Christian continues to be driven by details

5. Speaking of scoring, how good is New Castle?

Angola has taken a ton of pride in being a defensive juggernaut this season. Their 38.6 points per game defensive average has kept them as one of the state’s best defenses all year. But two players — just two players — from New Castle make up that gap. Mason Gillis (21.1 points per game) and Like Bumbalough (19.9 ppg) are very tough to stop and that is why the Trojans are 25-2.

They have, at no point as a team, come close to scoring as low as what Angola allows. Just once have they finished in the 40s and thrice in the 50s, with two of those mid-50 point outputs coming in losses.

The Hornets gutted out their Sectional wins, testing themselves against a high scoring New Haven and young Concordia, holding them both under their scoring averages. But in each of those games, and the four before them, Angola has allowed their opponents to score over that 38.6 point per game defensive average. It is safe to say Angola has yet to face an offense like New Castle’s, so can they do enough to slow down Gillis or Bumbalough? Because stopping them both seems next to impossible.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Dan Vance at dvance@news-sentinel.com.