Several teams of both genders enter the weekend with one conference loss and their backs against the wall to stay title contenders. But at Homestead, the Spartan boys will host 15-1 North Side, where both teams will need a win to stay in contention in the Summit Athletic Conference. Both teams have suffered their only regular season SAC loss to Snider, but the Legends beat Homestead in the SAC Holiday Tournament by turning up the defensive pressure late.
Emotions are going to run high at Homestead and both teams are going to need to do their best to control them. A key for Homestead will be the play of Brandon Durnell, their best hope to isolate center Jaylen Butz. In their previous meeting, Durnell faded inside some while Homestead focused on its perimeter game, which allowed Butz to take over inside and score almost at will. These programs have combined to win the last four regular season SAC titles, but after Friday and a second conference loss, one of them is likely going to be out of the running to win this season.
2. Can Blackhawk Christian stop the bleeding?
The Braves need to find their groove again. After starting the year 7-1, they lost junior center Drake Thompson and have seem flustered since. Including the game where Thompson was injured at the Holiday Hoops Tournament, Blackhawk is just 3-6 since thehot start and losers of three straight. In Tuesday's loss to Wayne, sophomore Lucas Kroft, a consistent contributor, had just two points. If the Braves want to be contenders to make a deep run come sectional time, they need to regain some of the focus they have lost and find a consistent go-to guy. Floor general Jalan Mull, along with Frank Davidson and Kroft, have handled a brunt of scoring, but more guys will need to step up Friday against another ranked 1A team in Lakewood Park.
3. Can the Snider or Concordia girls seize momentum heading into sectional play?
Snider was up, then down, then up, then down and now on the upswing again. It’s a range that Concordia may be going through itself coming off a loss last Friday against South Side. The two teams are in the midst of vying for a coveted second-place spot in the conference. But more importantly, this is a game of pure momentum that both teams need with sectional play less than two weeks away and both teams in challenging brackets. Concordia was beaten inside when it played South and Snider will likely look to go that route with Kyla Covington, but the Panthers finally saw their scoring spread back out earlier this week when Hannah Barnes and Daysianae Hinton each put up 18 points in a win over Canterbury. Expect these two teams to go all out in arguably the best girls game left on the schedule – they will need to to snatch momentum to make a postseason run.
4. Norwell’s biggest test yet
New Norwell boys coach Mike McBride has done well in his new post, with Norwell sitting at 3-0 in the Northeast 8 and already matching last year’s win total of nine. The Knights visit New Haven on Saturday in a game that will give one of them the conference lead. While wins over Leo, Blackhawk Christian and DeKalb have been great, Norwell has yet to face the speed and depth of New Haven. The Knights are going to need to find a way to slow the pace as early and as often as they can to keep the New Haven athletes from taking off as they have done so many times before. McBride rarely had to face a challenge at Churubusco as heavy as he will with New Haven, so what does the seasoned coach have in mind to stop the multi-faceted attack?
5. Has DeKalb gotten over the hump in close games?
The Baron boys have sure taken their lumps this season. They are just 3-10 as they head to Columbia City on Saturday, but have lost games by six or less points to Northrop, Westview and East Noble and played Carroll, Bishop Dwenger and Snider close. But not until Tuesday night, with a Logan Kruse buzzer beater in overtime at Angola, have the Barons been able to close out close games, which had kept their record so lopsided. There is nothing saying their game with Columbia City will or will not be close, but head coach Rod Cone has to feel better to get one of those close ones in the win column heading forward.
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