It is the final weekend of regular season girls play and there will be some championship performances as the Northeast 8 remains the lone local conference without a champion already decided. But elsewhere, expect teams to position themselves well headed into Sectional play and don't forget the boys side of things, where the top teams in the Summit Athletic Conference and NE8 have tough tests to pass. Here are five things to watch this weekend in area prep hoops:
1. Another big home SAC game for Snider.
Snider boys will host Carroll tonight in search of their first three game winning streak of the year. Although they are 5-0 in the Summit Athletic Conference, they have yet to string together more than two wins in a row. In order to stay in control of the conference, they will have to win that elusive third straight coming off wins over Canterbury and Concordia.
Changing the consistency is something that Malik Williams puts on himself and other senior leaders to address with the program.
"[We] just remind them that we can't take any teams easy while we are 5-0 in conference we still have 5 losses to teams we should have beaten," Williams said. "On game nights, [we are] making sure we're locked in and I'm doing my job on the court."
The Panthers have been huge in closing out big games at home against the conference. Their overtime win over North Side and comeback to beat Homestead have been hallmarks of their season. Carroll (4-1 SAC) represents one of the biggest challenges remaining in their season.
2. How many NE8 girls champs do we get?
For Norwell and Bellmont, it is simple: win. If the Squaws can beat Leo and the Knights can top East Noble, then the two teams will share the conference title with 6-1 records in the NE8. Things get weird with losses. Leo sits at 4-2 in conference play and if they can beat Bellmont, which isn't a stretch, and Norwell loses, the Lions can slip in as a third champion. But let us not forget that if the two conference leaders lose and Huntington North can win at DeKalb, we could leave Friday night with four champions in a conference of eight teams.
Look for depth to play a big role in all three conference contender games, but in the end, big players make big championship plays and Logan Rowles (Norwell), Grace Hunter (Bellmont), Abbie Heischman (Leo) and Rileigh Johnson (Huntington North) could all have their finest moments tonight. On the final Friday night of the girls regular season, all eyes will be on the Northeast 8.
3. Can Wayne play spoiler first?
Although their is a pretty clear division between the top five and the bottom five in the conference, any team can win the SAC on most nights on the boys side. With three teams sitting at just one loss, another loss would likely put an end to their title hopes. Tonight, Bishop Luers will visit Wayne and the Generals may be the most likely team to play spoiler to title hopes. They did it last year with an upset of Homestead. This year, a meeting of scrappy players Craig Young and Anton Berry will be the main draw and the Generals will be looking to play first spoiler in the SAC title race, but probably not the last spoiler.
4. Who benefits most going into girls Sectional play?
The Snider and Carroll girls showdown is one we may see again in just a week. The two teams will meet tonight in what will surely be an emotional senior night at Snider when the Panthers honor their big senior class, including Peytin Chamble who died tragically in November. But emotion has fueled Snider all year and both teams will deeply want a win in this one to give them momentum heading into a Sectional where both teams, as well as Northrop, will all have to be considered favorites. It will be a game of depth as Carroll has shown their diversity in scoring throughout the year and Snider has shown more lately. Kyla Covington will be expected to shoulder a load inside without anywhere near an equal in post play on the other end.
5. Set up for NE8 boys showdown.
Huntington North and New Haven are still a week away from meeting in a game that could determine the conference champion. But, the two 4-0 in conference teams will both face stiff tests this Saturday as well with teams who's records don't tell full stories. New Haven will host a 6-11 Columbia City team on Saturday, but the Eagles are 3-1 in the Northeast 8 and still very much in the title chase themselves. The Bulldogs will not only have to matchup with Parker Hazen, the future Division 1 player, but also with the play of players like Jordan Bechtold and Hammad Qureshi, who are both finding more comfort lately leading to bigger numbers in conference play.
The Vikings host DeKalb, who sits 0-4 in conference but have hung with several SAC schools and have New Haven a stiff challenge a few weeks back. DeKalb coach Rod Cone is confident in his leadership and depth and a shooting clinic could ensue between Huntington North's Hunter Hollowell and DeKalb's Zach Frane and Logan Kruse, making this Saturday night in the NE8 just as interesting to watch as a possible showdown of undefeated teams next week.
For more prep hoops, follow Dan Vance on Twitter at danvance