Everyone craves their own ‘big game’ in postseason Sectional begins tonight at area sites

Shooter feels downright bi-polar writing this column. On one hand, it is boys postseason time, which is perhaps the happiest time of the year. On the other hand, that means we are just a few weeks from basketball season ending and your favorite young frog taking leave for another few months.

But what does sway me and win me over is how many quality and downright thrilling matchups are headed our way starting tonight. <br>

<center> Class 4A at Carroll </center> <br>

OK, wipe that smirk off your face. Yes, this is the Snider-North Side Sectional. Yes, I will be picking between those two teams in the end. But first, hear me out. Do not, I repeat: do not sleep on host Carroll. It’s a dangerous game with a dangerous team, coach, sharp shooting senior and a roster full of kids who play smart basketball. At no point count Carroll out of their likely showdown in Friday’s semifinal with Snider or a potential championship game. Don’t do it, don’t look past them.

However, we all know why we are here right? Let’s settle the score. It took overtime and a buzzer-beater to decide Snider-North Side in the regular season, and they are ready to throw down again. A sectional title-game win over anyone other than each other will not satisfy either team. Revenge or indisputable proof of who is the better team. This became the city’s best rivalry years ago even though they aren’t “natural” rivals. The mid-2000s saw slugfests between Marques Johnson and Eshaunte Jones when some of these kids were still watching Teletubbies.

Ask me to pick between Malik Williams and Jaylen Butz inside? That’s just silly. Ask me if I’d rather have the ball in the hands of calming point guard Jordan Gorman or surging Davontae Kinnie? You must be mad. Taking a last shot with “Big Shot” Mike Barnfield or lights-out Juan Quarles? Please don’t. They may be my hardest decisions ever, so I am prepared to make just one of them.

Shooter says: North Side defeats Snider to win sectional title. <br>

<center> Class 4A at Wayne </center><br>

There may be no better sectional in the area for pure athletes. South Side and Wayne have proved to be always dangerous this year despite their losing records, and Huntington North has surprised many by not being one-dimensional related to the shooting prowess of Hunter Hollowell. South could give Homestead a test in the opening round, but it is Wayne that could give the Spartans fits on their home floor. The Generals came close to knocking off Homestead during the SAC Holiday Tournament at Wayne in December and have another chance here. But when do the Spartans say that they have had enough? Shooter thinks that time is now. Homestead has been good all year; let us not forget that they have just three losses. And lately, they have been going deeper into their bench with players like Grant Raber and Onye Ezeakudo making impacts. Every local team in this sectional has that one guy that stands out above the rest: Huntington’s Hollowell, Jay County’s Jay Houck, South Side’s Trejean Didier and Wayne’s Craig Young. Homestead doesn’t have THAT guy. But they have a lot of THOSE guys.

Shooter says: Homestead defeats Huntington North to win sectional title. <br>

<center> Class 3A at Garrett </center><br>

It may be written in stone: Bishop Dwenger is always dangerous because they play smart basketball. Their absolute decimation of Lakewood Park last week shows that they may be hitting on all cylinders. A second-round game with New Haven will be the best one in this sectional. The Saints beat them by four points in overtime in January and found a way to smother the Bulldogs’ overwhelming athleticism. Can they do it again?

Shooter says: Bishop Dwenger defeats Angola for sectional title. <br>

<center> Class 3A at Bellmont </center><br>

It is quite simple, this is Bishop Luers’ sectional to lose. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of teams who can show up and players who can show out at Bellmont. But, nobody is as athletic as the Knights, and after close losses to Snider and North Side, they want this more than ever. They were denied a sectional last year; don’t expect anyone to have the fire power to do it this year.

Shooter says: Bishop Luers defeats Norwell to win sectional title. <br>

<center> Class 2A at Woodlan </center><br>

The Warriors could not be happier to host this sectional, coming in at 7-2 at home during a stellar ACAC championship season. That kind of home court advantage has to favor them, right? Well see, then there is Churubusco, whose Jalen Paul and Dakota Barkley are downright smitten with the idea of rematching South Adams in the opening round in what could be Shooter’s favorite opening night game in the area. But ‘Busco, for all of its ups and downs, absolutely throttled Woodlan at their place on Jan. 4 and want their place as an area top team solidified by trying to do the same in Woodburn. If you want to see some good games this week, watch Churubusco basketball, which is peaking at the right time. But doews it have enough to get through South Adams on Tuesday and Woodlan on Friday? As much as this will make Paul want to turn me into a frogwich, this home court is a tough one, and if Woodlan can gather momentum, they could be dangerous. But…

Shooter says: Churubusco defeats Eastside to win sectional title. <br>

<center> Class 1A at Bethany Christian </center><br>

All signs point to another showdown between this area’s top two 1A teams in defending sectional champs Blackhawk Christian and rival Lakewood Park. The Panthers tested the Braves in their first meeting, and I expect nothing less when these two teams, as Shooter predicts, face off again in the finals. Lakewood is a tough team to judge as they either look really good or like they really struggle while Blackhawk seems planted right in the middle of those two tent poles. In Shooter’s mind, this game comes down to hunger, and while I don’t question the Braves’ appetite, Lakewood wants this rematch and a trophy very badly. Also, Blackhawk is down two players, Lucas Kroft and Kole Barkhaus, since they last met. Meanwhile, Lakewood is up a scorer in Logan Traylor, who transferred from Concordia mid-season.

Shooter says: Lakewood Park defeats Blackhawk Christian to win sectional title. <br>

<center> Class 1A at Wes-Del </center><br>

A week ago, Shooter would have told you that there was no reason that Wes-Del wouldn’t run away with this sectional crown before a surprising loss to Southern Wells. They do sit, at 16-6, as one of only two teams with a winning record heading into this bracket though. The Raiders have shown some toughness all season, but it’s been too sporadic for a championship level.

Shooter says: Wes-Del defeats Southern Wells to win sectional title. <br>

<i>This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Shooter at nssports@news-sentinel.com. </i>