Opening Tips: Conference races are taking shape
Posted: 01/24/2013 at 1:15 am
Penn vs. Central
Blazers must brace again
What new? Another formidable foe for Central — the seventh Blue Blazer opponent among the last eight that’s over .500 — and at 9-4, Penn’s record may be deceivingly low. Eight of the Kingsmen’s wins have come handily, while their four losses have come by a combined 10 points. Penn (1-0 at North Side Gym this season to Central’s 1-6) features 6-foot-7 Notre Dame recruit Austin Torres. He’s averaging 18.6 points, has not been below 12 in his last 11 outings, and is piling up blocked shots. The Kingsmen are coming off their first loss in seven contests, a 68-67 overtime decision against South Bend Riley, and need this one to stay in the thick of the Northern Indiana Conference race. Penn’s 3-1 in the league, just behind South Bend Adams (5-0) and Riley (4-1). Conner Sowders is averaging 12.2 points for the Kingsmen and sophomore point guard Jordan Geist 10.1. The Blazers (3-10, 0-4) are paced by seniors Terell Street (11.9 points per game), Blake Brouwer (9.4) and JJ Stahl (8.2).
Memorial at Goshen
The Redskins’ Daddy?
Goshen takes another stab at solving Mark Barnhizer, and may have its best chance at doing so yet. Since Barnhizer arrived as coach at Memorial in 2006, he’s gone 9-0 against the Redskins — even though four of the wins have been by two points or less. Goshen (8-4, 3-1) enters the matchup in Northern Lakes Conference contention, while the Chargers (5-8, 1-3) have lost six of their last seven and are in a shooting slump. County scoring leader Markese McGuire’s 23.3 scoring norm includes 16.7 over his last three outings, while team No. 2 scorer James Hershberger (7.1) is at 3.0 over his last four for Memorial. Though he’s just 6-3 and thin, sophomore Dimitri Giger has proven a slick rebounder at 6.5 per contest. Seniors Sam Stegelmann and Jesse Good lead the Redskins at 14.7 and 11.1 points per game, respectively.
Wawasee at Concord
Trying to stay perfect
The No. 20 Concord Minutemen (11-1, 4-0) look to remain unblemished in the NLC, which is also what coach Steve Austin is in this matchup. He’s beaten the Warriors (3-9, 0-4) in each of four meetings since arriving at Concord, and in 2007, during his one year as an assistant to Wawasee coach Phil Mishler, he was on the winning side of a 64-63, triple-overtime decision against the Minutemen. Franko House — who will be recognized before the game for his recent 1,000th career point — is averaging 16.4, Filip Serwatka 12.3 and Ramon Johnson 9.3 for Concord. Sophomore guard Alex Clark has 28 and 27-point outbursts within his last three games for the Warriors, upping his season average to 14.6. Junior Chase Myers is next at 7.3.
Triton at Jimtown
Valparaiso University signee and McDonald’s All American nominee Clay Yeo is pouring in 27.5 points per game for Triton, which is more than Jimtown’s top three scorers combined at 26.3, but both teams are among four clubs at 2-1 in the tightly packed Northern State Conference race, a game behind 3-0 Bremen. The Trojans are 8-5 overall to the Jimmies’ 5-7 and have won five straight meetings by double digits. Junior Tanner Shepherd is Triton’s No. 2 scorer at 12.3, while Chase Hoeflinger (9.6), Mason Brown (8.5) and Michael Hobbs (8.2) are pacing the Jims, who have already surpassed their win total of last winter’s 4-17 season, and who continue to incorporate recent Elkhart Christian transfer Cory Waycaster. The junior has six points in two games for Jimtown so far.
NorthWood at Warsaw
Always nice to be home
The Panthers (11-2, 3-1) try to bounce back at a challenging venue after suffering their first NLC loss and having winning streaks of nine at home and five overall snapped last week against Goshen. This typically competitive series has favored the hosting team in recent years with that club taking seven of the last eight meetings, including NorthWood’s 41-39 victory last season. Panther juniors Zach Zurcher (18.3) and Jonathan Wilkinson (17.2) are Elkhart County’s top scoring duo at 35.4 per game, while seniors Jared Bloom (17.4) and John Swanson (10.4) are at 27.8 for the Tigers (8-6, 2-2).
Fairfield at West Noble
Northeast Corner Conference contenders and potential 3A Wawasee Sectional opponents Fairfield (8-7, 4-1) and West Noble (12-1, 6-0) have each featured balanced scoring this season. The Falcons are led by Garrett Scott (10.7 points a game), Brad Lantz (10.5) and Marcus Rodes (10.2), making them the lone Elkhart County team with three players averaging in double figures, while Drew Schermerhorn’s at 14.2, Keith Gibson 11.0, Nick Noe 8.2 and Nick Thomas 8.2 for the Chargers. West Noble’s lone loss this season came against Westview during the NECC Tourney, 59-50, while both of Fairfield’s last two outings have been losses to those same Warriors, 52-49 in overtime in the NECC Tourney title game and 51-37 in a return trip to Westview (13-1, 6-0) last week.
By Anthony Anderson