A Northern Lakes Conference title appears to be in the cards for Concord this boys basketball season, that according to the collective opinion of the league’s coaches, and it’s partially because the Minutemen are playing with house money.
Actually, more specifically, because they’re playing with Franko House, who the coaches consider money.
“I don’t see how anyone could not have Concord as the heavy favorite in the conference and the (Elkhart) sectional,” Warsaw coach Doug Ogle insisted this week.
“Franko House is the deal-breaker because of all the different ways he can score and how well he passes,” said Ogle, whose Tigers won back-to-back titles in 2009-10 and ’10-11. “In addition, they have an experienced and athletic group of players surrounding him. I don’t see them losing unless House is not at the game or plays terrible. Either is unlikely to happen, though.”
The NLC, one of the premier boys basketball leagues in Indiana, tips off its season Friday with its traditional shotgun start of sorts. All eight teams will be playing their openers.
Concord (2-0) hosts Memorial (3-1). Other matchups for the rivalry-flavored first set of assignments are Goshen (3-1) at Northridge (3-2), Warsaw (2-3) at Wawasee (3-2) and, in a battle of unbeatens, NorthWood (4-0) at Plymouth (5-0).
If you total those above numbers, that’s 25-9 so far — good for the most wins and the fourth-best percentage (.735) against non-league opponents among all 46 conferences in the state.
Memorial ran the table in the NLC last season at 7-0, becoming the fourth different school to earn the championship in the last five years, but the Chargers graduated four standouts from their 24-2 semistate club.
Concord has finished tied for second each of the last two seasons at 5-2, and the coaches are almost universal in saying it’s the Minutemen’s time now.
To the question, “Setting aside your own team, who’s the favorite to win the NLC and why?” all seven opposing coaches mentioned Concord.
And Goshen’s Brian Bechtel and Northridge’s Ronnie Thomas joined Ogle in mentioning only the Minutemen.
Memorial’s Mark Barnhizer, NorthWood’s Aaron Wolfe and Wawasee’s Phil Mishler, meanwhile, each labeled the race being between Concord and Plymouth, though Barnhizer and Wolfe both still gave an edge to Concord.
Plymouth’s Ryan Bales said the favorites are NorthWood and Concord, while Concord’s Steve Austin tabbed Plymouth.
“I think until someone shows they can handle Concord with Franko House, that bodes well for them,” Wolfe said of the Minutemen. “Plymouth did beat them last year, and with the players both teams have back, I think those two teams are the standard.”
“Concord, because they have size, speed and skill,” Bechtel said in separating the Minutemen from the rest.
“They have a lot of weapons that are going to be very tough to stop all at once,” Thomas added of the consensus favorites. “You try to negate their size, they have shooters. If you try to get out on their shooters, they will punish you inside.”
All of Concord’s popularity in this poll aside, the Minutemen are seeking their first NLC title since 2004-05.
Plymouth is seeking its first since going back-to-back in 2006-07 and ’07-08, the first of those two being a shared title with NorthWood. That was NorthWood’s last league championship, as well as the league’s last shared banner.
“I still think a lot of teams could win,” Austin said, echoing a sentiment of Bales’, “but it’s Plymouth if I have to pick. They’ve got the bigs and they’re getting the guard play. They’re doing some full-court stuff really well, keeping people off-balance, and they still shoot it well.”
Boys Basketball Schedule
Memorial (3-1) at Concord (2-0)
Jimtown (2-3) at Culver (5-1)
Goshen (3-1) at Northridge (3-2)
NorthWood (4-0) at Plymouth (5-0)
Hamilton (4-3) at Fairfield (2-2)
Warsaw (2-3) at Wawasee (3-2)
Penn (2-1) at SB Clay (4-2)
Angola (2-2) at Westview (4-1)
Marian (2-2) at SB Washington (3-1)
Cornerstone Christian at Clinton Christian
Edwardsburg (3-0) at Coloma (1-1), boy/girl varsity DH beginnning with 6 p.m. boys
Goshen at Fairfield
Marian vs. Proviso East, Ill. (5-2 before Addison Trail Friday) at Indianapolis Tech, 2:45 p.m. as part of Indy Legacy Showcase
Bethany Christian Holiday Tourney — Elkhart Christian (3-1) vs. Lakeland Christian (2-4), 10 a.m.; SB Trinity (2-1) vs. Bethany (1-5), 11:30 a.m.; consolation, 4 p.m.; championship, 7:30 p.m. (accompanied by girls tourney, with its championship at 6 p.m.)