Concord’s Steve Austin and Penn’s Al Rhodes aren’t known to be among the easiest men in the high school basketball world to please.
So, when both coaches are pleased at once, especially this early, embrace it.
Or more to the point, embrace the matchup of their teams that is set to take place Friday night at Concord’s McCuen Gym.
Each club heads into it on the heels of a dazzling season debut last weekend.
The Minutemen merely rang up their most lopsided victory over an Indiana opponent in 26 years with their 93-40 win at Glenn.
The Kingsmen won by a more pedestrian 69-54, but that was against a well-regarded 3-0 Fort Wayne North team and it accounted for Penn’s second-widest margin of victory in an opener in the last 12 years.
“I thought we played really well both offensively and defensively for having just two weeks in,” Austin said of his squad’s opener, delayed by the school’s extended football playoff run. “I think it’s one of the best (openers) I’ve had a team play, not just here, but anywhere.”
“We competed very well against a good team,” Rhodes assessed of his team’s premiere, which resulted in his 500th career victory. “(North) pressured us the whole game. One of the things that is important for us is how our four sophomore guards (Jordan Geist, Nate Miller, Billy Doslak and Ryan Lutz) play, and I thought they all played well. Our half-court defense was very good as well. It was a strength of our team, and we’re going to need that after seeing Concord score a zillion points.”
The Minutemen didn’t get quite that many against Glenn, but they did have 58 by halftime while allowing just 14.
In the first significant minutes of his varsity career, 6-foot-5 sophomore Filip Serwatka registered game-highs of 21 points and 11 rebounds while going 8 of 12 from the field with a 3-pointer.
“He’s a very skilled offensive player who can also run and jump,” Austin said. “He needs to learn how to use his size more, but he did rebound well. He’s somebody we can maybe build our future around.”
As for the present, six other players added at least eight points each in the opener, led by Ball State recruit Franko House’s 12.
Junior guard Ramon Johnson had nine to go with six assists and five steals.
Meanwhile at Penn, Notre Dame recruit Austin Torres had 18 points and 10 rebounds in the opener. Geist and Doslak added 12 points each and Conner Sowders 10. Geist dished four assists and Miller three.
“No. 1, I think they’re strong on the inside,” Austin said of the Kingsmen, “and then it looks like their guards can shoot and are penetrating a lot harder than in the past. They’re a little young, but the biggest thing is they were able to get some experience last year.”
Because Concord’s was on Friday and the Kingsmen’s on Saturday, Austin and Rhodes each saw the other club’s opener in person last weekend.
“My first thought was they played excellent defense and they did a strong job of rebounding,” Rhodes said of the Minutemen. “Obviously, they shot the ball well (including 11 of 22 on 3-pointers), their guard play has improved and they’ve got excellent team depth.”
Friday’s showdown will mark the 26th time Rhodes and Austin square off. Concord swept 57-47 and 59-50 decisions last season, but Rhodes still leads the head-to-heads overall at 15-10. Their battles include a split of semistate meetings in 1992 and 1993 when Austin was at South Bend St. Joseph and Rhodes at Warsaw.
Friday’s contest won’t have anything close to those kinds of stakes, but it’s shaping up as attractive nonetheless.
“I think both teams had a lot of people play well last week,” Austin said, “and I think it’s going to be a fun game.”
“We’re very pleased about the opportunity of this game — to go on the road against a difficult opponent,” Rhodes said, “but we will have to rebound better and shoot better to have a chance to win.”
Westview (3-0) at NorthWood (1-0)
Howe (1-2) at Bethany Christian (0-3)
SB Riley (2-1 before Oregon-Davis Wednesday) vs. Central (2-2) at North Side Gym (G/B doubleheader with girls game at 6 p.m.)
Culver Academy (0-2) at Memorial (2-0) (on campus)
Penn (1-0) at Concord (1-0)
Angola (2-1) at Northridge (2-2)
SB Clay (2-1) at Marian (1-1)
Three Rivers (0-1) at Edwardsburg (1-0) (B/G doubleheader with boys game at 6 p.m.)
Argos (1-3) at Jimtown (1-2)
Goshen (3-0) at DeKalb (2-2)
NorthWood at Fairfield (2-1)
Bethany Christian at Lakeland (0-3)
Whitko (1-4) at Wawasee (2-2)
Penn at FW South (0-1 before FW Luers Friday)
Triton (2-2) at Marian
Central Noble (0-4) at Westview
Clinton Christian in Heritage Christian Tournament at Dyer (in second semifinal, 11:30 a.m.; consolation 2 p.m., championship 3:30 p.m.)