By GREG KEIM
THE GOSHEN NEWS
The Christmas break is coming up for area high schools and one thing that means is it’s holiday tourney time. The first such event involving local is Saturday at Bethany Christian.
The opening round begins at 10 a.m. with the Lakeland Christian Cougars (2-4) squaring off with the Elkhart Christian Academy Eagles (3-1) followed by the host Bruins (1-5) and South Bend Trinity (2-4) around 11:30.
The boys consolation game is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. and the championship around 7:30.
The Eagles are the two-time defending champions, nipping Bethany 39-38 in last year’s finale and topping Clinton Christian 38-24 in 2010-11. Former Concord coach Ryan Culp is in his third season at ECA and has yet to lose a game in the event.
Leading scorers for Bethany are 6-0 sophomore Sol Brenneman at 12.2 points per game, 6-2 senior Caleb Morris 12.0, 5-11 senior Isaac Schertz 4.7 and 6-3 junior Abe Thorne 4.7.
Bruin coach Jim Buller recorded the 365th win of his coaching career at Bethany with a 54-45 victory over The Howe School on Dec. 6 to become the all-time winningest boys basketball coach in Elkhart County history.
Top scorers for the Eagles are 6-4 junior Cory Waycaster 15.8, 6-2 junior Ryan Kupferschmid 13.5, 5-11 junior Kenny Bearss 12.3 and 6-2 junior Tanner Watson 10.3.
This time of the year also means the first week of competition in the NLC with the Concord (2-0) hosting Elkhart Memorial (3-1), NorthWood (4-0) traveling to Plymouth (5-0) and Wawasee (3-2) entertaining Warsaw (2-3) among the league games on Friday.
“This is when things start getting serious,” Concord coach Steve Austin said. “The beginning of the conference season is what kids and coaches strive for.
One of our goals each season is winning an NLC title so getting off to a 1-0 start is very important. There are seasons where one loss can put you out of the title picture. The goal for us this season is to be 1-0 after each league game.”
The Concord Minutemen are coming off a big 63-69 non-conference win over the Penn Kingsmen last Friday as 6-6 senior Franko House tossed in a career-high 31 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead the winners. House, who recently signed to play at Ball State next season, is leading the team in scoring at 21.5 ppg, followed by 6-5 sophomore Filip Serwatka 13.0, 6-3 senior DuWhan Alford 9.5 and 5-8 junior Ramon Johnson 7.0.
Six-two senior Markese McGuire is averaging 25.5 ppg to lead the Memorial Crimson Chargers. Others are 5-11 senior James Hershberger 11.8, 6-0 senior Spenser Gilbert 9.0 and 5-10 sophomore Cameron Maxwell 6.0.
“Memorial has McGuire back and that says a lot about their team,” Austin said. “He is a Division One player (signed with University of Illinois at Chicago) and is probably the best shooter in the area.
“Memorial also has some good young kids around, but the biggest thing they have going is the belief they can win, which has been established over the past two seasons.
“One of the top things we have to do is handle the pressure Memorial can put on the ball. Penn applied a lot of pressure and I thought we handled it. One thing we have to be aware of is not letting the pressure speed us up on offense. We can get to a point where we take too quick of a shot and while it doesn’t go down as a turnover in the books it’s the same if you miss the shot.”
The NorthWood Panthers are led in scoring by 6-5 junior Jonathan Wilkinson 18.8 ppg, 6-5 junior Zach Zurcher 16.8, 6-2 senior Tommy Klem 7.8 and 5-9 junior Tanner Farmwald 6.5. Six-nine junior Mack Mercer is averaging 19.8 ppg to lead the Plymouth Pilgrims, followed by 5-10 senior Joe Knapp 16.6, 5-10 junior Tom Felke 6.2 and 6-0 senior David Lee 6.0.
Top point producers for the Wawasee Warriors are 6-5 senior Ryndan Aaron 16.4 ppg, 6-1 sophomore Alex Clark 11.2, 5-9 sophomore Gage Reinhard 6.8 and 6-5 junior Chase Myers 6.0. Leaders for the Warsaw Tigers are 6-0 senior Jared Bloom 16.8 ppg, 6-1 junior Jordan Stookey 12.4, 6-5 senior John Swanson and 6-2 senior Taylor Cone 9.6.
The NECC season is already underway with the Westview Warriors, Fairfield Falcons and Fremont Eagles tied for the top spot with 2-0 records.
Fairfield (2-2) hosts the Hamilton Marines (4-3) on Friday. Leading scorers for the Falcons are 6-5 senior Brad Lantz 12.5 ppg, 6-2 junior Marcus Rodes 11.5, 6-2 senior Garrett Scott 10.8 and 6-2 sophomore Joe Line 8.5.
Westview (4-1) entertains the Angola Hornets (2-2, 1-0 NECC) Friday night. Six-four senior Kyle Miller is averaging 18.2 ppg for the Warriors, followed by 6-3 sophomore Chandler Aspy 15.8, 6-3 senior Nic Raber 10.5 and 5-10 junior Jordyn Bontrager 10.4.
The West Noble Chargers (5-0, 1-0 NECC) travel to Central Noble (0-6, 0-3) on Friday. Leading scorers for the Chargers are 6-3 junior Drew Schermerhorn 13.4 ppg, 6-5 junior Keith Gibson 13.2, 6-7 senior Nick Noe 10.0 and 5-7 senior Nick Thomas 5.8.