By NICK SLOAN, NJSloan212@gmail.com
The Bonner Springs Braves boys basketball team will look to do what the girls team could not this week - defeat the Piper Pirates in a championship game.
Piper and Bonner Springs will square off in the Panthers Invitational final tonight. KCK Preps will broadcast the game live.
Here are some quick notes on the game.
1. Tyler Howell could provide Bonner Springs an advantage inside. While Piper's a deep basketball team, they're not a big basketball team. Piper's C.J. Harper has played like a man in Paola this week, but Howell has a nice advantage over him in size. Howell's averaging 8 points and 7 rebounds a game so far this week. If the game is close, the big man could provide the difference in a Bonner Springs win.
2. "Next man up." Both teams are well balanced. Eight players for the Pirates average at least five points a game. Meanwhile, six players for the Braves are averaging at least six points a game. That's pretty good balance and depth, both needed in a tournament environment. Numbers suggest Piper's a deeper team - but don't underestimate Bonner's bench in this game.
3. The force has been with Luke to begin the year. Corny Star Wars joke aside, Luke Long has been the most consistent player for the Pirates through three games this season. Long is averaging nearly 15 points a game and he's definitely the biggest outside threat for the Pirates. Locking him up should be on top of the agenda for Bonner Springs' defensive game-plan.
4. Piper and Bonner Springs have both had some fun on defense this week. Bonner Springs has 41 steals (!!!) in two games in Paola, while Piper is averaging 11 steals a game this season. While the level of competition may have something to do with it, both squads have played pretty good defense at points this week.
Key players to watch:
For Piper - Long is averaging 15 points a game. Dominique Jennings had a double-double against Harmon and is averaging over 11 points so far this season. Vincent Eskina and C.J. Harper are providing Piper a nice boost inside, averaging a combined 13 points in Paola this week. Calvin Johnson, Jr., is also one of the best defenders in the Kaw Valley League and had a nice 5-point, 6-assist effort against Harmon in round one.
For Bonner Springs - Austen Twombley leads the way for Bonner Springs, averaging 14 points. He's added 5.5 steals a game this week in Paola. Zshavon Dotson is someone to lookout for on the perimeter - he nailed three three's against Eudora in the second round. While he's had a bit of a quiet week, Jordan Jackson also can score at any time. He had seven three's in a game last year, so Piper's defense can't fall asleep. Oh, and the big man Howell.
PREDICTION: I like Piper to win a close, competitive game that should set up two more good games when they hook up in the Kaw Valley League this season. Of course, I picked Bonner Springs to win the girls, so perhaps that's the best part of this preview for Bonner Springs fans.