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By DYLAN MALONE
It's almost here, Jet fans. AC's best chance at a state-title ever continues on Saturday with a visit to North Judson. If you've got no plans for the weekend and you're looking for a basketball game to watch, you might as well get over to the regionals because Adams County has not had a team this good since Arnold, Richie, and Schultz donned Braves uniforms at the same time.
Are the Jets for real, though? Can this group of guys really make noise in a regional field they've only been to twice in their existence? I think so.
Their opponent in the 1p.m. game (I feel I need to clear this up. It's 1p.m. OUR time) are the Westview Warriors coming in with a decent 20-5 record. The win/loss sounds intimidating until you look at their schedule...a 47-31 loss at the hands of Churubusco (a team they would beat by eight two weeks later), a win at Eastside by 14 (AC thrashed the Blazers by 24), and a slew of 1A schools who did not give Lakewood Park Christian a run for their money (AC beat Lakewood by double-digits in December.
The Jets should have no problem playing into the championship round if they play focused and driven like they did against Luers. Coach McClure is good in the "keeping the kids focused" department.
I think it's the night cap championship game that will be the one to watch if you like grind it out, close games around March time.
That game, at 8:30p.m. OUR time just to clarify the confusion, will include either a 23-1 Hebron team or the Bowman Academy Eagles who sit at 14-8.
Hebron's schedule is one I would classify as a "fluff" list. Props to the Hawks for winning games they are supposed to win, you can't take that away from them, but when teams get to the regional level, the degree of difficulty raises in opponents and Hebron will be wishing they hadn't wasted so much of their schedule playing lowly 1A teams and teams from 2A & 3A whose programs have seen better years.
Hebron's marquee win this season was against the regional host North Judson in the first round of their sectional. I don't think AC will have to worry about seeing Hebron because of the Hawks' regional opponent.
Enter Bowman Academy.
Like a prophet (or a coach who knows his competition), coach McClure stated earlier this season at the ACAC selection luncheon that the Jets would likely see Bowman Academy at the regional level. I think he may be right on the money.
The Eagles have a deceptive record coming in at 14-8. They have played some of the toughest schools this state has to offer and some that Indiana doesn't offer. Their trips to Chicago have surely helped stiffen this team up and I look for their physical and athletic play to take it to Hebron and then give the Jets a great game in the championship.
Like AC, Bowman has a lineup that includes two guys at 6'6" and a third at 6'5". The Jets have not seen a lot of teams who could match up well with their height. One team that comes to mind that may be a good comparison would be the New Haven Bulldogs. AC wins their last game of the season at New Haven if the game ends after three and a half quarters. The Jets have to find a way to play for 32 minutes against Bowman to take home the regional crown.
Pressure should not be an issue. If the Jets win the opening round against Westview (which they should), the pressure is off. They will have already made it as far as any Jet team ever has and they can only go home with the best record in AC history.
Honestly, I can't see the run ending at N.D. This group of kids is the best I've ever seen (or played with) and the chemistry should take them a lot further than people will give them credit for. With some determination, grit, and key performances by the Jets (and a little help from the from the "Flight Crew" of AC fans), there is no reason that AC can't make the trip to Huntington North for semi-state and eventually Bankers's Life Fieldhouse.
First things, first, however. Lets' get the win against Westview.
I will be at the game in North Judson keeping the fans up to date on the score via Twitter. Look us up! #DDDsportsnews on Twitter or maybe I'll see you there. I'll be the guy screaming at the refs from the press area.
Prediction: AC 58, Westview 52- Bowman Ac. 64, Hebron 50. Championship- AC 74, Bowman Ac. 70.