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By DYLAN MALONE
I was going over the Indiana AP polls for boys basketball pre-season and I couldn't help but notice that AC wasn't on there. The Jets opened their season with probably their toughest challenge they will face until sectionals and possibly beyond in the Norwell Knights.
The Knights are currently ranked seventh in the 3A poll and are still undefeated at 5-0 after winning a sectional with Bellmont in it last year and returning all five starters. The Knights most recently played a pretty decent Bishop Luers and dismantled them 76-59, but then played a lowly 1A Southern Wells team that the Jets destroyed 73-44 and won by a modest 13 points.
That being said, against the Knights the Jets lost in overtime, 72-67, and it remains AC's only loss on their current four-game winning streak. The Jets could and probably should make it eight straight before entering the ACAC tournament, but conference rival Garrett and county rival Bellmont might have a lot to say about that. Both games are on my calendar (Bellmont Dec. 27, Garrett Jan. 7).
Also on the AP top ten poll sits the perennial ACAC favorite Bluffton Tigers. This year they are riding the success of their "7-footer" and have thus far not been disappointed with a solid 4-1 record (I put his height in question because I really have to see it to believe it. I just saw Bellmont play Garrett and noticed they had a player listed at 6'10" but when he stood next to the Braves' 6'5'' sophomore Maverick Birch, he looked to only be about an inch or two taller. I think they measure some of these kids when they are standing on their tippy-toes.
Bluffton has been sitting at the #10 spot all season long. I don't have too much to say about that other than we shall see when the Jets host them January 20 and possibly sooner if they catch them in the tourney. My money says they do.
Also in the top ten is Bishop Luers. They sit at the #3 position for the time being but at the start of the season were ranked #1 without even playing a game for the first couple weeks because of their football championship. I thought there was a lot assumed there to start the year because I do not feel as though they deserved the top spot after losing a few key guys, but hey, that's not what I get paid for.
So the Jets haven't made the top ten yet. They have crept up though. After not appearing in the top 20 at the start of the year, AC now sits at the #14 spot. They are being some good teams and a couple I think they rightfully have earned to be in front of at the moment. Bowman Academy for one, sitting at the #9 spot in 2A with an 0-3 record. Still scratchin' my head on that one. They played tough teams and got beat...convincingly. A better gauge will be when they meet up with Luers on January 28th.
The Jets most recently took down the number one ranked team in 1A Canterbury. This game was down and dirty from the tip and saw a lot of defensive prowess from the Jets as well as experiencing what a good defense could do to expose them as well. Despite the learning I'm sure Coach McClure's boys got from this game, they came away victorious and with poise at the foul line...something very hard to teach.
Canterbury has since dropped to three with their second loss coming just a few days ago. Truth be told, I think this is another attempt at hype by the AP poll voters. I really think they are a talented team, but without Hatch, the Michigan-bound superstar recovering from his second plane crash, the team just faded a bit, much like the media did right after tip-off during the AC-Canterbury match. We all found out what they really wanted to see that night as Hatch was found rebounding shots tentatively for his teammates during warm-ups. After all he's been through, I wish him the best. He's earned it.
This season is all about redemption for the Jets. A lot of the roster for AC remembers all too well losing in the first round of sectionals to a tough Bishop Luers team who would eventually get knocked off by an even tougher Bluffton squad.
I look forward to watching the sectionals fall into place. The hype at the Hangar will be electrifying.