Leal, Hickman have Panthers off to hot start


Braydyn Lents and John Law

Last season Bloomington South was silenced by the Edgewood Mustangs 62-56 in the season opener. This showing included a recipe that included a teaspoon of dismal free-throw shooting, a mix of terrible stats from the three-point line, mash that all up with sloppy plays on both ends of the floor that didn’t make the main course taste well, and South whipped up a recipe for disaster. Well…that was last year, though, and now the southside of Bloomington was ready for a whole new basketball season, with lots of hype, hope, and talent all across the board. This season’s home opener was completely different in a lot of ways as the Panthers actually scored, played accurately on defense and allowed Edgewood to score only 40 points the entire game, a blowout indeed, as the final score read South 94-Edgewood 40.

Anthony Leal and Conner Hickman were lights out the entire game, especially Leal. While performing solidly in the first half, he was able to bank in a couple of layups, clip one from three, and dunk twice in the first half alone. Leal had lived up to the hype already, tallying up the scoresheet with 16 points in the first quarter. As Leal was lights out in the first half, Connor Hickman worked well as his sidekick. He was 4-6 from beyond the arc as he ended up scoring 20 points the whole game. Hickman was especially impressive in the third quarter as he was able to keep control of the ball and stay in tune with his defensive assignments. 

The whole team seemed to be in perfect tune the whole game. South was able to press on Edgewood, draw fouls, scramble for loose balls, regain possessions, run down both ends of the floor, and finally received points from not just Leal and Hickman, but from a supporting cast featuring Joey Bomba, Cody Doig, Noah Jager, and Jalen Peck. Peck scored three points the whole game, but was able to keep the team in focus during the fourth quarter, Jager was superb on defense, pressuring guys near the basket, while also finishing the night with six points, Doig also did great on defense along with a couple of three-point shots, and ended up with 12 points on the night. Finally, Joey Bomba had a splendid third quarter, going to the line for two “and one” attempts in the eight minute span, he later hit all of his free throws, while going 2-2 on free throws and 2-3 from the three-point strike, tallying up 14 points.

A lot of what South did Thursday night was impressive. They successfully played a close man-to-man defense and blocked out Edgewood at every chance on the floor. South realized something tonight: it was time for a fresh start with another season of hoops. Winning 94-40, was only the beginning, South has more on the table, more games, in a tighter schedule, with fewer home visits. Last season is a thing of the past. This first game was, in fact, a good start.

Vs New Albany (11/30)

After blowing out Edgewood to open the season, it was now time for J.R. Holmes to learn just how far along his squad was as they would take on fellow legendary coach, Jim Shannon, and the New Albany Bulldogs. While the Bulldogs were missing a few of their starters due to injury, it is likely they wouldn’t have made a difference as the Panthers coasted to a 68-43 victory.

South jumped out to a quick start and lead 19-8 at the end of the first quarter, shooting 7-11 (4-5 3 pt). Juniors Connor Hickman and Joey Bomba had the hot hands to in the first couple of minutes as the two youngsters each hit a couple of threes in the first half. The senior tandem of Anthony Leal and Noah Jager were also able to cash in a triple each in the first half but it was clear that it was going to be the Hickman Show for the whole night.

Hickman finished with 21 points, only missing three of his 11 shots and none from beyond the arc. Behind him were Leal with 18, although he could’ve added more at the charity stripe, Jager with 12, and Joey Bomba with 8.

It was clear throughout the whole game that South is just a class above everyone else in Southern Indiana right now. It didn’t even seem like the Panthers played to their full potential, yet they were still able to treat New Albany like the little brother. The main strengths that South showed were the ability to draw fouls, rebounding, and overall chemistry. Leal was especially tremendous at getting to the bucket and drawing fouls to make it to the free throw line. However, the leadership of floor general Noah Jager might be most impressive. Jager is the glue that brings everyone together and creates a natural style of play for all of his teammates on the court, besides the opponent of course.

With the three headed monster of Hickman, Jager, and Leal, along with Joey Bomba splashing threes from the outside, this team truly looks like something special.

Catch the boys back at it on Friday, December 6th at 7:30 as they take on the Bedford North Lawrence Stars in somewhat of a rivalry game.