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Sophomore duo gives South a spark, North game preview

Sophomores+Anthony+Leal+%28left%29+and+Noah+Jager+%28right%29+have+both+played+a+big+role+in+the+Panthers+fantastic+10-2+record+thus+far+in+the+season.
Sophomores Anthony Leal (left) and Noah Jager (right) have both played a big role in the Panthers fantastic 10-2 record thus far in the season.

Sophomores Anthony Leal (left) and Noah Jager (right) have both played a big role in the Panthers fantastic 10-2 record thus far in the season.

Calvin Prenkert

Calvin Prenkert

Sophomores Anthony Leal (left) and Noah Jager (right) have both played a big role in the Panthers fantastic 10-2 record thus far in the season.

Calvin Prenkert and Logan Hanchett

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If sophomore Anthony Leal scores, the Panthers win.

Although this seems like a bold statement, it’s a fact demonstrated through South’s (10-2) first half of the season. In every game (except the loss to New Albany and the overtime win against Floyd Central), Leal has scored in double figures. The stats speak for themselves: 20 pts against BNL, 20 pts against Southport, 16 pts against Decatur Central and Lowell and only three points in the 58-70 loss to No.1 New Albany. The Panthers rely on University of Southern Indiana commit, senior Chance Coyle, to carry the majority of the scoring load, but if Leal isn’t scoring, close games won’t be tilted in their favor.

Leal isn’t daunted by knowing that he is being relied on more this year. “It’s a lot of pressure sometimes, but I enjoy the challenge of coming out every game and doing what I can to help our success,” Leal said.

Being able to start and play Leal for a significant number of minutes as a freshman became essential in capturing a sectional championship last year and gave coach J.R. Holmes depth on the bench. Coming into his sophomore year, Leal worked hard to make sure he improved. “I’m more confident in my abilities,” Leal said. “I’ve been working on a lot on things like dribbling and getting stronger, which has really helped me.”

“Anthony has a ton of potential and he’s really fulfilling it,” sophomore Noah Jager said. “He’s tough for opposing defenses, and that really helps our team.”

The Panthers may have found their future point guard.

Jager, brother of former South point guard and current Indiana University basketball player Johnny Jager, has been excellent at the point guard position this year. Jager, like his brother, is small, standing only at 5’8 (Johnny is listed at 6’0). But what Jager lacks in size, he makes up for in quickness and passing ability. Even though he is only a sophomore, Jager already possesses great court vision and has proved that he can handle the keys to the Panther offense.

“Playing with Noah is a lot of fun because he handles the ball so well, and always finds the open guy,” senior guard Phillip King said.

Jager leads the team in assists, which is typical for any true point guard, but what stands out is his ability to consistently find the right player, usually Coyle or Leal, to make the clutch shot.  “(Jager) has been finding the open guy since we started playing together in first grade,” Leal said. “It’s great to see him getting recognition for something he’s done really well since we were younger.”

The Panther point guard is still working on getting his shot to consistently fall, but after the spectacular 16 point game had against Floyd Central, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him contribute double digits on a more consistent basis. Jager’s ability to score will become even more important when the Panthers take on teams that succeed in shutting down Coyle and Leal. “When (Coyle and Leal) are being keyed on, I hope to be able to hit shots and pick up the slack,” Jager said.

Rivalry Game

Jager, Leal, and the rest of the squad take on North on Friday. The rivalry matchup follows a hard-fought loss to New Castle on Saturday night at the HOF Classic championship. Earlier in the day, South defeated No. 4 Floyd Central in overtime, 55-50. Jager was instrumental in the Panthers’ win, scoring 16 points on a perfect 6-for-6 from the field. After only taking their second loss of the season, South is now fully focused on North, looking to dominate the matchup and earn bragging rights for Bloomington’s southside.

North (3-5) has looked good as of late, winning its last three games. The Cougars are led by senior forward Liam Wilkerson, freshman point guard Isaac Vencel and sophomore shooting guard Tim Brewster. Each of them have been key to putting North back on track from an early 0-5 season start. North will need an impressive perimeter shooting performance, coupled with the shutting down of Coyle, Jager, and Leal, to walk away with an upset win.

No. 9 South takes on rival North, Friday at 7:30 p.m. on the road.

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Sophomore duo gives South a spark, North game preview