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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Homestead’s Tahj Curry takes a shot against the Concordia defense during the fourth quarter Friday night.

Spartans’ zone, other 6-8 big man stop Cadets

– Dana Batt has been playing basketball for only a few years, while Chris Johnson has been a head coach for almost two decades. But both are showing their development this season for Homestead.

Batt, a junior who began playing organized basketball as an eighth-grader, scored 19 points, and Johnson’s move to a zone defense is paying dividends as the host Spartans held off Concordia 53-46 on Friday.

“Coming into this season, it was just adjusting to the speed at the varsity level,” said Batt, who had previously played mostly junior varsity. “I have only been playing basketball for 3 to 4 years so I was behind the learning curve, and for me it was getting the fundamentals down and playing at the right speed and making the right decisions. I am really starting to catch up to that now.”

Against the Cadets (3-4), the 6-foot-8 Batt needed to step up for the Spartans (8-3) and did so when sophomore star and fellow 6-8 player Caleb Swanigan picked up two fouls, both offensive, in the first quarter and went to the bench. Batt scored 12 points in the first half before Swanigan returned in the second half and scored 14 of his 16 points.

“Once he went down, we had to other people step up on the team,” Batt said.

“As the other big guy, that sort of fell on my shoulders, and my teammates did a real good job of finding me in the post.”

Homestead led 23-21 at halftime and outscored Concordia 30-25 in the second half. Batt and Swanigan combined for 13 of the team’s 18 points in the fourth quarter.

“We are continuing to work on his footwork, but he is 6-8 and long and has good moves under the basket,” Johnson said of Batt. “It is a great 1-2 punch for us.”

While Batt and Swanigan were providing the bulk of the offense, the Spartans’ defense was led by a stingy zone that held IUPUI recruit D.J. McCall scoreless.

“We are a zone team now,” Johnson said. “I have turned into that zone coach. Before, for 19 years, it was man-to-man type of basketball. But we have to go with the type of players we have and have to adjust as coaches.”

The Spartans held the Cadets to 16-of-47 shooting from the field and 11 of 26 on 3-pointers.

“Our length is our biggest asset as a team,” Batt said. “As long as we are getting out there and contesting the jump shots, we will take our chances going after the boards.”

McCall, the Cadets’ lone starter returning from last year’s Class 3A state runner-up, had seven rebounds and five assists.

“D.J. has to score for us to be as good as we want to be,” Concordia coach Josh Eggold said. “I don’t like shooting quite that many 3s. I would have liked to see us get more things going to the basket, but they are smart and they have 6-8 and 6-8 waiting around the rim if you want to go that deep.”

gjones@jg.net

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