FORT WAYNE – The SAC showed its overall strength last postseason. But because of some key graduation losses, the league may be hard pressed to match that kind of success in 2012-13.
Two of the leagues eight teams reached the state finals, with Concordia winning the Class 3A state championship and Luers finishing as the 2A state runner-up. The Cadets have won two of the last three 3A state titles, while the Knights have been second at state in two of the last three years and won the 2011 2A state championship.
South Side and Snider each won sectional titles, with the Panthers reaching the regional finals.
Our conference is really a tough conference, Bishop Luers coach Denny Renier said. Year in and year out, our conference is extremely good. Our record in the state tournament shows it. I am proud of our conference and what they represent.
In the preseason coaches single-class poll, South Side was ranked No. 3, Snider No. 11 and Bishop Luers No. 18.
I am firm believer that we have one of the toughest conferences in the state, South Side coach Juanita Goodwell said. Our schedule is tough in that we have to play these teams, maybe twice, before the postseason. Its telling and a good setting for us.
Sometimes its a matter of SAC teams eliminating each other in the playoffs. South Side won the regular-season and tournament conference titles, but fell in the 4A regional to Snider, which the Archers had beaten twice during the regular season. Also, South Side beat another SAC team, Wayne, in the sectional finals.
A strong nucleus, including IPFW recruit Ariana Simmons, has the Archers favored again.
We have a great returning crew, Goodwell said. We have solid senior leadership who are hungry and determined. I hope that will carry us far. South Side is blessed to have the competition we have. Its up to us to get it done, but the conference definitely gives us great preparation. I know we will always be battle-challenged.
Concordia, Bishop Luers and Snider were hit by graduation, including the Panthers loss of Tiffany Gooden Award winner Akilah Sims. But Goodwell said she doesnt think the losses will affect what are three traditionally strong programs.
I dont really care how depleted some teams may feel, she said. All the programs are strong programs and have great leadership and coaches, and they get their girls playing hard for them. We might be more blessed with returning players and more experience, but every game is going to be a challenge.
Theres no overlooking anybody.
The Knights and Cadets, however, each have three holes in their starting lineup.
We are young, but our young kids are basketball players, Renier said. I think we are going to surprise some teams. We are going to experience some growing pains, but with the nucleus we have we are excited about what we are capable of doing.