• Indiana

Nightlight Nastiness: Bloomington South Panthers purring in the shadows as an IHSAA tournament sleeper

By: Scott Burnstein, February 1, 2019, 11:00 pm

These fellas are so cool, the sheep count them when they hit the pillow at night to go to sleep.

Bloomington South could be a sleeper in the 2019 IHSAA boys basketball “Big Dance.” The Panthers, 17-3 and ranked No. 17 in the state by the IBCA, have an all-time great coach in J.R. Holmes and a star player sure to be an all-time great B-Town baller in junior guard Anthony Leal.

Despite the state ranking, not many pundits are mentioning Bloomington South as a legit state-title contender. Well, Burney IS … the Panthers are on the prowl and torching nets, baby! Next stop, Circle City cage glory?

First, you have the emotion factor. South will most likely be on a tourney run on the heels of Holmes breaking the state’s career record for coaching victories (needs 807, has 803).

Second, you have the Anthony “Real Deal” Leal factor. As in the 6-foot-5 wing guard and high-major college recruit is lightning in a bottle, lighting defender ablaze with a versatile offensive bag of tricks.  He has the ability to take over a game STEPH CURRY STYLE.  A primetime playmaker and true thoroughbred like Leal can be the ultimate equalizer.

Finally, you have the Sir-Grind-A-Lot factor. Every major contributor on this winter’s Holmes Hoop Crew is a Sir-Grind-A-Lot, a gym rat, a workhorse, grit-laced hardwood gladiator who punch the clock as regularly as they punch opponents in the mouth with their hard-nosed play. I’m talking about guys like Adam Graham, Noah Jager, Grayson Rolen, Connor Hickman and Joey Bomba, among others. Graham and Rolen are the senior "glue guys," the adhesive that makes this jungle animal of a team purr. Jager is the nails-tough floor general, efficient, heady and unspooling a heavy duty motor. Hickman and Bomba are the young guns, locked and loaded, ready and able to shred at the first opportunity — Hickman specifically can get heated in a hurry. Leal, the humble superstar, is the engine. And my, what an engine it is. Think NASCAR, people.

So, in conclusion, when it’s all said and done, don’t be shocked if B-Town South is knocking on the door come March and ready to party like it is 2009, the year the program raised its first state title banner. Come on, B-Town, get on those dancing shoes and cut footloose to the sweet sound of Panther Pride.