Edwardsburg's early success is no surprise to boys basketball coach Steve Wright.
After all, the Eddies had back five veteran seniors, five talented juniors up from the junior varsity, size up front and good ballhandling guards.
"With the guys we had coming back and the group coming up from the junior varsity, I thought we had a chance to be successful," Wright admitted. "I thought we'd be a solid team. But so much depends on healthiness. I thought we had good balance. And we have great kids who are unselfish. They don't care who gets the credit. They're each other's biggest fans. With that, they work hard, play good defense and rebound well."
The defense is what has stood out so far for the Eddies, now 6-2 overall and tied for first in the Wolverine Conference South Division. Playing mostly man-to-man, Edwardsburg is giving up just 44.4 points per game while collecting 10.5 deflections, 11.5 steals and 2.4 blocks per game.
"We mix it up defensively," Wright said. "We do some different things, depending on the opponent. But our bread and butter is still man-to-man. We take a lot of pride in defense and battling and competing on the defensive end."
Offensively, the balanced Eddies are averaging 61.4 points per game with mostly a workmanlike approach.. The two losses, 55-43 to 7-1 Marshall and 46-42 to Dowagiac, are the only games Edwardsburg has been held to less than 60.
"At the offensive end, we tell the guys that if they have the opportunity for a fastbreak, take it," Wright said. "But otherwise, look for the right look. It might take a couple of ball swings, but we slow it down and run our offense."
►Girls power rankings: Eddies keep rolling to top Michigan power rankings
►Boys power rankings: High school boys basketball: Edwardsburg, Bucks' Young lead Michigan boys power rankings
Leading the way for Edwardsburg is 6-5 third-year starter Luke Stowasser, who has been dominant inside with 12.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Jacob Pegura, who at 6-6 was the quarterback on the Eddies' state semifinalist football team, chips in 11.0 points and 6.0 rebounds.
"Luke has really come along this year," Wright said. "He's been good in the paint and his ability to score inside has been huge. Plus, he plays good defense. Jacob does everything you ask him to do. He's always battling, diving for loose balls, blocking shots and rebounding. Having the two of them has been a luxury. We don't usually have the bigger post players. We usually have the small forward type, 6-1 and 6-2. Having those guys in there has been huge, just from a rebounding perspective. And they alter shots from guys driving in."
Brendan Byce, a 6-3 third-year starter, is the other starter up front, averaging 8.4 points.
"Brendan is more of a finesse player," Wright said. "He's quiet and is not going to say much. But he's going to do what you ask him to do. He's good around the rim, keeps guys in front of him on the defensive end and hits the outside shot."
The backcourt is manned by 5-10 Isaac Merrill and 5-10 Jake Moore, who are averaging 8.9 and 8.3 points, respectively. And the two are as different as night and day.
"Isaac is really smart," Wright said. "He keeps the team composed and gets guys in the right spots. He's like a coach on the floor. Jake is the fiery one. The other four starters are pretty mild manner guys. He's the guy who gets the others going from an energy standpoint with yelling and clapping. He's got an endless motor. He works hard and is extremely explosive."
Edwardsburg has also gotten great contributions from five juniors in Zach Bartz, Mason Crist, Brendan Madison, Corbin Blagg and Owen Eberlein.
Wright believes his team has the potential to win the school's first district title in seven years.
"We have a bright future if all the pieces keep coming together and if we keep working," Wright said. "The opportunities will be there if we take advantage of them. We have the potential to make some noise at district title."
Niles ready for action
Because of Christmas break, bad weather and COVID issues by an opponent, Niles has played just one game in 31 days. But Viking coach Myles Busby hopes that will be a blessing in disguise.
"This has been a good time for us to work on a lot of things that we didn't have time for during the preseason," Busby said. "We've been able to give guys rest, but also teach and work on things that we needed to work on. As far as the schedule, we can only control what we can control."
Niles will have 15 games over the season's final seven weeks, including one stretch of five games in nine days.
Chieftains hope to stay hot
Because of COVID issues, Dowagiac had to postpone their two games this past week.
Coach Danum Hunt was sidelined and some players were sidelined either with COVID or quarantined by health and safety protocols. The question will be how the Chieftains rebound from the postponements. After being destroyed by Culver 79-15 just before Christmas to fall to 1-3, Dowagiac had played its best basketball, beating Coloma 60-31 and stunning league-leading Edwardsburg 46-42 before the postponements.
"It will be interesting to see where we pick up," Hunt said. "The challenging part will be getting our conditioning back to compete at the level we were competing."
Henry Weller had scored 47 points in the two wins, upping his season scoring average to 15.7.
Wolverine South: Edwardsburg 6-2 (1-1); Sturgis 5-3 (1-1); Three Rivers 4-4 (1-1); Dowagiac 3-3 (1-1); Niles 2-3 (0-0).
BCS Red: Berrien Springs 5-2 (2-0); Brandywine 4-3 (1-1); South Haven 2-3 (0-0); Buchanan 1-5 (0-2).
Southwest 10: Centreville 4-1 (4-0); Comstock 4-1 (4-0); White Pigeon 3-1 (3-1); Hartford 3-2 (2-2); Decatur 2-3 (2-2); Cassopolis 2-4 (2-2); Mendon 1-4 (1-2); Bloomingdale 1-4 (1-2); Marcellus 0-5 (0-4); Bangor 0-6 (0-4).
Ryan Young, Buchanan 21.5; Henry Weller, Dowagiac 15.7; Davion Goins, Cassopolis 15.3; Nate Orr, Brandywine 15.1; Luke Stowasser, Edwardsburg 12.3; Jacob Pegura, Edwardsburg 11.0; Jeramiah Palmer, Brandywine 10.6
This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: Michigan high school boys basketball: area news and notes