Every seat in the gym at Blackhawk Christian was full Monday night. Four of those seats were occupied by elite college basketball coaches: Purdue's Matt Painter, Illinois' Brad Underwood, Michigan State's Tom Izzo, and North Carolina's Roy Williams.
The quartet of coaches was there to see two of the best junior basketball players in Indiana, Blackhawk big man Caleb Furst and Homestead shooting guard Luke Goode. Furst and Goode, AAU teammates in the offseason, were there to win a basketball game.
In a raucous, sweltering environment in Blackhawk's bandbox, the Spartans prevailed 69-55 behind 19 points from Goode and 12 points each from Grant Simmons and Alec Grinsfelder. Furst had a game-high 25.
"You have to bring energy, you have to bring toughness, I thought our kids played with that," Homestead coach Chris Johnson said. "We got back to Homestead basketball. Really hard-nosed, physical basketball. The officials said from the beginning they were gonna let them play and that was fine with us. ... It was a well-played ball game on both ends from both teams."
Homestead's defensive strategy involved sending two players at the 6-foot-8 Furst whenever he caught the ball. He still got his share of tough baskets, but nothing came easy. Marcus Davidson had 16 points for No. 7 Blackhawk (10-2), including a couple of 3s off passes from Furst out of double teams.
At a crucial juncture moment midway through the fourth quarter, with the Spartans (8-3) up 60-50, Furst caught the ball on the block and went to work. Goode sagged off his man and swooped in for a key steal on the weak side. Zak Krueger scored on the other end to put Homestead ahead by 12 and the rest of the game was a parade of free throws.
"Caleb is a man down there," Johnson said. "I thought we did a very good job of doubling him and making it difficult for him around that basket area. The kids played well tonight, that's probably one of the better games we've played all year."
Homestead led 33-25 at halftime and the teams traded baskets early in the third quarter, with Furst scoring twice to keep his team in it. With about six minutes left in the quarter, however, Goode hit driving layups with his left hand on back-to-back possessions and got fouled both times, pushing his team's advantage to 13. After finishing the second of the two plays, he turned to his teammates rushing toward him and shouted, "Let's go!"
"One of the things that we wanted to do was get up and stay up," Goode said. "So I think those two buckets were big for our team, big for the momentum."
Furst's best move came late in the third quarter, when he caught the ball in the post, sensed the double team coming, spun nimbly to the baseline away from both defenders and power-dunked with two hands.
"It's always so much fun to play him," Goode said of his some-time teammate Furst. "Win or lose, we always have great attitudes after the game. Obviously, it sucks to lose, freshman year I lost and the last two years we've gotten him, so it's been back and forth and it's a lot of fun."