By Chris Johnson


Belvidere North dealt with a tough two-point loss to Huntley, 71-69 to open the 2016-2017 winter sports season.

By the end of the week, they had to work past three more losses as they prepared to get ready to play ball in the NIC-10.

The Blue Thunder acted on the invitation to participate in the Crystal Lake Invitational but quickly ran into a lot of size and even more experience. Losses were issued to them by Crystal Lake Central, McHenry, and host Prairie Ridge. Belvidere North entered the NIC-10 schedule, already four wins behind front-runner Hononegah.

Now a match with Jefferson, played on Wednesday, Nov. 30, will be etched in the official ledger, as more answers are revealed. The question on readiness to compete can be put aside. It won’t be simple to slip through this season. Jefferson is in the midst of another change it seems, and they were just the first NIC-10 challenger up.

Just two seasons removed from the 4A Regional Title and a 23-9 mark they earned in 2015, the J-Hawks are a team that could be heading up the ladder in the standings, many have expressed.

Others have said the opposite could be possible. Jefferson defeated Proviso West for its first win of the season on Wednesday, Nov. 23. Since the four-point, 62-58 win, the J-Hawks dropped two straight by a combined eight points. On Saturday, Nov. 26, the J-Hawks fell to Chicago Hyde Park, 45-43.

Belvidere North has to be able to beat teams like Jefferson this season. The Blue Thunder had to take what it learned in its season opening trek and attempt to get the focus back quickly. The NIC-10 season is underway. The Blue Thunder will have to fight and slow teams like Jefferson, if they want to be an influencing factor in the NIC-10 race.

Hononegah has already jumped in front with a 4-0 mark on the season, heading into week two of play. Boylan is right behind them as is Auburn and others.

Belvidere North will have to deal with Hononegah Friday, Dec. 2 in Rockton. There are many who feel the showdown with the Indians will give Belvidere North their best chance to see where they stand. Hononegah will be favored to win and Belvidere North has to figure out how to match up.

The numbers say Hononegah carries the advantage inside with players listed at 6’6 and 6’7. Six other players on the Indians roster are 6’2 or taller. Belvidere North has only one player listed less than 6’0 tall.

In basketball, a couple inches and a few pounds might require a few more bodies around the ball. Teams like Hononegah, Harlem, and Boylan are likely to have the size advantage inside this year. Belvidere North will see two of the top three in a period of less than a week beginning Friday, Dec. 2.

Blue Thunder doesn’t have many “shorter” players to work with. In a position such as point guard or possibly shooting guard smaller can be better. Other quicker teams will be waiting.

Belvidere North has a lot of good sized players that will be able to find ways to interchange more easily than other teams with different established situations.

In a classical view, the Blue Thunder will get the chance to use a lot of players this season as they build a path towards continued improvement.

By the end of the first week in January 2017, the Blue Thunder will have already had to deal with more than half of their scheduled NIC-10 opponents this season.

They will face Guilford, Freeport, East, and Boylan over that stretch. Belvidere North needs to be sure when those games appear on the schedule that they have figured out a way to assure it won’t just be a walkover for anyone – even undefeated conference leaders. It will have to be the mentality this season.

Belvidere North’s early season record is 0-0 in the NIC-10. The regular season wins in tournament games look good in the standings.

At the end of the year, conference champions tend to get the best position in the playoffs. Those who stay competitive with those leaders often find themselves in a position to succeed, even though every number, record and statistic shows otherwise.

The year 2017 opens with a match at Rockford Boylan on Friday, Jan. 6 for Belvidere North.

On Wednesday, Jan. 11, the Auburn Knights look to highlight how far they’ve come, since the winter season began. They are expected to be at or near the top in the NIC-10 this season. Auburn will probably be favored to win during its January showing.

Belvidere North has to have its share of upsets, but more importantly, they have to win the games that they are in. If they are within a few points late, they have to figure out how to take that game if they want to think about a conference title. If they can survive the next month of play, January might open with a different perspective for the senior members of this season’s Belvidere North Blue Thunder boys’ basketball team.

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