Top 20 NECC Girls Basketball players of 2018–19

The 208-19 season is near its end for girls basketball. With only Central Noble still playing in the state tournament, now it’s time to reflect on the players that made this season a special one in the NECC. Note: this is a very difficult list to get in because these are the best players in the NECC IMO for this season. That means there will be good players that won’t crack the top 20. My list is based on not only generational talents of one player, but rather their offense and defensive productivity for one team that has made a significant impact on the outcome of conference games and playoff games. It’s hard to do that with all 12 teams having players of this magnitude. For Honorable mention, every school will have at least one and up to 3 players in the honorable mention list. Again, this is my opinion so please don’t take this too seriously because it’s a fun way to look back at a great season even though CN is still in the running for another state title. Also, just because you’re not in the top 20 doesn’t mean I don’t think you’re a quality player because there are way more than 20 players that have these qualifications, but I can only fit 20.

 

 

Honorable mention

Lauren Leech Freshman Angola

Janna Fee Junior Angola

Sam Brumbaugh Junior Central Noble

Lydia Andrews Sophomore Central Noble

Anna Stayner Senior Central Noble

Mariah Hosted Junior Churubusco

Abi Erwin Senior Churubusco

Mckensie Rieke Junior Eastside

Paige Graber Junior Eastside

Sullivan Kessler Sophomore Eastside

Chloe Dell Junior Fairfield

Brooke Sanchez freshman Fairfield

Kara Kitson Junior Fairfield

Jada Rhonehouse Freshman Fremont

Samantha Kuhn Junior Fremont

Macayla Guthrie Junior Fremont

Lexi Baver Senior Garrett

Nataley Armstrong Freshman Garrett

Camden Bodey Senior Garrett

Tori Creeger Senior Hamilton

Makayla Mast Senior Lakeland

Isabelle Larimer Junior Lakeland

Beth Stroop Junior Lakeland

Alayna Boots Freshman Prairie Heights

Kyler Hall Junior Prairie Heights

Lauren Burns Senior West Noble

Angela Gross Senior West Noble

Tara Miller Seniors West Noble

Jensen Reynolds Senior Westview

Leanna Miller Senior Westview

 

20. Kayla Fenstermaker Junior Guard Angola

When you look at the stats, you’re probably telling me ‘how is she even in this list?’ When things were going south for Angola in early December, Kayla was one of those players that really stuck out to me as the glue that gelled all the pieces together. She’s only 5’6 and doesn’t score a ton, but she is arguably one of the best defenders in the guard slot in the NECC and possibly in the area. How big was she in the playoffs? 16 points in the sectional title game vs Concordia definitely cemented that. Last season, she wouldn’t even be in this list because of the players they had, but she definitely earns a spot here.

 

19. Sarah Duvendack Senior Forward Angola

A very underrated player for the Angola Lady Hornets program, Sarah Duvendack became a very important part of a stingy defensive group that led her team in rebounding, and was a solid perimeter player for the purple and gold. She was one of many players that complimented Angola’s strength in numbers. They’re going to miss her contributions to the program.

 

18. Myah Bear Junior Forward Churubusco

In amidst of a long, rebuilding season, there were some bright spots for this Busco group, and one positive comes from Myah Bear. Myah is not a player that jumps on every scout’s radar, but this is an individual that typically boxes out well, plays great defense, and yes she can shoot a little. Without question, she was the one player that really stood out to me from this team. Busco will be glad to have her talents for another season, and I could see her improve even more as a solid 2-way forward.

 

17. Megan Godfrey Senior Forward West Noble

Here was one of the important pieces to a deep West Noble squad that was able to bring home a sectional title for the City of Ligonier. Godfrey not big for her being a forward, but she brought physicality, rebounded well, and she had a little bit of a scoring touch when counted upon. She like the other 5 seniors left her mark with the Chargers program and that’s the one thing they can keep their heads high.

16. Kennedy Kugler Freshman Center Prairie Heights

One of the main pieces for the future of Prairie Heights Lady Panthers Basketball lies within their true freshman center. While she has had to make adjustments to the varsity game, it seems like she has adjusted quite well to the pace of her competition. In 2-3 years, we could see her as one of the conference’s leading scorers and rebounders when it’s all said and done. This is the kind of center, the Lady Panthers haven’t had in years and that has helped them. Despite her team not accomplishing as much as they would’ve liked, progress was made and we shall see where she and her team will be at come the start of the 2019-20 season.

 

 

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15. Keirstin Roose Sophomore Guard Lakeland 

When this Lakeland player is healthy, she has actually been one of the better players in the NECC. She is one of several pieces that transformed Lakeland from 6 wins in 2016-17 to 15 this season. High IQ, good passer, pretty good defender, and has a lot of upside to be a more complete guard beginning next season as a junior. Roose, a 3-sport athlete, still has room to improve and staying healthy could lead to a breakout junior season in 2019-20.

 

14. Gloria Miller Sophomore Forward Westview

One thing to be excited about Westview besides the fact next year’s freshman class looks stacked is the progression of forward Gloria Miller. Without her work in the paint, I don’t think Westview would have had the winning season they had there. Great rebounder with a lot of hustle and obviously pretty gifted post-player. This is a 3-sport athlete that already looks poised to break out next school year if she can stay healthy though she’s been pretty fortunate this year compare to her freshman year (I guess you can say that for anybody). With some freshman coming in 2019-20, Westview could find themselves back into NECC contention a lot sooner than people may think.

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13. Alexis German Junior Guard Prairie Heights

Alexis has often been overlooked because of how deep the backcourt talent both the NECC and the Fort Wayne area has to offer. But, nevertheless, she has been one of the best players in that position in the conference. Pretty composed with the ball, good passer with a nice scoring touch, and despite her height she finds ways to create her own shot.  With some improvements in the offseason,  next season could be her best.

 

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12. Madison Schermerhorn Senior Forward West Noble

If this was volleyball, she would have been number 1 without question. Offensively, her scoring went down, but all other aspects of her game didn’t. She was still that dominant on both ends even when she isn’t scoring at a rate she was doing for the first couple seasons. However, a deep senior class and some nice undergrad talent will do that. Fittingly, one of the school’s best all-around talents made the basket to clinch a sectional title and that’s part of the reason she’s going to play volleyball at Purdue.

 

11. Bella Dangerfield Senior Guard Fremont

A few years ago, I don’t know if many outsiders would know the kind of player she would become for her last 2 years. Her ability to read plays and power her way to the glass is what has made Fremont a mid-range contender for the past 2 seasons. Dangerfield was huge in the sectional scoring 12, 15, and 18 respectively before dropping 17 in the regional semis vs a scrappy Pioneer team. Very athletic, grabbed quite a few boards, decent job running the offense, and just a solid leader for the young and athletic Lady Eagles. That is why she is just shy of the top 10.

 

10. McKenzie Casselman Senior Guard Garrett

Garrett’s all-time leading 3-point scorer and one of the program’s 1,000 point getters didn’t have the dominant season like she had for a span of 2-3 seasons. However, she did play well enough to make a significant impact on a young Garrett squad that won 13 games this season. Outside of Sydney Freeman, she was the NECC’s most feared perimeter scorer and she still was able to get up on the court and facilitate the offense as a point guard. Casselman’s leadership along with the other seniors set the standard for the next Garrett players to perform at a high level.

 

9. Faith Owen Freshman Guard Garrett

SHE’S A FRESHMAN! Ladies and gentlemen, Faith Owen can play basketball. Faith is already a top 10 player in our conference and it’s kind of scary to think how much better she could actually be. Fast, moves the ball far better than a typical freshman player, and a great ball facilitator. I have a feeling we are going to see her name in newspapers and shown in highlight reels for the next 3 years.

 

8. Lilly Mast Sophomore Guard West Noble

Here’s a player that greatly improved from pretty much being a JV player last year to the team’s leading scorer as a sophomore. High IQ player that facilitates the ball well, strong perimeter shooter, and plays with a lot of grit for being as talented as she is. She has potential to be even better and stronger next season as a junior, and the potential is on the horizon for her. Mast will be vital to her team for the next two seasons as they’ll transition from the winningest class in school history.

 

7. Reace Peppler Senior Guard Angola

Words cannot describe how huge this senior was for the Angola Lady Hornets. When the team was struggling to find their game, Reace was one of the few players that stepped up big for Angola. How many times did she make big threes or the big baskets? How many times did she make big defensive stops? If that’s not one example of pure leadership, I’m going to have to look extra harder to find another one outside of Central Noble. I saw potential with her from the very gecko since I know she is this talented from soccer and softball. She will be missed by the Angola community.

 

6. Bridgette Gray Sophomore Guard Central Noble

This Cougar wouldn’t even be in this list let alone in the top 10 had I done it last season. I felt like despite the postseason she had, I still needed to see some improvement from her before I can see what she could wind up being. Now, she still has those moments where she would struggle, but she has made that up with some big time performances such as the games vs Fairfield and Bremen and her 26-point game vs Whitko in the sectional semis. Bridgette has been so important to solidifying her team’s scoring depth and that’s part of the reason for her team’s undefeated season as they approach semi-state at Logansport. Again, another high IQ player with a ton of speed, athleticism, good passer with the ability to grab boards, and she is starting to become a huge perimeter threat. Gray will be vital to her team’s success in the post-Syd/Meleah era.

 

5. Hanna Knoll Sophomore Guard Angola

You KNOLL who also can play basketball? Hanna Knoll. Listen, I’ve praised her a bunch since I saw her play as a freshman, and that is no exception this season. She had 17, 13, and 18 respectively in sectionals, which doesn’t include her 21-point performance vs Lakeland. She had 13 big points vs New Castle, and despite her team coming up short to Marion, Knoll had a career high 28 points against a huge Marion team. Outside of Syd, Knoll is probably the fastest player in the entire NECC, maybe in the area. Another high IQ player with a lot of offensive skills on the offensive side, but she is equally as good on the defensive end. Boy, this kid has some hustle with her mad determination to dive for loose balls or rack a bunch of steals. This kid is special, and we haven’t seen her true potential yet. Future looks very bright for Angola Basketball.

 

4. Ashya Klopfenstein Senior Center Westview

Man, I’m going to miss this Westview player play… She was an absolute matchup nightmare, but that was because of her strength and mobility to drive to the paint. She was definitely one of the best post players in our area with a high basketball IQ, outstanding rebounder, and a tremendous post player for the 1,000 point scorer. She was in the top 5 in scoring and rebounding, and led the NECC in blocks. Boy, was she also big on the defensive end when her teammates needed her most. She was a major factor for her team’s success in the post-Grace Hales/Maria McCoy era, and she will be missed by the Westview fans. However, the future looks pretty bright for this program yet again.

 

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3. Bailey Hartsough Sophomore Forward Lakeland

Since the moment she burst onto the scene, she has been a walking bucket. That’s the best compliment I can describe her: a scoring machine. A very productive two-way forward that is progressing well beyond most players in her class. Hartsough was mentioned plenty of times for the performances she had this season such as the 21 and 28 point games vs Wawasee, her 31 point game @ Prairie Heights, and her 29-point game @ West Noble. This past season she led the entire NECC in scoring, and the fact is she still has room to grow as well. Wait, she can actually be playing better than where she’s at? Yes. And who knows maybe Lakeland can reach greater heights next season. Watch out Indiana. She’s a good one for Laker Nation.

 

2. Meleah Leatherman Senior Center Central Noble

When I first heard about her, I didn’t think I would be discussing the career this player has been having 4 years from now. I don’t even know where to start with this senior. She has not only been the best post player in the conference, but arguably one of the best in the state. Her ability to score at will with her exceptional IQ (even from the perimeter), her knack for fighting for rebounds, her relentless ability to get stops and make plays even when she’s not playing at her best, drawing fouls and making free throws, her ability to help her teammates get the best chances to win most nights, and her mental toughness is what amazes me about this kid. She has been the anchor of this mighty Cougar defense all 4 years, and she is without question the school’s greatest center because I don’t ever recall a center from CN that was this dominant. On top of her being the program’s all time leading rebounder and second in scoring, a great volleyball player and high-jumper. Just as she and Syd are almost done as Cougars, CN might not be done yet in terms of more talent coming to the program as next year’s freshman class could have some good ones making an immediate impact on the culture of Central Noble Basketball.

 

1. Sydney Freeman Senior Guard Central Noble

There are a million things I want to compliment about this kid’s game… I can talk all day about how great of a basketball player and person she really is. But, in reality, her game does all of the talking. Outside of Madison Layden of Northwestern, Syd is the greatest girls basketball player I’ve ever seen. She is absolutely a God-given guard with one of the highest basketball IQ’s in the state. She is one of the very few players that can create plays by herself regardless of angle, the coverage, or contact. Heck, there are some plays that I don’t know how she made them other than just saying “Only Syd could make that shot or that play”. Sometimes when she fools certain players guarding her, I might have been lucky to catch one of them reacting to her dazzling moves with a grin, a smile, or yet the look of “Man, I got roasted by Syd again.” She has exceptional court vision who knows exactly where and when to pass to her teammates. 9 times out of 10, she’s going to make the best decisions she can for her team, she’s extremely athletic, plays outstanding defense, and she is one of the hardest working players I’ve ever seen. She’s a Lethal perimeter shooter and the toughest baller I’ve ever watched. She is so talented that she could score 30+ a game at will, but what impresses even more about her is that she is all about the team and that’s what I truly admire about her. If her team doesn’t win state, her personal awards won’t do as much good to her as being a state champ because it’s about what’s best for the team. The McDonald’s All-American and the school’s all-time leading scorer (third in Noble County history) to name a few is even more impressive in the playoffs where she has spent most of her playoff career dominating her opponents. Syd Baller as I call her on occasion has the knack for the clutch and that’s what makes her special. It’ll be very difficult to find that kind of talent from a school like Central Noble for quite a while because it’s so rare even bigger schools can’t find generational talent of this level often either. Honestly, I’m truly going to miss her and Meleah play when their senior seasons end, but it’s the memories from the years leading CN to uncharted heights and their individual legacies that surely won’t be forgotten.

 

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2019 Girls Basketball Area Regional Preview

Sectional winners have now been decided with a record 4 teams representing the NECC, 2 from the SAC, and 1 from the ACAC. So, the question now is: how long does their marvelous runs continue? Last year saw 2 NECC teams go beyond regionals and one of them being you guess it Central Noble, who needs no introduction. From here on out, I’m just previewing no predictions no game by game predictions. Not going to much in depth, but rather Just giving a brief guide of the regional. Just analyzing and giving out my opinions. So, here goes nothing.

4A

The LaPorte Regional

Of the 4 regionals, this is the toughest regional statistically in the state in that class, with  2 teams that are undefeated in the regular season in Penn and Crown Point. Penn pretty much cruised through their sectional with the smallest margin of victory being 13 points against rival South Bend St. Jospeh in the semifinals and scoring at least 55 points in all 3 games. Crown Point on the other hand, well, pretty much the same and their sectional was far weaker than Penn’s

However, do not overlook Plymouth and Kankakee Valley. Despite a first round scare vs 9-14 Valparaiso, the Lady Kougars dominated Hobart, and edged off Michigan City 61-59 to repeat as sectional champs. As for Plymouth, well, they had a rollar coaster week where they went to 2 overtimes with the host Northridge and upset a very good Lady Raiders team 57-54 on a near buzzer beating 3. Plymouth then had to play with some intestinal fortitude to edge off a dangerous Concord team 37-36, and hit another buzzer-beating 3 to win the sectional over the then reigning champion Elkhart Central Lady Blue Blazers 54-53.

There are 2 things to take from this regional: 1. 3 of the 4 teams average 60+ points and 2. 3 of the 4 teams have one of the top 100 strongest schedules in the state.

As much as I love Plymouth’s work ethic and Kanakakee Valley’s strong season, this probably comes down to Penn and Crown Point for me.

Players to watch 

Crown Point 5’7 Freshman Jessica Carrothers 22.4 points 3.3 assists 5.6 boards and 5.1 steals and 5’10 Senior Ellie Vandeel 11.8 points and 4.9 boards

Kankakee Valley 5’9 senior Sarah Martin 15.9 points 2.3 assists and 2.8 boards

Penn 5’7 sophomore Trinity Clinton 14.8 points 2.4 assists and 4 steals, 5’7 junior Reganne Pate 12.8 points and 1.2 steals, 5’6 sophomore Jordyn Smith 10.6 points 2.5 assists and 2.8 steals, and 5’9 senior Makenzie Kilmer 8.3 points 2 assists 2.7 boards and 2 steals

Plymouth 5’7 junior Hailey Reichard 12.7 points 1.3 assists and 1.2 steals, and 5’8 senior Cassidy Holliday 10.4 points 1.4 assists and 4.4 boards

Kokomo Regional

People refer to this regional as the infamous regional of death and for good reason. Kokomo High School is home to one of the best boys and girls basketball programs in the state’s history with a iconic gym that has hosted numerous tournament games. It’s an absolute beauty.

However, instead of this regional having Carmel, now we get to see arguably the best team in the state Hamilton Southeastern. As for Carroll who won another sectional, this is going to be a very difficult task to advance past the semifinals since they have to play the toughest team they’ll face all season at 10 am Saturday.

The other bracket is a familiar one. If you recall, Homestead beat Zionsville on this exact same floor 52-38 with Karissa McLaughlin and that stacked 2017 class on that roster on their way to their first state title in girls basketball. As for Zionsville, they’re quietly having another solid season and, much like with Homestead, completely demolished their home sectional. However, what could be interesting is that Maddie Nolan never suited up for her senior season until the regular season finale. So far, she’s averaged over 13 points and shot 55% since coming back. Not a bad time to get hot.

While this isn’t 2017, this Homestead team is pretty solid with a mix of talented veterans and some outstanding undergrad talent. The semifinal games on paper seem to definitely favor the two better teams, record wise, in their brackets (though don’t count out Zionsville), and a Homestead-HSE match could very well be one of if not the best regional title game in the state.

Players to watch 

Carroll Junior Emily Parrett and Junior Malia Williams

Hamilton Southeastern 6’1 Junior Sydney Parrish 20.9 points 2.7 assists and 7 boards and 6’2 senior Amaya Hamilton 12.2 points 2 assists and 6.8 boards.

Homestead 6’1 junior Sydeney Graber senior Sylare Starks freshman Ayanna Patterson 6’0 senior Hayley Swing 5’6 junior Riley Parker senior Kara Gealy sophomore Grace Sullivan and 5’10 senior Sophia Buck

Zionsville 6’1 Sophomore Katey Richason 13.7 points 2.7 assists and 7.1 boards, Maddie Nolan as mentioned earlier, and 6’1 senior Delaney Richason 10.8 points 3.7 assists and 4.5 boards

Top remaining teams in 4A

  1. Hamilton Southeastern
  2. Homestead
  3. Penn
  4. Crown Point
  5.  Lawrence North

 

 

3A

Rensselaer Central Regional

On paper, this looks like a well-played Regional. But, if you look a little harder, you see that Northwestern is back yet again and that’s bad news for all of 3A. The Mishawaka Marian-Knox semifinal matchup is a bit intriguing in the since of these two teams can score and defend. And while strength of schedules is overrated this late in the season, notice that Mishawaka Marian is ranked 3rd in 3A and Knox is ranked just 29th. Playing in a tougher conference will give you that ranking, but lessons learned that anyone can beat anyone on any given night or day that is.

Both teams are pretty young, but there are some differences. Marian has some size but they clearly are a perimeter shooting team that rebounds like crazy, but Knox has 4 yes 4 6 foot or higher players so they have an excellent frontcourt with not as many boards. Both teams are very deep so this one could be exciting.

The other one (sorry Gary West) is almost a gimme for Northwestern. I’m sorry but find me a team in 3A let alone in the state that can play and legitimately beat Northwestern. Northwestern lost 3 games 2 out of state and one to North Central Indianapolis who’s not even in regionals. Yes, they play 5 out-of state games and lost to two very good Ohio teams in Newark and Lakota West in a early season tournament. While Gary West has had a nice season, they do not have the weapons or the defense to even compete with this team. Northwestern’s starting 5 is almost like a Big 10 JV team and some out of that remaining team could EASILY be on a starting 5 on any other school. They have 2 players committed to Michigan State and Purdue respectably in junior Kendal Bostic and I’ll say the best player in the state regardless of class or position junior Madison Layden.

So, basically I’m saying is Northwestern vs who else they have to play in the title game.

Players to watch 

Gary West 5’7 junior Dash Shaw 24.3 points and 2.4 steals and 5’7 freshman Trinity Barnes 13.9 points

Knox 6’0 senior Lindsey Simpson 18.2 points 4.2 assists 5 boards 6.3 steals and 1.3 blocks and 6’0 Sophomore Remi Jordan 11 points 5.3 boards and 1.7 steals.

Mishawaka Marian 5’8 senior Makayla Weaver 14 points 4 boards 1.8 assists and 2.4 steals, 5’8 sophomore McKenzie Hudgen 12.1 points 2.7 assists 4 boards and 4.8 steals, 5’10 senior Anija Payne 12.3 points 1.8 assists 10.6 boards 3.7 steals and 1.1 blocks, 6’0 junior Christina Himelick 7.3 points 6 boards 1.1 steals and 1.3 blocks, and 5’3 junior Jaiden Rangel 6 points 2.5 assists and 1.2 steals

Northwestern 6’1 junior Madison Layden 21.8 points 6.9 assists 4.7 boards and 5.1 steals and 6’1 Junior Kendal Bostic 18.6 points 3 assists 9.1 boards and 1.9 blocks (this is only their 2 best players 😳 doesn’t include everybody else)

Columbia City Regional

Now, here’s where we could possibly see some upsets in regional play at least from the northern part of the state. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s at Donald Weeks Gymnasium one of the best barns in the state that I’ll be disappointed to see go when C. City builds a new school and new gym in 2020.

For Angola, it’ll be their first appearance for a basketball game there since these two were conference rivals in the defunct NEIAC over 30 years ago. I just don’t understand why CN hasn’t played Columbia City in this sport since 1989. I would love to see these two clash either at the Jungle or at possibly the new gym there.

Ok, back to the regional, this is the weakest regional of the 4 in 3A. That’s not to say the teams are bad, but it’s just the other 3 regionals are just a tad stronger than this one. Which means this could be at least the 3rd most exciting regional in state IMO.

The New Castle-Angola game is a real intriguing one. New Castle has arguably one of the best players in the state, but the team in general is kind of mediocre and probably more mediocre than Concordia. However, the difference from Concordia is they like to shoot from the perimeter and they do it well. How about 574 times for 29% yeah talk about making it rain. While New Castle is not a very deep team, they have multiple players that can shoot from perimeter.

Angola poses a real threat in a lot of ways. 1.) this team is an outstanding defensive team that suffocated Concordia in the championship game as well as the entire sectional. 2.) Despite their lack of height, Angola is probably the deepest team in the entire regional and probably the 2nd most dangerous perimeter shooting team behind this New Castle team. And 3.) Angola has only given up 40 or more points 3 times since the new calendar year and this Angola team can score as well as New Castle.

Yes, New Castle only allowed 31 points to Hamilton Heights but they were supposed to beat them 1.) and 2.) that team struggled to score this season. The key to beating them is kind of like how they beat Concordia: contain their best player, rebound, and create offense from the backcourt. Cameron Tabor scored 23 of her team’s 39 points in the title game vs the Lady Huskies, she hasn’t had a game where she failed to score double digits since December 4th and she’s scored 20+ points 17 times and some of them have come against the best in the state like Hamilton Southeastern.

Listen, I’m not going to doubt this Angola team one bit because they’ve proven anyone that they can play with anybody with their poise and relentless pressure. The biggest challenge with Angola is that this core has no regional experience and haven’t been to this stage prior to this season in 16 years when the Regional was at Peru.

The other matchup is another intriguing one. Much like with the first game, West Noble is by far the deeper team of the 2. But, Marion builds an even greater challenge and that is size. Yes, WN like Angola is small to begin with but Marion’s tallest player is 6’6 which is about 7 inches taller than the tallest player on WN’s team. The difference between them and New Castle is also their ability to get stops on defense. No, they’re not quite as deep as Northwood or Tippy Valley but having 2 6 foot players that are this good along with some decent secondary scoring is a huge challenge that neither Luers, Columbia City, or Bellmont have been able to completely shut down. But, West Noble has speed and they have athletes that have been able to compete against teams far bigger than them. Again, WN’s current core has little experience in this stage. So, nerves early in the first game could come in play, but perhaps with a team with a few players that have been to regionals twice in volleyball could benefit them.

Honestly, this one is a coin toss, but I do think there’s a decent (not great, but realistic) chance somebody from the NECC wins this regional much like what Fairfield did last season.

Players to Watch 

Angola 5’8 sophomore Hanna Knoll 12.7 points 1.7 assists and 4.5 steals, 5’8 senior Reace Peppler 10.5 points 2.4 boards and 2.2 steals, 5’11 senior Sarah Duvendack 6.8 points 4.9 boards 1.7 assists and 2 steals, and 5’8 junior Kayla Fenstermaker 6 points 4.7 boards 1.6 assists and 2.4 steals

Marion 6’1 senior Jazmyn Turner 17.4 points 2.9 assists 8.5 boards and 2.8 steals, 6’6 junior RaShava Kyle 16 points 10.5 boards 2.6 assists and 2.4 blocks, 5’4 junior Ellie Vermillion 9.4 points 3.9 boards and 2.1 steals, and 5’7 senior Ayanna Harey 6.7 points and 4.4 boards

New Castle 5’9 senior Cameron Tabor 24.1 points 4.3 assists 8.7 boards 2.2 steals and 1.4 blocks

West Noble 5’7 sophomore Lilly Mast 10.7 points 2.9 boards 1.8 assists and 3.2 steals, 5’8 senior Megan Godfrey 8.7 points 5.2 boards and 2.2 steals, 5’3 senior Lauren Burns 7.7 points 1.6 assists 2.5 boards and 2.6 steals, 5’11 senior Madison Schermerhorn 6.4 points 4.4 assists 6.8 boards and 4.9 steals, and 5’7 senior Angela Gross 6.2 points 4.3 boards and 1.9 steals

Best remaining teams in 3A

  1. Northwestern
  2. Mishawaka Marian
  3. Benton Central
  4. Danville
  5. Marion

 

2A

 

Image result for central noble cougars sydney freeman kpc news

Winamac Regional

To many outsiders, people will jump onto the assumption that Central Noble will win regionals and rightfully so. They are the favorites to win this regional. But, this might be their toughest regional yet. 1. They draw a more seasoned and improved Hammond Bishop Noll that can be a forced to be reckoned with and 2. even if they beat Hammond Noll, most likely North Judson awaits them in the championship game.

This is where the true test begins for this year’s team, but they have proven before that they can excel in these expectations on the biggest stage. The other matchup consists of the battle-tested Bluffton Lady Tigers and the North Judson Lady Blue Jays. While I like this Bluffton team and could have an upset in them, this is a matchup on paper that clearly favors North Judson. They probably have the least depth of the 4 teams in the regional with really just the two outstanding players. That’s not too bad. right? Easier said than done. Much like with CN’s two superstars, North Judson’s 2 best players are without question two of the 20 best players in the state regardless of class, and they can be difference makers in a stage they have yet to accomplish so far.

The Hammond Noll-CN game could be a good one, but for me it comes down to most likely CN or North Judson. The Blue Jays (outside of Oak Hill) probably have the best chance of taking down the Cougars in regionals. But, the question I have with North Judson is: Can they contain a potent offense with probably the deepest team in the regional? So far, no one has done that to this point, but here is where the best teams in state will start to challenge the Cougars. CN will need to make sure to stay focused and be prepared if they’re going to get back to semi-state against probably Oak Hill.

Players to watch 

Bluffton 5’6 sophomore Emme Boots 13.3 points 1.5 assists 3.7 boards and 2.5 steals 5’3 junior Olivia King 8.8 points 1.3 assists 3 boards and 1.3 steals, and 5’5 senior Grace Miller 8.3 points 3.7 assists 4.3 boards and 3 steals

Central Noble 5’8 senior Sydney Freeman 17.9 points 4.6 assists 4.8 boards 5.3 steals and 1.7 blocks, 6’1 senior Meleah Leatherman 16.5 points 10.4 boards and 1.4 blocks, and 5’5 sophomore Bridgette Gray 9.9 points 1.7 assists 3.8 boards and 1.8 steals

Hammond Bishop Noll 5’7 sophomore Courtney Blake 20.4 points 4.5 assists 4 boards and 3 steals, 5’8 sophomore Rose Fuentes 12 points 3.5 assists 4.8 boards and 2.1 steals, and 5’10 sophomore Lalia Rogers 10.4 points 6.4 boards and 1.1 blocks

North Judson 5’10 sophomore Lilliann Frasure 19.4 points 5.7 assists 9.2 boards and 4.9 steals and 6’0 senior Madeline Schumacher 19.1 points 4.9 boards and 2.3 steals

Top Remaining teams in 2A

  1. Central Noble
  2. Oak Hill
  3. North Judson
  4. Triton Central
  5. Winchester

 

1A

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Caston Regional 

Here’s another regional with the reigning state champs in it. On one side of the bracket between Fremont and Pioneer I really think Fremont has a realistic chance of advancing to play for a regional title. Pioneer, much like with Fremont, is a hard-nosed team themselves, except for a weak schedule. However, like the NECC, their conference the Hoosier North Conference also saw multiple schools advancing to regionals which includes North Judson. Fremont’s depth and athleticism could be key to playing in the evening game.

On the other side of the bracket, we see a far more one-sided matchup. Granted, the Lady Satellites of South Central Union Mills are having a good season at 19-6, but they don’t have near the talent size or battle tested schedule to have themselves prepared for the team they’re about to face. Marquette Catholic is the reigning state champs for good reason with their two best players committed to the University of St. John’s next year for basketball. Their lone 2 losses came on the first game of the season 65-63 to North Central (Indianapolis), who beat Northwestern by over 20 points, and a 58-32 loss at home to Chicago Simeon. They’ve also faced 5 teams and 3 from 4A that are ranked in the top 10 to top 15 in the state.

Even if Fremont wins their first game, I don’t think they’ll be able to beat a team that is compared to the state’s elite upper class of teams like Central Noble, Homestead, Northwestern, and Hamilton Southeastern. I’m expecting them to get back to state later this month and, thus, this is the Lady Blazers’ regional to lose.

Players to watch

Fremont 5’8 senior Bella Dangerfield 11.5 points 3.8 boards and 2.2 steals, 5’10 junior Samantha Kuhn 6.5 points and 3.6 boards, 5’9 freshaman Jada Rhonehouse 6.5 points 2.8 boards and 1.3 steals, and 5’6 junior Macayla Guthrie 5.5 points 2.1 boards and 1.3 steals

Marquette Catholic 6’2 senior Emma Nolan  21.4 points 2.3 assists 8.4 boards 2.6 steals and 1.9 blocks, 6’2 senior Sophia Nolan 17.3 points 2.9 assists 7.4 boards and 1.8 steals, and 5’3 senior Morgan Crook 7.5 points 2.8 assists 2.9 boards and 1.7 steals

Pioneer 5’1 senior Tia Freshour 12.3 points 2.7 assists and 3.3 steals, 5’4 senior Mikenna Landis 9.2 points and 2.3 steals, 5’6 freshman Hailey Cripe 9.1 points 6.4 boards and 1.6 steals, 5’8 sophomore Olivia Brooke 7.9 points 2 assists 7.3 boards and 1.9 steals

South Central 6’0 junior Amber Wolf 12.8 points 2.3 assists 8 boards 3 steals and 1.3 blocks, 5’7 freshman Abigail Tomblin 9.8 points 2.4 assists 3.6 boards 3.2 steals and 1.1 blocks, 5’7 junior Faith Biggs 7.5 points 1 assist 3.3 boards and 2.6 steals, and 5’9 senior Skyler Wildfong 6.4 points 1.1 assists 5 boards and 2.2 steals

 

Top 5 Remaining teams in 1A

  1. Marquette Catholic
  2. Vincennes Rivet
  3. Northfield
  4. University
  5. Jac-Cen Del

The Ultimate IHSAA Area High School Girls Basketball Tournament Preview

 

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Welcome to Hoosier Hysteria which means crazing cold weather and some amazingly, stressful, heartachingly exciting, memorable moments of playoff basketball in Indiana. In 49 states, it’s just basketball. That’s why Indiana is known as the birthplace of this sport and why the movie Hoosiers was developed. This aurora is contagious. Say whatever you want about not having a shot clock or not have seeding in playoffs, this tournament is FREAKING AWESOME and in the end it NEVER disappoints. Plus, give my froggy friend a read as well in his previews of the area sectionals. Please note that some of the stats may not be accurate so beware of that as well.

Note: These are completely subjective. I’m expecting upsets so please don’t go bananas on me and send me hate mail. I’m not expecting to be perfect or get any of these picks right.

This Frog KNOWS Basketball

 

1A 54 @ Northfield

Sectional Titles

Clinton Central 9 (1997)

Tri-Central 7 3-time defending Sectional Champs

Northfield 3 (1980)

Southwood 2 (2003)

Frontier 1 (2014)

 

 

1st Round

1A #4 Northfield (20-2) vs Clinton Central (10-11)

Northfield is having one of its best seasons if not the best season in program history as they’re poised to make a deep run to a state championship. With a sectional as weak as this one is, as long as Northfield doesn’t take anyone lightly and plays their best brand of basketball, there’s an excellent chance to see them playing beyond this week. For now, I say they’re on to the semifinals.

Prediction 62-24 Northfield

 

Semifinals

Southwood (5-17) vs Frontier (1-21)

Both teams are not very good, but Southwood should be able to advance to the sectional title game.

Prediction 62-32 Southwood

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Tri-Central (10-12) vs 1A #4 Northfield

Again, this is Northfield’s game to win. Even though they had lost to this team last season, you have to think the Lady Norsemen will probably approach this game with a chip on their shoulders. On to the championship round.

Prediction 45-27 Northfield

 

Sectional Championship

Southwood vs 1A #4 Northfield

If these two Wabash county rivals would meet in this stage, it would be their second straight playoff meeting. Northfield holds a 7-3 all-time playoff record vs their county rivals and I expect Northfield to win their first sectional in the multi-class era and their first in nearly 40 years.

Prediction Northfield 58-31

 

 

1A Sectional 52 @ Fremont

Sectional Titles

Fremont 6 (2012)

Blackhawk 2 (2017)

Bethany Christian 2 (2016)

Lakewood Park defending Sectional Champs

Hamilton 1 (2014)

OTH’s Sectional 52 Preview

1st Round

Game 1 Lakeland Christian (12-9) vs Fremont (13-8)

Here you have a Lakeland Christian team that went 16-9 last season and won the program’s first ever sectional games 39-34 in OT over Bethany Christian and 63-19 over Hamilton before ultimately falling 41-38 in the sectional championship game to Lakewood Park. This is a team with some size as the team averages over 30 rebounds a game led by junior Tori Calizo with 7.7. Although this team struggles to score on a consistent basis they have 3 players that can score at will. That is one area that could give Fremont some issues

Meanwhile, you have a Fremont team that’s arguably one of if not the deepest team in the entire sectional. Led by Bella Dangerfield and Jada Rhonehouse, what stands out from everyone else in that sectional is not only a stronger schedule but a lot of athleticism on this team all across the board which are both areas Lakeland Christian hasn’t been as strong at. So, while Lakeland Christian has had a nice season, they haven’t faced really anybody that has made them prepared for the state tournament as they’ve only beaten one team (Elkhart Christian) that has a winning record and have a lost to Busco earlier this season.

Prediction 44-29 Fremont

 

FW Blackhawk (10-12) vs Lakewood Park (6-12)

It is only a little over 2 weeks ago when Blackhawk defeated Lakewood Park on their home court 52-45. This is a Lady Braves team that has a little more experienced and more cohesion under head coach Steph Gongaware than last season. While size may be an issue, Blackhawk has improved significantly on the offensive side of the ball from less than 27 to a little over 40.

Meanwhile Lakewood Park the reigning sectional champions have experienced a rebuild as they have no seniors on this team despite having sophomore Chloe Jolloff and Freshman Taylor Gerke. It’s very difficult to be critical on this team since they’ve played a much tougher schedule than the majority of the teams in their sectional and are 3-5 in single digit games. So they’ve been competing in a lot of games. For this game, it’ll come down to defense and although Lakewood Park did lose to Blackhawk, they’re a team still capable of making a run to the championship game. As for Blackhawk, I’m a little concerned about their inconsistencies on defense.  Sorry, Dan Vance, I don’t trust Blackhawk.

Prediction 44-38 Lakewood Park

 

Hamilton (1-7) vs Bethany Christian (12-9)

As much as I like the Hamilton story of being able to field a hard working team regardless of the situations they can’t control and winning a game earlier this year against Howe Military, Bethany Christian is a bad matchup for Hamilton. On to next round for the Lady Bruins.

Prediction 62-28 Bethany

 

Semifinals

Fremont vs Elkhart Christian (10-8)

Again, much like with Lakeland Christian, competitive team, but they haven’t played anyone or beaten anyone that makes them worthy of beating Fremont.

Prediction 51-30 Fremont

 

Lakewood Park vs Bethany Christian

This may wind up being one of the better matchups of this sectional. These two teams met on December 1st with Lakewood Park winning 45-41, but Bethany has been playing some very good basketball as of late as they have won 8 of their last 11 games and competed very well in a 6 point loss to Bremen.

Despite their lack of size, this is one of if not the best defensive team in the entire sectional and the best offensive team. They have a couple players that are decent scorers but they may have the best player in the entire sectional in 1000 point scorer and senior Aly Kauffman. How she plays will determine how far this team goes because they’ll be able to make enough stops on defense to stay in ballgames.

Although Lakewood Park has enough talent and size to play with Bethany, you surely can’t underestimate what the Lady Bruins bring. I don’t know what it is about Bethany, but every time they play in the state tournament they seem to always play at another level. Bethany holds a 4-2 playoff record vs Lakewood Park

Prediction 47-45 OT Bethany

 

Sectional Championship

Fremont vs Bethany Christian

If this matchup would occur in the finals, it would only be the 3rd playoff meeting ever between these two schools and the first in 20 years. 1998 saw Bethany claiming the title 37-34 over these Eagles at Hamilton before Fremont bounced back to beat them the next season 47-39 in the semifinals on their way to their first ever sectional title.

This matchup here depends on how Kauffman does offensively but it also depends on if the rest of the Bruins are able to get enough stops against an athletic Fremont team that does have a height advantage. I expect that game would be a low scoring one, but I say Fremont wins their first sectional in 7 years.

Prediction 43-35 Fremont

 

Top 10 1A teams in Northern Indiana 

  1. Marquette Catholic
  2. Northfield
  3. South Central Union Mills
  4. Oregon-Davis
  5. Union City
  6. Morgan Township
  7. Fremont
  8. North White
  9. Pioneer
  10. Bethany Christian

 

2A Sectional 37 @ Manchester

Sectional Titles

Lewis Cass 12 (2005)

Rochester 10 (2016)

Manchester 9 (2007)

Wabash 8 (2015)

Oak Hill 6 2-time defending Sectional Champs

North Miami 3 (2008)

 

 

 

1st Round

2A #3 Oak Hill (18-3) vs North Miami (15-5)

Oak Hill begins their quest to get back in the state championship that they played in 2 years ago. After a stunning loss in the regional championship game to conference rival Frankton, Oak Hill will look to string one final push with this core.

The North Miami Lady Warriors are having their best season in quite sometime, and the future looks really bright as they only have one senior and will return several players of a large junior class led by their top 3 scorers Bailey Keim, Maryann Freeman, and Hannah Hall all three who also play on a pretty talented soccer team.

However, I don’t think the talented Lady Warriors will be able to pull off an upset against Oak Hill. Well, at least for them there is an outside chance for one.

Prediction 55-32 Oak Hill

 

Manchester (15-7) vs Rochester (8-13)

This is a rematch from their Jan. 18 match where the Lady Squires were victorious on their home court 39-28 over Rochester. Despite the records, this matchup could wind up being one of the more intriguing matchups in all of the area sectionals. For those of you that don’t follow these two programs, they are conference rivals from the Three Rivers Conference. Rochester has been known for fielding some very good girls teams for a good chunk of the 2000s, but the program has experienced subpar results since their last championship nearly 3 years ago.

As for the Lady Squires, they’ve quietly fielded some pretty good ball clubs over the past 4 seasons. Senior Kennedy Fierstos just recorded her 1,000th made 3-pointer earlier this season as she’s averaging 12.7 points and has recorded 47 made threes. Eva Bazzoni is just a sophomore and is averaging a little over 11 points. Rebounding will be key for this game as the Squires only average a little over 22 boards a game compare to 29.7 boards a game for the Lady Zebras. The Zebras also record over a block a game, but their kryptonite has been their lack of scoring especially outside of junior Maci Brown and her 10 point-per-game average. I expect this game to be a low-scoring contest that could go either way. Ironically, this will be their first ever playoff meeting.

Prediction 39-36 Manchester

 

Semifinals

Wabash (8-13) vs 2A #3 Oak Hill

Wabash has built a nice program there over the years but the road ends here against the powerful Lady Golden Eagles.

Prediction 54-27 Oak Hill

 

Lewis Cass (1-21) vs Manchester

Remember the years when Lewis Cass was actually good? We can only dream for them to be that good. Manchester, Oak Hill awaits you.

Prediction 59-21 Manchester

 

Sectional Championship

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2A #3 Oak Hill vs Manchester

These former TRC rivals could very well meet again in the sectional title game. This is a rematch from their Nov. 27 match with Oak Hill winning easily 60-30. Manchester has a hard-working club, but good luck trying to score or even defend this powerhouse program.

Taylor Westgate is just a junior that is a nightmare to defend in the paint and is a rebounding machine much like CN’s Meleah Leatherman with slightly less talent. Senior Adrianna Trexler is a tall, athletic forward that has the shooting abilities of a shooting guard that just recently made her commitment to ball at Indiana Wesleyan next season. Oh BTW have fun trying to guard not one, not two, but FOUR 6-foot or taller players on that team. Oak Hill is 4-0 all-time in the playoffs vs the Lady Squires.

Prediction 55-27 Oak Hill

 

2A Sectional 36

Sectional Titles

Canterbury 15 (2015)

Eastside 4 (2016)

South Adams 3 (2017)

Bluffton 2 defending Sectional Champs

Adams Central 2 (2001)

OTH’s Sectional 36 Preview

 

1st Round

 

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Eastside (6-14) vs Bluffton (10-11)

The Bluffton Lady Tigers enter this year’s sectional as the reigning champs in this one as they look to get one more crack at Central Noble in the Winamac Regional. Bluffton got a favorable draw where they basically play teams that are winnable games if they take care of business, but this is Hoosier Hysteria so you never know what could happen.

Sophomore Emme Boots is averaging 13.8 points 4 boards and 1.5 assists to lead Bluffton. This is a pretty scrappy team as they grab a reasonable 25 boards, over 12 steals, and racking up 2 blocks a game. This team moves the ball better than anybody in the state with just under 10 assists per game.

However, do not overlook the Eastside Lady Blazers. Their record or their numbers don’t surprise people, but their work ethic and rebounding makes them a team that could spoil an opponent’s playoff run. They’re young and not a very big team, but they do have some decent athletes and they are well-coached despite the lack of offense and a little injury bug. Work ethic is a big emphasis at Eastside.

I think it’ll be close for awhile, but I still expect Bluffton to grind it out and advance.

Prediction 47-36 Bluffton

 

Adams Central (12-10) vs FW Canterbury (0-9)

I have nothing to say about this one. The days of Canterbury owning their sectional every single year are over (for now). Onward AC.

Prediction 66-20 Adams Central

 

Semifinals

Churubusco (5-17) vs Bluffton

Busco has a pretty decent, young. and scrappy club led by Myah Bear despite the lack of wins, but that won’t be enough to beat the talented Lady Tigers.

Prediction 51-34 Bluffton

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South Adams (10-12) vs Adams Central

Don’t you love county rivalry games in the playoffs? Well, for the first time in quite awhile, we have ourselves quite the anticipated matchup from these two Adams County schools from the ACAC. For the first time in nearly a decade, AC has themselves a girls basketball team to rally on after years of being irrelevant and being looked at as a pushover. You can partially thank that to Coach Bart Curtis (remember the name Angola fans?) as well as a nice, young, and exciting group of girls that are finally playing cohesive basketball with speed and skill.

As for the girls from Berne, IN, they continue to field a competitive team despite the graduation of a class from last year led by 1,000 point scorer Lexi Dellinger and a negative point differential. That is once again credited to great coaching as Brett Freeman recently got his 100th win as a head coach and hopefully if he continues coaching at SA could very well get is 100th win as the Starfires’ coach. Watch out for the dynamic duo of junior Lydia Loshe and senior Emilee Myers as they’ve combined for an average 25 of the team’s 36.2 points per game.

Each team has won 4 playoff games all time against each other. It should be fast paced, intense, and expect a lot of momentum swings in this game. So, get out the popcorn cuz it’s going to be a dandy.

Prediction 47-43 Adams Central

 

Sectional Championship

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Bluffton vs Adams Central

So, this is the matchup we could be seeing in this sectional final. This is a rematch from the Dec. 15 game where Bluffton defeated AC pretty handedly 51-31. The big thing when playing in these type of games is experience and the mental aspects of the game. Teams start to get a little tired at this point of the season and leadership is crucial in these situations. My concerned with AC in this environment is not only them being a little inexperienced but for them to handle the nerves in what should be a ruckus atmosphere. I’ll bet on Bluffton’s experience to get them to another regional appearance. Both teams have beaten each other 5 times in the playoffs all time.

Prediction 50-42 Bluffton

 

2A Sectional 35

OTH’s Sectional 35 Preview

Sectional Titles

Prairie Heights 11 (2006)

Westview 10 (2016)

LaVille 6 (2003)

Bremen 5 (2004)

Central Noble 2 2-time defending Sectional Champs

 

1st Round

2A #1 Central Noble (22-0) vs Westview (13-8)

The Lady Cougars enter this year’s state tournament as the reigning state champions and on paper are heavily favored to win their sectional, win their regional, and potentially are favored to win state (though it’s very difficult to repeat as state champs).

To this point, no one has been able to completely out play this team despite a couple occurrences where things looked a bit dicey in a couple games. They’ve never trailed at halftime and have only been outscored in a single quarter 13 total times and only once in the 1st Quarter alone.

Let’s face the facts Westview has their strengths and weaknesses. Pretty solid frontcourt but at times a suspect backcourt despite showing some recent improvement. The biggest problem with Westview this season is lack of consistency and that has led to some bad starts and have only mustered a lead at halftime 9 times but have never lost a game when doing so.

Whenever you have the dynamic Ashya Klopfenstein and the rising Gloria Miller on your team, you surely can’t completely count out this group. This is Westview and that’s the tradition that will not go away. Their first meeting where they lost at CN by nearly 50 points was simply a mix of Syd having an awesome game and Westview not playing near their best on defense as a team.

However, their second game saw Westview playing with a lot more energy especially after the 1st Quarter and Ashya played a great game in the NECC tournament with 21 in a 10-point loss. While I can’t count out what Westview can do, I just can’t justify an upset over the reigning state champs.

I love this Westview team’s heart and grit, and I know they’re going to do whatever they can to try to beat CN. However, this CN team is 22-0 for a reason, and the only way they don’t get it done is themselves. Could be close early but I think CN will find a way to win this game. Westview, however, is 7-1 all time in the playoffs vs CN.

Prediction 52-38 Central Noble

 

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Bremen (17-6) vs LaVille (5-16)

Is this going to even be a contest? Bremen should advance.

Prediction 60-28 Bremen

 

Semifinals

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Whitko (5-16) vs 2A #1 Central Noble

Remember that 2017 Sectional Championship? Boy that was a classic. However, the post-Aly Reiff/Brianna Cumberland era has been very cruel to Whitko. Central Noble your next journey awaits you.

Prediction 68-21 Central Noble

 

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Prairie Heights (7-15) vs Bremen

Karlee Feldman. Prairie Heights doesn’t have an answer for this talented center but the future is surely bright for them. CN awaits you.

Prediction 55-30 Bremen

Sectional Championship

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2A #1 Central Noble vs Bremen

This is a rematch from the Dec. 28 game where CN won 68-48 led by a strong 18-point effort from Bridgette Gray. Depth and rebounding are going to be big factors in determining this game. Bremen led by Feldman’s 8.2 boards gets about 25 rebounds a night, but this is a team that has a lot of nice shooters like Feldman, Erin Coffel, and Kaelynn Shively. Karlee will have to play her best to keep her team in this game but she has that capability. But, even with that, I do have some concerns in terms of their ability to consistently defend Meleah Leatherman. Discipline will also be big for both teams.

Central Noble is a good offensive team, but they’re pretty solid from the free throw line at 66%, and they’re a force to be reckoned with on defense. They suffocate their opponents with 32.4 boards a game 11.5 assists 11.1 steals and over 4 blocks a game. Bremen will have their hands full if CN does get here as we all expect them to.

Prediction 55-40 Central Noble

 

Top 10 2A teams in Northern Indiana 

  1. Central Noble
  2. Oak Hill
  3. Winchester (Represent Southern Indiana in State Tourney)
  4. North Judson
  5. Tipton
  6. Hammond Noll
  7. Lafayette Central Catholic
  8. Monroe Central
  9. Bremen
  10. Western Boone

 

3A 24 @ New Castle

Sectional Titles

New Castle 18 (2017)

Jay County 11 (2006)

Yorktown 8 (2011)

Delta 5 (1993)

Hamilton Heights 4 defending Sectional Champs

Blackford 3 (2009)

 OTH’s Sectional 24 Preview

Yorktown (12-8) vs 3A #21 Hamilton Heights (12-10)

Hamilton Heights will try to defend their sectional crown despite fielding a younger team than the one that lost to Fairfield in the Regional title game last season. This is a rematch from their 47-40 loss at home to Yorktown just a couple weeks earlier.

The Lady Huskies have a girl by the name of 5’7 junior Bayleigh Runner who’s averaging close to 20 points a game this season. As for Yorktown they have a scorer of their own in sophomore Elizabeth Reece who’s averaging 16.3 points and 3.6 assists per game this season.

Last season they came up just short of what could have been a sectional championship for the Lady Tigers. With the skill and defensive intensity these two teams bring, I expect them to play a good defensive game all the way to the final buzzer. Hamilton Heights is 3-1 all time in the playoffs vs Yorktown.

Prediction 40-38 Hamilton Heights

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New Castle (13-9) vs Blackford (1-19)

Poor Blackford 😦 At least Luke Bro… (cough) (cough) I mean….. at least your boys team is pretty fun to watch.

Prediction 74-12 New Castle

 

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Delta (12-11) vs 3A #16 Jay County (16-7)

Jay County gets another crack at a sectional championship when they take on rival Delta. After getting off to a 2-6 start, the Lady Patriots enter this sectional as the hottest team of the 6 schools competing here. Obviously a great tradition of hoops in Portland, IN, the Lady Patriots have a very talented and deadly squad led by senior Shelby Caldwell’s 18 points and 6.8 boards while making over 40 3 pointers. Jay County has made over 100 3’s on 32% shooting, they’re solid from the free throw line, and they average nearly 28 boards a game.

Their size and athleticism creates instant matchup problems against Delta. However, Delta has a lot of scoring depth that compliments their 48 point-per-game average and despite taking significantly more 3-point attempts than Jay County, they have made over 90 3’s for 29%. This will be their first playoff meeting in 15 years.

Prediction 59-34 Jay County

 

Semifinals

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Muncie Burris (7-11) vs 3A #21 Hamilton Heights

Sorry Muncie Burris… this isn’t your year.

Prediction 55-27 Hamilton Heights

 

New Castle vs 3A #16 Jay County

If Jay County advances, it would be their first playoff meeting with New Castle in 18 years. Jay County has spent the majority of its history playing in either the Bellmont single-class system or being stuck following the shadows of Homestead and South Side in 4A. In just their 2nd season since being demoted to 3A, this might be their best chance for a championship with this group.

Much like Jay County, however, New Castle is very gifted with their own talent led by possibly one of the best individual players not only in the state but in the country: Senior Cameron Tabor.  This is a girl that just recently dropped 45 points and 15 boards on Beech Grove averaging over 23 points, nearly 9 boards, over 4 assists, and nearly 2 blocks a game.

This is not a team you want to be trailing early in a critical win-or-go-home playoff game as they’re shooting 76% from the free throw line and they have made over 130 3’s. So, this team really likes the 3 ball, and that will be a challenge for the Lady Patriots.

I think Jay County finds a way to contain their potent offense, but how Caldwell and Tabor play may very well determine the winner of this game.

Prediction 50-47 Jay County

 

Sectional Championship

3A #21 Hamilton Heights vs 3A #16 Jay County

We could very well have ourselves a rematch from last year’s sectional title game that resulted in Hamilton Heights winning the sectional 57-45. This would only be their second meeting against each other and this could be a start of a decent rivalry. This could be a really interesting ball game because you have the more offensive minded Jay County squad vs the pesky, defensive minded Hamilton Heights team.

I expect this game to be a tight low-scoring game and there’s a chance this game goes beyond regulation.

Prediction 50-49 2OT Jay County

 

 

3A 23 @ Norwell

Sectional Titles

Bishop Luers 20 (2013)

Columbia City 17 (2000)

Marion 15 defending Sectional Champs

Norwell 13 (2017)

Bellmont 10 (2002)

Heritage 9 (1994)

Mississinewa 7 (2003)

 

 OTH’s Sectional 23 Preview

1st Round

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3A #5 Norwell (19-3) vs 3A #4 Bellmont (19-2)

These two teams had just met 2 weeks earlier where Bellmont came away victories 50-42 at Bellmont. Now obviously Bellmont has a pretty impressive frontcourt led by the school’s all time leading scorer Grace Hunter, but they also have a nice supporting cast led by Megan Busick.

However, when you’re facing Eric Thornton’s Lady Knights, you’re facing history. 344-166 in 22 years under Coach Thornton, 8 sectional championships, and 1 regional which doesn’t include the number of NHC and NE8 titles. Norwell has a ton of weapons, they have strength in numbers, and their defense is always one of the best in Northern Indiana. Norwell holds a 11-11 playoff record vs their rivals, Bellmont hasn’t beaten them in a playoff game since 2008, and Norwell has won 6 of their last 7 meetings with them in sectional play. I think it’ll be close yet again but I think Norwell will somehow find a way to advance thanks to their experience and mental toughness.

Prediction 45-40 Norwell

 

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3A #11 Marion (18-4) vs FW Bishop Luers (13-7)

This is a rematch from last year’s sectional championship game that saw Marion beating Bishop Luers. Luers has faced some ups and downs this season as they had gotten off to a very uncharacteristic slow start due to injuries to some key players on the team. Junior Lydia Reimbold has been one of the best players in our area and will have to continue being that dominant two-way player against a very tall, athletic Marion team that can shut down most offenses in the state with their size in the front court.

Marion is led by 2 6 foot players: 6’1 senior Jazmyn Turner at 17.5 points and 8.5 boards, and a whopping 6’6 YES 6’6 JUNIOR RaShava Kyle at 16.2 points, 10.5 boards, 2.5 assists, and 2.1 blocks. For Luers, it’s more based on perimeter shooting led by junior Lydia Reimbold at 14.3 points, 8.1 boards, 2.7 assists, and a block a game. Luers has a lot of scoring depth and are shooting 32% from downtown. Both teams grab a ton of rebounds with nearly 32 for Marion and nearly 34 for Luers.

The biggest disadvantage for Luers is their size since they don’t have any players that are 6 foot. Marion’s biggest disadvantage is their scoring depth since 5’4 junior Ellie Vermillion and 5’7 senior Ayanna Harvey are the only other big producers for Marion. In conclusion, I just don’t know how Luers is going to be able to box out both of these 6 foot Marion forwards along with being able to get consistent production in the paint. There’s no question Luers will find some offense from the perimeter, but can they find production in the areas where Turner and Kyle will be on the floor.

Prediction 57-51 Marion

 

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Columbia City (13-10) vs Mississinewa (13-9)

An experienced Columbia City team along with the addition of hometown girl Alaina Rongos has made this team a very underrated team in this sectional because of the fact this sectional is so tough and so talented that it is easy to overlook this program.

Rongos, Olivia Shearer, and Grace Cotter have been the three names that have led a pretty dynamic offense at CC. Their defense has also been better as of late as they have allowed 40 or fewer points in 5 of their last 8 games. As for Ole Miss as they are called, they have the potential to score a little, but they seem to be more defensive. However, despite being tested a bit, 9 of the Lady Indian’s 13 wins have come against weaker opponents with a losing record.

Prediction 52-34 Columbia City

 

Semifinals

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Heritage (16-5) vs 3A #5 Norwell

Heritage has had a nice season, but Norwell/Bellmont is a bad matchup for Heritage. Period. End of discussion.

Prediction 60-32 Norwell

 

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3A #11 Marion vs Columbia City

Now, this matchup is quite an interesting one regardless if it’s Luers or Marion. If Columbia City plays Luers, then you may be seeing a bit more of a perimeter shooting offensive game. However, if it’s Marion which I predicted to get here, this could be a pesky, low-scoring game. This could be a rematch from the Nov. 16 game in which CC won 54-37. Now, there are Columbia City fans that will tell me “But, they have already beaten Marion this season.” However, this was way back in November.  The Lady Eagles played with a lot of energy that night, but I don’t think Marion played their best effort that night.

Now, both teams would be coming into this game hot. Marion has won 12 of their last 13 regular season games and Columbia City has won their last 4 regular season games. However, I expect this game to be close and low-scoring, but I just think Marion’s frontcourt is going to be enough to send them back to the sectional finals vs most likely the Norwell/Bellmont winner.

Prediction 46-42 Marion

 

Sectional Championship

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3A #5 Norwell vs 3A #11 Marion

This could be an interesting final for Norwell as they’ll either be facing Luers, Columbia City, or Marion. If it is CC, Norwell’s depth and defensive intensity will probably be able to grind out a win over the Lady Eagles. If it’s Luers, well, it could be interesting since Luers eliminated Norwell last season, but Norwell probably has an edge in this one.

But, a matchup with Marion could be fascinating. Marion has a ton of size and I do think early on that the rebounding department is obviously going to be key to this game. However, this Norwell team is a veteran team with a lot of heart, grit, and athleticism. Seniors Ashley VandenBoom and Aubrey Dunnuck are the two most notable names of this squad.

Norwell has an excellent backcourt, and while their frontcourt is a little small, they have a lot of athletes. the difference for me is that this Norwell team is a veteran team that is battle-tested, and they have proven time and time again that size doesn’t shake down their confidence.

This sectional is the most difficult sectional in the state of Indiana, so making predictions in 90% of these games are very difficult to get it right. Nevertheless, I expect this game to be close, but I think Norwell’s depth and mental toughness will show in this game. I think it’s Norwell, winning yet another sectional.

Prediction 54-47 Norwell

 

3A 22 @ Concordia

Sectional Titles

Garrett 12 (2014)

Concordia 11 4-time defending Sectional Champs

Bishop Dwenger 9 (1999)

Leo 8 (2009)

New Haven 3 (1993)

Angola 1 (2003)

 OTH’s Sectional 22 Preview

1st Round

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3A #15 FW Concordia (15-6) vs FW Bishop Dwenger (11-9)

You look at the draw and you see Concordia facing Dwenger. Many outsiders of the area would assume this shouldn’t be a problem for Concordia. Oh contraire! If that’s the case, then you don’t know the SAC and these two in particular. This is rematch from the Dec.14 game that resulted in a 50-31 Concordia win, but these two are rivals so typically you see a much better second game.

Dwenger is a more offensive minded team that has a lot of scoring depth and some size. Even though this team has struggled mightily on defense, this is a team that has been tested numerous times with a lot of undergrads. But, they also have a lot of depth in the rebounding department as the team averages over 34 of them along with 2.6 blocks a game.

Concordia is the near opposite with the exception of them being battle-tested. They’re a defensive minded, veteran team with nowhere near as much scoring depth nor rebounding/blocks as Dwenger does. But, Concordia has a super star player in Carissa Garcia who averages 19 points, Nautica Rogers who averages over 12 points, and this team is way more disciplined than Dwenger.

Dwenger has made 17 more 3’s than Concordia but only shoots 24% from downtown and they have taken 112 more 3’s than Concordia. The Lady Cadets have been to the free throw line 111 more times than Dwenger and have shot 11% better from that department than them.

So, while I see Dwenger being in it for most of this game, I think their inexperience along with Concordia’s patient business like approach will make the difference in this game. Concordia is 11-2 when leading at the half and 4-2 in games decided by 10 points or less. Dwenger is 8-0 when leading at the half, but they are just 3-8 when trailing or tied at the half and 3-3 in games decided by 10 points or less.

Concordia is 11-6 vs Dwenger all time in the playoffs and Dwenger’s last playoff win vs Concordia came in the 2003 sectional semifinals 52-40 (the last time Angola won a sectional). Concordia’s last first round loss in sectionals: 1997 vs Northrop (Single-Class Tournament era).

Prediction 49-41 Concordia

 

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Garrett (12-8) vs New Haven (3-19)

I have three words for ya

ROLL BIG TRAIN

Prediction 64-22 Garrett

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Leo (7-15) vs 3A #14 Angola (17-6)

So, here we are. Angola is back in this same position as they have been for the last couple seasons: competing for a sectional. Honestly, this is a perfect draw for Angola because they don’t have to worry about Dwenger or Concordia until the sectional championship. For them, they just need to take care of business and play this entire week with their best basketball of the season.

Here is a rematch from the Dec. 5 game in which Leo won 38-35 at Leo. Now, I know people will say how did Angola lose to them? Well, please understand that this team was going through a ton of adversity where the team was still playing hard, but they weren’t playing to the way they’re capable of doing. In some ways, they set high expectations coming into this season and early on they underachieved. Those struggles felt a lot like when CN underachieved for a span of 2 weeks last season and I felt they weren’t playing up to their capabilities. This team handled that adversity extremely well and they have since been playing the way I remember this team that plays with that hunger, their work ethic, and cohesion.

Despite not being a really big team, Angola has fielded one of the deepest teams in the area with a very good backcourt and a pretty relentless frontcourt. Hanna Knoll (14 points over 2 assists and nearly 5 steals a game) and Reace Peppler (10 points nearly 2 assists a game)  have led the offensive attack all season long. Work ethic and defense have always been their two biggest strengths especially over the last couple seasons. This is a team that pressures opposing offenses better than most teams in Northeast Indiana with Kayla Fenstermaker and Lauren Leech playing very well on that side of the ball.

As for Leo, they’re a little bigger than Angola, grab about 30 boards a game, and they do have some talent led by Casey Steward (7.3 points and 2.4 assists) and Hannah Adams (12.4 points and 5.8 boards per game). This isn’t a bad defensive team, but they really struggle to score on a consistent basis. However, I have a lot of concerns in terms of their ability to stay composed in higher pressure situations.

They have struggled against weaker opponents, and for some reason when they have a big lead, they can’t hold leads? Is that where I’m getting? I mean, how do you blow a 20-point 4th quarter lead, lose to Bishop Dwenger by 5, and call yourself a contender?

I guess that’s why their record is what it is and keep in mind Leo blew that lead just last Tuesday! I mean Dwenger plays hard. Yes, but if they can’t hold leads against either younger or mediocre teams, how are they going to handle situations in sectional play against veteran and elite teams?

Against Angola, they shot a season high 58% from the floor, but I don’t see Angola allowing them to shoot the ball that well. Leo and Angola have won 3 games against each other all time in the playoffs. Angola is 15-1 when leading at the half compare to just 4-2 for Leo. Angola is 3-2 while Leo is 3-7 in games decided by 10 points or less. It’ll be interesting to see Angola does this week and this game in particular since they haven’t played in over a week, but knowing them they’ll be fine.

Prediction 52-37 Angola

 

Semifinals

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Woodlan (15-7) vs 3A #15 FW Concordia

It’s a rematch from Concordia’s 58-30 win just a week earlier

Prediction 52-36 Concordia

 

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Garrett vs 3A #14 Angola

Now, here’s the interesting scope of this potential matchup. Regardless what happens with the Angola-Leo game, Garrett is going to have a since of familiarity with the two schools. But, this could potentially be the third meeting this season between the lunch pale Lady Railroaders and the Stingy Lady Hornets. Angola has owned the first two meetings outscoring Garrett 95-56. But, as we all know, the postseason is a different animal by itself. There’s this notion that it doesn’t matter how many times you beat the crap out of one team. All it takes is one bad game or one exceptional performance and that can be the difference between winning and having your season come to a bitter end.

Garrett has a nice mix of senior leadership and youth. The seniors led by McKenzie Casselman (9.3 points 34 made 3’s and 5.2 boards) and Camden Bodey (6.1 points an 4.7 boards) have guided the young, but maturing Garrett squad to heights they never reached just from last season alone. They’re 67% from the free throw line as a team while averaging nearly 24 boards and 3 blocks. They’re going to bring back a good chunk of their core next season, but now the question becomes: are they ready to play in the playoffs?

In the combined two meetings, Angola has held Garrett to just 20 field goals at 32% from the floor and has allowed them to grab an average of just 21 boards a game.  The key area that may determine this game is the turnovers. In the two combined meetings, Garrett has turned the ball over a whopping 46 times (this can’t happen if you’re Garrett) while Angola amassed as many steals (37) as the combined number of free throw attempts by both teams (38) let alone free throws made (27).  Angola nearly tripled the number of steals Garrett had in the games by a near 8-3 ratio.

When it’s all said and done, their ability to score and defend the paint will be the difference. I expect a gritty, physical game since these two teams are long time rivals dating back to the good ole years of the defunct NEIAC. Garrett holds a 3-1 all-time playoff record vs Angola, but their last win against them came in 1997 when they were hosting the single-class sectional.

Prediction 49-37 Angola

 

Sectional Championship

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3A #15 FW Concordia vs 3A #14 Angola

Now, here’s where people, especially the ones in Fort Wayne that think they know everything, will probably get angry for the prediction I am about to tell you. Now, I’ll admit. Outside of my diligence towards CN, I like watching Angola play, but I really don’t like Concordia. However, biasness has nothing to do with this prediction. I wouldn’t even consider picking Angola if I didn’t think they were capable of competing with the mighty Lady Cadets.

I know people outside of Angola are going to tell me “You don’t watch basketball or you don’t watch Concordia play you dumbass!” WRONG. I do watch SAC games. I don’t live under a troll’s bridge. I pay attention to EVERYONE.

This is not to undermine the legacy Carissa Garcia and head coach David Miller has brought to the city and to the entire state of Indiana. Carissa is a Sydney Freeman, generational-talent and demeanor. She is a star talent that when her team needs her the most, she can carry a program on her back and make the biggest plays to help her team win on both sides of the court. When it’s all said and done, she’s going to do great things at Northern Kentucky.

David Miller is not only Concordia’s head girl’s basketball coach, he IS Concordia athletics as we know it. Without this guy’s contributions to this program and their success over the last 2 decades with him being 53 wins from 500 in his 3-decade career, who knows where Concordia would be today. You don’t win that many games and that many sectionals without great coaching. Ladies and gentlemen, regardless what happens in the coming days and seasons, he has cemented himself to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.

Two stat lines people will point out to me when discussing Angola vs Concordia girls basketball. 1.) Concordia is 7-0 all-time in the playoffs vs Angola and 2.) Concordia’s 11 sectionals, 4 regionals, and 2 state titles compared to Angola’s 2003 sectional title.

Ok, whatever, When it’s playoff time, stats are put aside.

Listen, don’t you think Angola is motivated to play and beat this team? They’ve spent their entire lives hoping to someday prove to the city of Fort Wayne that they can play and beat Concordia. They won’t admit it, but let’s face it. The city of Angola is tired of hearing the repeated, depressing statements that Angola can’t beat Concordia. Alumni there are getting really tired of seeing this recurring theme of Angola can’t play 4 quarters with the Lady Cadets. The Lady Hornets are tired of repeatedly saying to themselves “Oh, what could have been.. maybe next year.” In fact, I more than anyone else is absolutely SICK and TIRED of the media undermining this program when I KNOW from experience that they are far beyond capable of competing and beating Concordia. I don’t care what the media says and I don’t care if you agree with my analysis or not. As long as I think they can legitimately compete for a sectional title, I will pick Angola to at least consider pulling off an upset.

A team’s physical size doesn’t determine the overall outlook of a champion. It’s the one that demonstrates the heart of a champion. Anyone can win on any given night because the playoffs really test and quite frankly shows the true colors of each team. Look at Central Noble for instance. Outside of Meleah, they’re not that big either and look how much they’ve accomplished.

When analyzing this matchup, you have to look back at the most recent games with Concordia. In 2017, Angola was inexperienced and the veteran Lady Cadets used their suffocating defense to shut them down. Last season’s sectional, if you take away a sluggish 1st quarter, Angola was only outscored 38-37. However, they were out-rebounded by 12, Concordia shot the ball 24% better that night, and Carissa Garcia and Chantese Craig combined for 35 of the 49 points.

Notice that this is the first time I’ve said Chantese Craig in this blog. Well, that’s because she suffered a pretty bad leg injury sometime after the last regular season and hasn’t been able to play volleyball and will miss the entire 2018-19 season in high hopes of coming back better than ever. I think Craig’s presence last season had a ginormous effect on the outcome of the game due to her blocks, rebounding, and interior scoring. Craig’s absence has made them a bit smaller than the team that won sectionals last season.

Now, this game will be close because Concordia isn’t going to sit there and say “Wow, what a great story you guys have! Here, take our sectional trophy.” No, Angola has to come out this week and play each game they have to play like it is their last. Then, when they get to this point, come prepared for a potential title game not afraid of them, enjoying this moment, and put on their hard helmets to EARN this trophy. This is Angola’s best chance to prove to everyone why they deserve to win sectionals before the Craig girl comes back as the dominant center as she was her freshman season. If they have proven in the past to go neck and neck with the number one team in state the undefeated Lady Cougars on multiple occasions, then don’t tell me they can’t play with them!

Prediction 48-44 2OT Angola

 

3A 21 @ West Noble

Sectional Titles

Northwood 24 (2014)

Wawasee 13 (2011)

Tippy Valley 8 (2017)

Fairfield 3 defending Sectional Champs

Lakeland 3 (1996)

West Noble 1 (1988)

 OTH’s Sectional 21 Preview

1st Round 

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Wawasee (4-17) vs Lakeland (14-7)

Well, Lakeland, for the first time in what seems like forever, your Lady Lakers are finally in the discussion of winning a sectional championship and not being looked at as a push over much like what will happen with Wawasee. Sorry, Lady Warriors, no Cinderella run for you. Lakeland, I expect your girls to advance and enjoy their first playoff win in 14 years and first playoff win over Wawasee since 1998. That’s crazy bruh! 14 years? Stats don’t lie.

Prediction 58-33 Lakeland

 

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3A #20 West Noble (15-5) vs Fairfield (6-15)

These two teams met 5 days earlier with West Noble coming away victorious in that game. Fairfield has owned West Noble in recent memory, but those were the yesteryears. This year’s Fairfield team is a much younger and inexperienced one than last season by itself. The Lady Falcons not only have struggled to score this season, but they have also went through a bit of the injury bug as of late which doesn’t help with the down season they’re having.

Even through the offense struggles, their defense has been pretty good and they’re rebounding close to 27 boards a game which is very good for a team that’s only won 6 games. As for West Noble, they’re dangerous all across the board. Fast, deep, athletic, and they play with an edge. This will most likely be Fairfield’s last year in 3A before they are demoted back to 2A due to recent enrollment decline.

Prediction 49-30 West Noble

 

Semifinals

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Tippy Valley (15-6 vs Lakeland

This is a rematch from the Dec. 29 match at West Noble where Lakeland saw their double-digit lead disappeared and thus a Vikings’ win. These two teams have only met in the playoffs twice: both won by Tippy Valley in convincing fashion. This isn’t the Lady Lakers of the past, but this is still a very young Lakeland team that does have something to prove this week.

Lakeland has shot the ball fairly well led by Bailey Hartsough (18.4 points, 6 boards, nearly 3 assists, just under 5 steals, and a block a game), Keirstein Roose (10.6 points and 5.6 boards per game). The Lakers’ size is very prevalent as they’ve amassed over 28 boards and over 3 blocks a game. But, with just one senior and a team mostly consisted of sophomores, they’re going to be heavily tested this week especially against the powerhouse programs of Tippy Valley, Northwood, and West Noble.

The Lady Vikings might be the most dangerous offensive team in the entire sectional with one of the state’s most prolific players: senior Sophie Bussard (21.9 points, 8.2 boards, and over 3 assists per game). Even outside of her game, this is a pretty deep Vikings squad that shoots 42% as a team and grabbing over 27 boards.

This game will come down to discipline and rebounds since that seems to be the two major areas outside of scoring for these two teams. Lakeland is starting to get recognition by many schools and coaches as their rise to relevance continues. As for Tippy Valley, this is probably their last year before dropping to 2A the next school year. Expect a low-scoring contest yet again.

Prediction 45-39 Tippy Valley

 

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3A #13 Northwood (16-7) vs 3A #20 West Noble

This is the matchup we all want: NORTHWOOD vs WEST NOBLE. Much like with Angola, West Noble hasn’t been able to get that Panther off their back as they’ve lost all 7 playoff meetings vs Northwood.

The Black Swish as they’re called by the Napanee locals have built a remarkable 30+-year dynasty with 20 sectional titles. What makes Northwood such a tough matchup is not only their size in the paint, but they’re also a huge threat from distance shooting 34% from downtown. Allthough Northwood only averages less than 24 boards, the presence of 6 foot junior Kate Rulli (13.1 points and 6.7 boards) and 6’1 Maddy Payne (12.2 points 5.1 boards). However, I saw West Noble twice just this season and they’re a determined group of kids with so much depth. Size will be a challenge for WN, but they’ve proven they can play with anyone regardless of size. Plus, with this being in Ligonier and the team having 6 seniors, I think they’re going to somehow pull this one off.

Northwood is 13-2 when leading at the half, but WN is 4-2 when trailing or tied at the half but they’re 10-3 when leading at the half.

Prediction 43-42 West Noble

 

Sectional Championship

Tippy Valley vs 3A #20 West Noble

The biggest challenge for West Noble is trying to contain Bussard and a team that’s pretty deep. Depth and discipline will be keys to this game, but I think with West Noble having already play them before this season and having a more veteran team than Tippy Valley, I think West Noble knows what it takes to win trophies from past seasons and winning two sectionals in volleyball. However, how Sophie Bussard plays could be the difference maker.

Prediction 47-40 West Noble

 

3A 19 @ South Bend Washington

Sectional Titles

South Bend Washington 9 (2009)

John Glenn 8 (2001)

Culver Academies 6 (2011)

Jimtown 5 (2008)

New Prairie 3 (2000)

Mishawaka Marian 1 defending Sectional Champs

1st Round

New Prairie (4-17) vs Jimtown (1-21)

Isn’t it amazing that they were state finalists just 12 years ago. Now they’re the doormat of Elkhart County hoops. At least their other sports for the most part are pretty good.

Prediction 48-17 New Prairie

 

Culver Academies (11-7) vs John Glenn (12-9)

CMA is quite an interesting team that could give the Lady Falcons fits, but I expect John Glenn to advance.

Prediction 51-35 John Glenn

 

Semifinals

3A #2 Mishawaka Marian (19-3) vs New Prairie

Mishawaka Marian is a bad matchup for New Prairie.

Prediction 61-25 Mishawaka Marian

 

South Bend Washington (10-11) vs John Glenn

The Lady Panthers have an interesting group there, but I like Glenn to move on to the sectional championship.

Prediction 49-37 John Glenn

 

Sectional Championship

3A #2 Mishawaka Marian vs John Glenn

This is an interesting matchup because these two schools met in the title game last season where Mishawaka Marian won its first ever sectional in OT @ John Glenn and obviously the rest is history.

Marian has a very deep ball club with 3 legit scorers Makayla Weaver (13.8 points and 4 boards), McKenzie Hudgen (12.1 points 4 boards), and Anija Payne (12.3 points 10.6 boards and 1.1 blocks). The team shoots 42% and 30% from downtown and they amass nearly 30 boards and over 3 blocks.

While Glenn averages nearly 47 points a game, a good chunk of that scoring comes from senior Bethany Hayden with 15.2 points. The key area will be rebounding since there’s a near 10 board difference. I expect Marian to win sectionals again. The Lady Knights are 4-0 vs John Glenn.

Prediction 47-33 Mishawaka Marian

 

Top 10 3A Teams in Northern Indiana 

  1. Northwestern
  2. Mishawaka Marian
  3. Bellmont
  4. Norwell
  5. Benton Central
  6. Marion
  7. Northwood
  8. Angola
  9. FW Concordia
  10. Jay County

 

4A 6 @ Homestead

Sectional Titles

Huntington North 18 (2006)

Homestead 12 (2017)

South Side 7 defending Sectional Champs

Muncie Central 7 (2015)

Wayne 1 (1979)

OTH’s Sectional 6 Preview

1st Round

FW South Side (14-7) vs Huntington North (7-14)

Nice season for the young Lady Vikings but their season ends here.

Prediction 64-43 South Side

 

Semifinals

4A #2 Homestead (22-3) vs FW Wayne (1-19)

Homestead is a bad matchup for Wayne and for pretty much most of the SAC teams.

Prediction 72-20 Homestead

 

Muncie Central (5-17) vs FW South Side

(Yawn) South Side all the way..

Prediction 69-34 South Side

 

Sectional Championship

 

4A #2 Homestead vs FW South Side

This is a rematch from last year’s first round sectional meeting where South upset Homestead. This is also a rematch from Homestead’s 43-30 SAC title win and the 48-33 Homestead win 6 nights later. There have only been 5 games where Homestead was in jeopardy of getting the win with 3 of those losses coming against high quality competition outside of the area radar.

The Lady Spartans are deep all across the board with Sydney Graber, Sylare Starks, Riley Parker, and the true freshman Ayanna Patterson to name a few. As for the Lady Archers, they have a lot of weapons with Jaci Jones, another true freshman in Olivia Smith, and Alaya Chapman. However, the biggest difference to me is the depth, their ability to space the floor, their tenacious rebounding, and the fact that everyone is a threat at Homestead.

Because this has  been a huge rivalry in the SAC in recent years, I expect this game to be close,  but this time it is Homestead that prevails. Homestead is 8-7 all time in the playoffs vs South Side.

Prediction 54-47 Homestead

 

4A 5 @ DeKalb

Sectional Titles

DeKalb 15 (2006)

Snider 13 (2015)

Northrop 11 (2009)

Carroll 8 2-time defending Sectional Champs

East Noble 7 (2016)

North Side 2 (1979)

OTH’s Sectional 5 Preview

1st Round

DeKalb (2-19) vs FW Northrop (11-9)

This is not their year for the young DeKalb Lady Barons. Northrop, your journey awaits you!

Prediction 52-30 Northrop

FW Carroll (11-10) vs FW Snider (8-11)

Here’s the interesting storyline for this game.  Carroll appeared to be the favorite of winning in a weaker sectional. But, Northrop and Snider have improved drastically with snider beating Carroll just last Friday. The Snider group led by Da’Leshia Davis and her 18.4 points 8.9 boards and 4 assists. This team has played significantly better as they have only allowed about 42 points a game in the last 3 games. They have beaten Bellmont, Concordia, and Carroll to enter sectionals on a roll.

Carroll has a pretty nice core themselves led by sophomore Emiliy Parrett and her 12-13 point per game average along with Malia Williams and Olivia Hoepnner. I know people are falling into the Snider cinderella story, but I don’t buy it. Even though Carroll has been inconsistent, there’s just something them in the playoffs that you can’t overlook. I see Carroll getting revenge. Snider is building its reputation and it could be a start of a good run starting next season.

Prediction 48-43 Carroll

 

Semifinals

 

FW North Side (5-16) vs FW Northrop

Northrop is a bad matchup for North Side. Onward Northrop.

Prediction 68-44 Northrop

 

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East Noble (4-19) vs Carroll

Sorry, East Noble, the team is very young and defense is an issue especially against either Snider or Carroll who both can score the basketball. Carroll, Northrop awaits you.

Prediction 61-38 Carroll

 

Sectional Championship

 

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Northrop vs Carroll 

These two teams met back on Nov. 16 with a 62-54 Carroll win. Carroll had went on a 6-1 start during this stretch while Northrop went 3-4. Since then, Carroll finished the regular season 5-9 while Northrop went 8-5.

Northrop is an interesting team because they’re pretty young, but much like last season they’re very talented. Destiny Jackson is a baller for Northrop averaging 11.8 points 9.1 boards 2.3 assists and 2.4 blocks. Northrop has an additional 3 other players that can score the basketball or make plays at will and this team grabs over 33 rebounds a game (more than Central Noble if you’re asking). So, this team really emphasizes the defensive side of the game especially when they’re averaging over 4 blocks a game.

Discipline and capitalizing from the free throw line will be key since this will be a game of attrition. Northrop’s biggest problem has been their struggles from 3-point land and only shooting 53% from the free throw line. Northrop is 3-2 all time in playoffs vs Carroll. Carroll has had a nice run of success, but I think in a close as this one will be, I think Northrop will shock everybody and win the sectional.

Prediction: 47-44 Northrop

4A 4 @ Northridge

Sectional Titles

Warsaw 17 (2015)

Elkhart Memorial 14 (2012)

Plymouth 12 (2013)

Goshen 7 (1996)

Elkhart Central 3 defending Sectional Champs

Concord 3 (1992)

Northridge 2 (2017)

 

1st Round

Northridge (17-6) vs Plymouth (17-5)

After Northridge’s run to state ended in a heart-breaking first-round loss to Elkhart Central, they seem poise to get back to that same position they were in at semistate in 2017. This isn’t a flashy team, but they’re a very solid defensive team led by Morgan Litwiller (20.8 points and 6.6 boards) who recorded 1,000 points earlier this year. They shoot well from deep at 30% and over 100 made 3’s, and they’re a strong 76% from the free throw line. This a team with a lot of solid role players and one solid superstar.

Plymouth on the other hand, has some scoring depth with Hallie Reichard, Cassidy Holliday, and Claire Tanner.Much like with Northridge, they shoot the 3-ball well, but don’t take nearly as many 3’s, and they still shoot 72% from the free throw line.

However, their biggest problem is the rebounding department with only 18.4 boards a game. So, you can say they really lack an interior presence to crash the boards and get greasy. I like Northridge’s experience to help them survive and advance. This will be their first playoff meeting.

Prediction 53-44 Northridge

 

Elkhart Memorial (6-16) vs Warsaw (13-8)

Warsaw all the way.

Prediction 50-33 Warsaw

 

4A #11 Elkhart Central (16-6) vs Goshen (14-7)

On paper, Elkhart Central is the obvious favorite to win sectionals. Outstanding scoring attack led by Kaitlyn Costner (16.2 points and 3.7 assists), Trinitee Harris (13.9 points and 4.2 assists), and Yiesha Williams (11.6 points and 5.2 boards).

They have 4 players shooting 50% or higher, they shoot 32% from downtown, and averaging 26.8 boards and nearly 3 blocks. A lot of people would say: Look at Elkhart Central! They’re a great team! Goshen is a nobody!

Not so fast.

If you don’t watch Goshen basketball and pick against them like that, then you’re blind as a mouse. Goshen is a very-defensive minded team and I know that from Shaun Hill’s days at Bremen high school. They don’t shoot the ball very well, but they can score and score enough to win. This team shoots 66% from the free throw line compare to just 53% for Elkhart Central. Goshen averages 26.5 boards, but they average in an insane 6.3 blocks a game.

They have a player that can make a huge difference for her team on both sides of the court: the coach’s daughter: Brynn-Shoup Hill. the 6’2 sophomore averages 14.3 points, shoots 26% from downtown, shoots 83% from the free throw line, and she averages 7.8 boards and 4.7 blocks.

I’ll take the CN game for instance, Central Noble shot 40% in the game, but they were outrebounded by Goshen, had 11 shots blocked by Goshen (9 from Shoup Hill), and only scored 37 points. Media experts, don’t pick Elkhart Central just because they’re flashy and they can score. Knowing Coach Hill and that Goshen team, I FULLY EXPECT this team to slow down and frustrate the crap out of Elkhart Central and that will be just enough to get the major upset win. Goshen is 7-2 all time in the playoffs vs the Lady Blazers. I know Go crazy..

Prediction 44-40 OT Goshen

 

Semifinals

Concord (14-8) vs Northridge

Another very interesting matchup much like with the Plymouth game. Concord at times can flat out score. They have two players combing for nearly 22 points and they’re driving force of that Minutemen squad and Concord grabs 27 boards a game and 1.5 blocks. This team also shoots 70% from the free throw line. Concord will be good for a while, but I still like Northridge in the end. Concord is 5-3 all time in the playoffs vs Northridge but hasn’t beaten them in this stage in 26 years.

Prediction 49-42 Northridge

Warsaw vs Goshen

This could be one of those ugly, gritty playoff games in this round regardless who wins between Goshen and Elkhart Central. Warsaw much like Goshen emphasizes their defense, but with a bit more scoring touch. Warsaw has a ton of depth led by Maddie Ryman. This team shoots pretty well from the field and from deep, and they’re a nice 685 from the free throw line. They don’t rebound quite as well as Goshen or Elkhart Central, but they’re a scrappy bunch at Warsaw.

This will be tight and it will be ugly, but I see the Lady Tigers in the orange and black to advance to the sectional championship. Warsaw is 4-0 in the playoffs vs Goshen.

Prediction 45-43 Warsaw

 

Sectional Championship

Northridge vs Warsaw

This is a rematch from the 44-37 Raider win back on Jan.5 and much like with the previous two rounds, I’m expecting another tight one since this sectional is so tough to predict. However, I just have this feeling Northridge hosting the sectional and bitter from last year will find a way to win this sectional. Warsaw is 3-2 all time vs Northridge in the playoffs.

Prediction 50-41 Northridge

 

4A 3 @ Mishawaka

Sectional Titles

Penn 18 defending Sectional Champs

South Bend St. Jospeh 13 (2017)

LaPorte 9 (2017)

Mishawaka 6 (1996)

South Bend Riley 5 (2003)

South Bend Adams 5 (2001)

South Bend Clay 4 (2010)

1st Round

Mishawaka (7-16) vs South Bend Riley (5-16)

Gritty game either way, but I like Mishawaka in this matchup.

Prediction 38-28 Mishawaka

 

South Bend St. Jospeh (15-7) vs South Bend Adams (5-15)

St. Joe is going to move on!

Prediction 62-24 St. Joe

4A #3 Penn (21-0) vs South Bend Clay (6-16)

Penn is a bad matchup for South Bend Clay. Next!

Prediction 70-25 Penn

 

Semifinals

LaPorte (14-7) vs Mishawaka

LaPorte all the way!

Prediction 55-30 LaPorte

 

South Bend St. Jospeh vs 4A #3 Penn

There hasn’t been a more recent rivalry quite like Penn vs South Bend St. Joseph. Penn is so dangerous led by Trinity Clinton, Jordyn Smith, and Reganne Pate. The team shoots 48% and get this 42% from downtown with over 140 3’s made with pate shooting 53% and have made 86 of them. They grab 26 boards, 14 assists, 14 steals, and nearly 3 blocks a game. Their lone kryptonite is that they only shot 56% from the charity stripe. St. Joe has always been an excellent girls team, but this isn’t the team that won state last season with 3 seniors and 3 freshman on the team. The seasoned Penn Lady Kingsmen shall advance.

Prediction 58-42 Penn

 

Sectional Championship

LaPorte vs 4A #3 Penn

LaPorte has a really nice ball club led by the Ott sisters PFW commit Riley Ott with 17.3 points and 3.6 assists and Rylin Ott with 16.4 points 9.8 boards and 1.2 blocks. LaPorte shoots a respectable 39% and 29% from downtown, they shoot 65% from the free throw line, and grab over 31 boards a game. While I do see LaPorte staying in this game for a while, I can’t see Penn not winning this sectional.

Prediction 54-43 Penn

 

Top 10 4A Schools in Northern Indiana 

  1. Homestead
  2. Penn
  3. Crown Point
  4. Elkhart Central
  5. Kankakee Valley
  6. Michigan City
  7. Carmel
  8. Zionsville
  9. Northridge
  10. Warsaw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Story on Central Noble’s Run to Girl’s Basketball Excellence (Part 7)

Chapter 7 The Run to a State Championship

Now this is the playoff everyone remembers because it’s the most recent tournament. So, Central Noble draws a first-Round bye in which they get the Whitko-Prairie Heights Winner.

Prairie Heights edges Whitko 61-56 in OT thanks to a night led by Shelby Fish’s 1,000 point milestone performance. So, CN gets Prairie Heights and from there it was complete domination as the Cougars defense stymied Heights 68-18 led by Meleah Leatherman and Bridgette Gray combining for 31 points.

In the sectional championship game, they faced the Bremen Lady Lions in which they dominated yet again to win their second straight sectional (as it was expected by many people) thanks to a combined 36 points from Syd and Meleah.

Then came the regional in which they faced the Bluffton Lady Tigers for the early Saturday game at Winamac. This was a Bluffton team that’s been rising since the start of that season in which they defeated Canterbury to win their first sectional in 30 years.

Coming into this regional, I wasn’t as worried about Bluffton as I was with South Adams but I knew they were a decent threat and for most of that game it looked like maybe Bluffton could potentially pull off a major upset. But, Syd and Meleah made the plays when needed the most and a 13-2 4th Quarter by CN sealed the win and advance to the evening championship game.

I watched the other match and it looked looked like it was going to be North Judson. But, when they shockingly lost to Hammond Bishop Noll, I felt a sigh of relief and I was pretty confident that CN was probably going to win the regional.

CN dominated the first half of the championship against Hammond Noll as they were up 25-14 at the half. But a 14-10 3rd by Hammond Noll made me a little nervous going into the 4th. However, much like the Bluffton game, CN’s defense picked it up and a 13-8 4th Quarter secure their second straight regional and another trip to Logansport for semistate 48-36.

In the semi-State game, another major shocker for me and many of the Hoosier fans around as Oak Hill was eliminated in the regional final by the Frankton Lady Eagles. I knew they were in this position for a reason and I knew their offensive firepower was going to be a bit of a challenge, but I felt confident that CN’s defense was going to keep them close enough that somehow CN was going to hang on and win.

I was in Fortville, IN to spend some time with my Aunt Erin and Uncle Tyrone before we went to watch my sister sing her way to winning state ISSMA competition at Perry Meridian High School. Then, we went to Aspen Creek Grill in Noblesville for lunch after Tera’s competition and later in our stay I watched the CN girls play Frankton on the IHSAA TV livestream.

CN was held scoreless for most of the 1st Quarter before taking a slim 7-5 lead after 1. It was still a struggle but some late baskets by Syd and a buzzer beating basket by Meleah Leatherman lifted a ton of pressure on themselves and from there I felt a lot better about them entering the 3rd.

The team played an outstanding 3rd Quarter as they outscored Frankton 16-4 to take a 40-27 lead entering the 4th. But, Frankton played desperate in the 4th and had it not been for some clutch free throw shooting and relentless defense, I don’t know if the Lady Cougars would have been able to hang on without me having a heart attack. We as in the family were on our way back from Noblesville as we wanted to get to service on time before both the weather got worse from the snow and it became dark outside.

When the final buzzer sounded, it was Central Noble 52 Frankton 44. I would be lying if I didn’t admit I probably shed a couple tears. I was in a state of euphoria and in disbelief. I had spent all of my life hearing about how much of a joke Central Noble sports were. I grew up reading the news articles on how bad the girls lost to Westview or got their butts whipped by Garrett or how they can’t win the big game.

I remember attending the pep rally for that state championship appearance and I felt this aurora that this community wasn’t satisfied with just being there.

I remember Josh telling me how difficult it was at times to prepare for the state championship game because of all of the media attention they were getting but did mention that the deep runs over the past 2 seasons made it a bit easier for them to handle through the media and get ready for the biggest game of their lives.

One thing Josh Treesh mentioned about Winchester was simply that they were the biggest team they had ever faced that season. I won’t lie I wanted CN to win so bad because I wanted them to be rewarded for their efforts.

I unfortunately couldn’t make it to the state title game but I cheered them on from my home in my television set on Fox Sports Indiana. I cheered them on with a burgundy Cougars shirt like a ordinary fan and I got frustrated on a turnover or a tough basket like a fan. Overall, it was an amazing experience that 2 years after graduating that same school is representing themselves for a state championship.

The first quarter of that big game went as well as you wanted. A Bridgette Gray jumper off a rebound gave them their first points of the championship game as CN started the game up 12-4. But Winchester finishes the quarter on a 7-0 run and finished the half on a 21-7 run to take a 25-19 lead at the break. I was getting nervous. On the contrary, Coach Treesh told me that he never felt discouraged during the intermission.

“I felt like they made those adjustments,” Treesh said, “we didn’t react very well to them. But, I felt like we were still where we needed to be. I felt like in that second quarter, our offensive output went down a little bit, and I felt like our defensive intensity went down.”

Other things Josh Treesh mentioned were the number of offensive rebounds they were giving up and they weren’t moving up and down the floor the way they were doing in the 1st Quarter which favored Winchester’s style of play.

“The one thing we talked about at halftime was ‘We’re gonna come out and pressure them. We’re gonna go after them in the full court, we’re gonna go after them in the half court, and we’re going to speed them up a little bit.'”

Treesh described the 3rd Quarter turnaround as “turn the tide a bit” and both teams went back and forth before the game was ultimately decided. But, after CN built a cushion from that 3rd Quarter, Treesh said Winchester struggled from there and never gained any more momentum even though they still had a chance late in the game.

Sydney Freeman’s famous fade-away basket from the baseline with over a minute to go iced the game in which Josh Treesh described the last 42 seconds of that game as “an eternity” but he went to say how great of a coaching staff they have to keep themselves and the players calm in high-tense situations.

Treesh had told me before the team went to semi-State the students and staff at the East Noble School Corporation where he still teaches as a PE teacher there made a poster and signed it saying “Good luck to Coach Treesh and the Central Noble Lady Cougars”. He talked to me about how supportive his co-workers at EN were to him, how many people from northern Indiana were watching the state championship, and the number of congratulations emails and texts they got after winning state.

The players were amazed and even to some extent players like Sam Brumbaugh mentioned that this hadn’t sunk in at the time I talked to them. Jocelyn Winnebrenner mentioned about the fans reacted with “happy tears” and how much they celebrated after that win late into the night.

I recognized that when I talked to them that there was a sense of cohesion. It wasn’t just a team with that business-like approach but rather a team that was just having fun playing the sport they love together and just being kids.

Tim Andrews who’s the JV coach at CN described this moment as a relief, how grateful he was for the lord to give them that opportunity, and he said he gets choked up when revisiting this conversation and how much sacrifice his wife took for him to coach.

“It takes a lot of time away from family,” Andrews said, “and the ones you loved the most are usually the ones that get the brunt of that. Just a relief all the away around. Elation, joy, all that combined into one.”

Syd and Meleah were their usual selves most of the time and they have been money their entire careers. The role players were huge when it counted and that has continued this current season.

Calista Rice the only senior on that team and a very key part of the 2-3 previous teams walked away as a winner of a state championship and the Mental Attitude Award.

Bridgette Gray had as tough of a start to a freshman season as you’re going to get. But, by the end of that season, a star was born.

Sam Brumbaugh built a reputation as an excellent rebounder and a spark plug on the defensive end.

Jocelyn Winnebrenner never had a major impact on this team but this run would help her to become an important role player for the 2018-19 season.

Lydia Andrews went from being a JV starter to a starter on the reigning state champions.

But, the one constant in that entire season (let me rephrase that) this whole entire history of Central Noble Basketball was the fans. Treesh pointed out that the fans had been there even when his teams weren’t that great during his first stint.

“They’ve been so supportive,” Treesh said,” and they’ve followed us in the regional. When the weather was bad, they followed us to semi-state, and we at least had two big sections at state. It was just neat to see all of those people supporting these kids.”

Chapters 8 and possibly 9 on the 2018-19 season are to be determined because this team right now is rewriting the history books. Once their season is over, I’ll recap the 2018-19 season the way I have been for the first 3-4 seasons.

My Story on Central Noble’s Run to Girls Basketball Excellence (Part 6)

Chapter 6 2017-18 Season

Here are the first 5 chapters of the series

Chapter 1 (Pre Syd-Meleah Era) 5-18 14-15 Season

Chapter 2 2015-16 Season (18-7)

Chapter 3 2016-17 Season (27-3)

Chapter 4 The Run to 2017 Semistate

Chapter 5 The Rise of the NECC

Ok, so here we are the season everybody that follows basketball knows about this team. The season that will forever be in the record books. By then, it was Syd and Meleah’s junior years and while they had already won 2 conference tournaments and made it to semistate, there was still a lot to prove.

In the past seasons, Central Noble was one of those schools that had been criticized for not having a tough schedule. That was part of the reason CN was never even considered to be a state title contender at all until the previous season.

So, Coach Treesh and company decided to buff up their schedule to test them more in the regular season. They said adios to Blackhawk Christian and Jimtown and said hello to Wawasee and Northwestern to their schedule.

2017-18 was the year all Central Noble sports teams remembered the late athletic trainer Nate Kostielney who died from an AV accident in a park in Attica, IN that’s for 4-wheel riding back in late May 2017. Nate simply loved riding on 4-wheelers. I remember the very first time I met this guy when I helped out with Matt Dazey during the Girls Basketball Sectional in 2015.

I sat next to this tall, blonde hair guy that I had never heard of before and it was his first day on the job. He aided a Westview cheerleader that injured her foot for whatever reason and shortly thereafter he and I talked a bit while watching the games.

This was a guy I remembered talking to when I was the manager of the football team my senior year. During the long, hot summer practices, we would have long and sometimes deep conversations whenever he’s available about things like some of his experiences in the field, his football career at East Noble (especially on the 2003 4A State finalist team), and his time at IU especially when it came to baseball since Kyle Schwarber was a catcher for the baseball team there and Nate was a die hard Cubs fan (which I forgave him even though I’m a Cardinals fan).

Nate strongly emphasized in the concussion protocol and how linemen needed to tackle the opposing player the right way so that players don’t suffer from the aftermath of concussion-like symptoms and potentially CTE. He was a leader of the football teams at CN without being a coach even though that wasn’t his job but he was a major influence for these kids that were still learning how to win and developing mental toughness. It would be a understatement if I would say he left an impact on the sports programs there.

The last time I saw him came in May 2017 nearly 3 weeks before the accident. I was announcing a softball game against the Lakeland Lady Lakers in which CN won 2-1 on their way to a NECC regular season title. One of the last things he was talking to Ty Schuller was over the new programming in terms of the concussion protocol. I didn’t say much to him that day but I knew he was excited for the season the school would later experienced

The community’s reaction to the accident was like taking a punch to the gut. It devastated me because he did more than the minimum for the athletes not just at CN but for other athletes everywhere. So that season every team at the school wore a black patch on their team uniforms with the initials “NK”.

I remember talking to the players and coaches a year after that season they were motivated from the loss to Oak Hill.

November 7th, 2017, it’s the first home game of the new season vs a Whitko Wildcats team under a new (experienced nevertheless) head coach Dr. Rick Bragg and it was a team that was decimated with injuries and had recently seen their players graduate in a graduating class that included their 2 all time leading Scorers. After 1 Quarter it was Central Noble 30 Whitko 0. No that wasn’t a typo nor was this a football game.

The only thing that night that was either somewhat fun or humorous was not only Bridgette Gray’s solid 16-point debut, but it was Dr. Bragg jokingly saying to his scorekeeper that he wanted to save his one timeout for the 30-point play 😂 (at least he found a way to have some humor in spite of tough stretches that he’s been going through with that program).

A couple weeks later on a Saturday night, they would go on to beat Leigha Brown who’s now at Nebraska for college hoops and the DeKalb Lady Barons at the Jungle 53-48 led by Meleah’s 21 points and 12 boards.

A few nights later, I was back on the mic to call their conference game vs a Lakeland team that introduced me and many of the outsiders of LaGrange to Bailey Hartsough and Keirstein Roose. Syd and Meleah combined for 43 points and Syd had 4 blocks that night. As for Lakeland, it was a tough night for them but I knew brighter pastures were ahead for that young talented ball club.

CN girls were off to this undefeated start to the season and ranked 3rd in state at that time. But, I knew the November games were a little too easy for a team like them. I had a bad feeling that December was going to give them fits and surely it did.

It started with (You guess it) Angola. It was December 1st, 2017, I initially wasn’t going to call those games believe it or not. But, I was so amazed with how well Angola was doing for both the boys and girls especially after their girls team demolished DeKalb 101-42. (Sorry Baron fans) that I couldn’t just not call those games.

The gym was literally jammed packed. Nothing but a sea of burgundy on one end and then on the other end behind me nothing but a sea of purple and gold. The media was everywhere that included Hometown Media. You had Cameras, cheerleaders, music, well everything you could ask for.

The first 2-3 minutes of that game, Angola took a timeout, and things drew up as well as you wanted if you were a CN fan up 4-0. I sensed the Angola players were quite pumped yet nervous to start the game. But, then Angola being who they are made a 3 and then got a stop on the next CN possession and all of the sudden they have life.

Angola was up 25-19 at the half and I was thinking “Ok, Angola is working their asses off, but maybe CN has a shot of winning this.” Sydney Freeman had 10 or 13 points in the 1st half. She only finished with 15 that led everybody that night. It tells you how well coached Angola was and still is.

They just witnessed their center Gabriella McHugh injured that night (done for the season), some of their better players were already in foul trouble, and their Star freshman at the time Hanna Knoll had a rough night.

Angola made some adjustments and they started to really pick up the intensity on defense and that had a real impact that night. Syd and Meleah had 25 of the team’s 30 points which meant everyone else was held pretty much in check.

I remember Coach Appleton telling I think it was either Reace or Regan before one of them subbed in that whatever you do (to sum it in my own words) don’t give Syd time or space to do her thing. And quite frankly they were able to at least contain her and Angola led by Ally Lorntz’s 11 was enough to give CN their first home loss in nearly an entire year 46-30. I being the classy respectful guy as I did congratulated both Angola coaches on their teams’ efforts and I told the Angola girls that they have a ton of potential moving forward and I think that had to lifted their spirits at least a little.

They had also faced more adversity along the way. After starting the Westview game on a 20-8 1st Quarter lead, Westview fought back and Syd and Meleah had to be the players they were for CN to win that night 49-42. A week later, they were at West Noble and trailed pretty badly 17-8 after 1. But, CN rallies led by Syd’s 28-point monster night and picked up a big win 55-51.

However, I could sensed that maybe they were a bit exhausted from that night because they had to play a 6pm game the next night vs the eventual 3A State champion Northwestern Lady Tigers with 2 players being committed to 2 Big Ten schools and they’re not even seniors yet. It was just a rough night altogether but at least I had some fun watching Syd and Meleah compete with high end talent along with Kendall Bostic and Madison Layden just making what seemed like every basket so effortless.

However, the one game that I knew something definitely wasn’t right at that time was the Wawasee game 6 nights later. Something seemed really wrong that night as if this team was playing with hardly any energy. I was thinking coming in when I watched the livestream from Wawasee’s group that yes they play in a tough conference and work hard, but I felt the Lady Cougars would at least hang on and beat them.

After 1 Quarter Wawasee 10 Central Noble 6. Now granted, they did fought back and took the lead. But, Wawasee kept making stops and then in the 4th CN watched their lead slip away as Wawasee won 44-39 thanks to a 15-9 4th Quarter. Nobody from that team had a very good night for the Cougars and I like anyone else on that team was frustrated.

5 days later, Meleah Leatherman becomes the 1st 1,000 point scorer since Carey Magnuson in 2006 and the ladies bounced back to beat LaVille 60-38. 2 nights later, they’re at Bremen and early on things were looking good. Syd recorded her 1000th point from the free throw line on her way to a 24-point night and her team up 15-6 after 1. But, then Bremen fights back CN doesn’t handle it very well and they had to fight to the bitter end to win that game 44-42.

So here we are and it’s January 2nd, 2018. I’m back behind the mic to announce Syd getting her 1,000th point before tipoff and they dominated Manchester 55-38 with Syd and Meleah combining for 38 points that night. 3 nights later, I’m back on the mic yet again in a varsity doubleheader vs Garrett. The girls again got off to a great start up 27-14 at the half. But, Garrett tightens up their defense and cuts it to 37-30. Give credit to that team under Coach Lapadot for their perseverance, but I was thinking “Oh boy. Here we go again!” However, CN made have had their best quarter in a while when they outscored them 11-1 in that last frame to win 48-31 led by Meleah’s 17 points and 6 blocks.

So now it’s the NECC Tournament. CN draws a home matchup with Westview in the first round. I was getting worried because knowing it’s Westview and the girls had not been playing necessarily at their best at that time. Again, they get off to a solid 1st Quarter. But, Westview responds and they take a 32-31 lead going into the 4th. Forget the Angola game, I was thinking Westview was going to pull a rabbit out of their hats and actually beat them in the first round. But, in the end CN in their usual business like approach hangs on to win 47-39 thanks to balance scoring from Syd Meleah and Bridgette Gray.

Then came Angola again and this time CN had to travel to the Hive to play them. I had a bad feeling about that night for CN yet again. Now granted, they played much better against them than the first game, but I felt like as I watching the livestream on Hometown Media I felt like CN was still not playing at the level they were capable of playing against teams like an Angola.

Meleah had one of her worst stretches of games ever and that night was one of them. Sam Brumbaugh who has been known for her defense had a career night that night scoring 12 points and actually made a 3 at the buzzer. Syd led everybody with 20 but had it not been for her performance, they probably wouldn’t have been that close. That night Ali Cranston and Reace Peppler had a really good night. Cranston was money especially in the first half and Reace’s basket at the buzzer to end the 3rd I felt was a stab to the heart. But, what also killed CN that night was the number of missed opportunities from the free throw line as they only went 10 for 20.

I was disappointed that their tourney run ended early but I was proud of CN’s Run that they had at that time, but after Angola won the NECC tournament I also congratulated Angola again for their efforts and winning the trophy telling them they deserved it and something they’ll cherished for the rest of their lives.

Frustrations continued to pile on and had probably their worst game ever with this core 64-39 at Fairfield. Guilty as charged. Fairfield went 24-3 and went to semistate, but that was one of those rare games in which I really questioned CN’s effort.

In some of the other games that season even with Angola, I didn’t think it was an effort issue but rather it was either lack of execution or in some ways lack of energy. That game in particular was just bad all across the board, but I felt the way they responded after that game was what turned their season around. In fact, to this day that’s the last time CN has lost a single varsity game as that started a historic 30-game winning streak. As Coach Freeman pointed out to me before the start of the current regular season that they were just not playing good enough defense and that they needed to clean that area up a bit.

Once they got going, they did. CN would go on to win @ Eastside Win their home game vs Hamilton and win @ Busco to enter sectionals on a roll.

Heres the link to the chapter on their state championship run

Page 7

My Story on Central Noble’s Run to Girls Basketball Excellence (Part 5)

Chapter 5 The Rise of the NECC

Before I talk about the run the CN Girls had to win the state championship, I feel this is extremely important to talk about how much the NECC grew in just one season besides Central Noble. I say this because without tough competition from their conference rivals, there is no way there’s a state banner in that gym in Albion right now.

Now 2017-18 was a blessing but yet it was also a trial for me. I had to make some very difficult decisions in how to change my approach in talking about the area sports we come to love. It was difficult because I know how loyal these fans in Albion are. They love their Cougars and being in a community that’s very isolated and tight-knit, I have to be very careful what I say. My number one goal from day one is regardless if me or anyone else agrees or disagrees with each others views, I do not burn bridges with people.

I want you all to understand how close I am with the crew at KPC News. I’ve grown very close to Ken Fillmore especially since he came back from his short stint up in his home state of Michigan and I’ve gotten to know very well with Chris Reed, briefly with Alex Alvarado when he was there, Brice Vance, Taylor Lehman, Steve Garbacz, etc.

Chris was a guy I knew very much like a friend where we would talk about things outside of high school sports. We would talk about the NFL, the NBA, College football and basketball, and then even sometimes I talk about some of the experiences I’ve had with my Communication professors at Purdue Fort Wayne (formerly known as IPFW) since he was enrolled in that school for this career.

I also can’t forget my relationship with what was Shooter, now he’s Bounce from Outside The Huddle. He and I communicate about what’s going on in our area to give YOU as in the players and fans as much recognition as we think you all deserve. If you’re a sports fan (basketball in particular) and not following that amphibian, then there is something seriously wrong with you.

The main reason I have this blog is to eliminate a lot of the bias, talk about the NECC, the area sports, occasionally pro sports in my other blog, and give the individuals the respect they’ve earned regardless of my diligence with Central Noble and their basketball and softball teams. I’m not here to talk just about CN or Angola or West Noble. The reason I’m making this series is to look back at the Lady Cougar’s run that we won’t see for a very long time.

One program I felt had a major influence on Central Noble’s Run to state was the contagious work ethic and enthusiasm from the Angola Lady Hornets. I want the people of Central Noble to understand if they haven’t already is that I’ve built friendships with these people in that community.

Brett Briscoe and Mark Cockroft are the men that call the games and made Hometown Media a revolution. These are two men that I have a lot of respect for and I hope they understand how much their efforts hasn’t been left unannounced by Angola parents, students, and even the outsiders of the Angola community.

Their live-streams have been a big part of me understanding the culture and the community’s support of their teams. Sometimes throughout each season, I’ll make videos of them with highlights or Brett’s commentary from Hometown Media to show people how great of work these two men do every single week.

But, that girls basketball team in particular was one that when CN wasn’t playing them, I was admittedly cheering for them to do well. Of all the 12 member schools in this 4-year-Run, Angola, Fairfield, and West Noble have been the schools that have given the Lady Cougars the most fits.

That team in particular was way more than just a 23-4 team. This was a team with outstanding leadership, tremendous work ethic, Resilient, selfless, mentally tough, and I’m about 99% sure they have likeable, talented athletes.

I called those games against them just to see how they were cohesive with each other. What probably amazed me even more was when their tallest player and a very talented volleyball player was injured that night and yet they were able to not only beat the eventual state champions but to do it in dominant fashion was what amazed me the most. Is been over a year and my jaw still drops every time I refer back to that game that ended CN’s 5-month unbeaten home streak which was the longest until this season of course.

The moments when they beat the state champions yet again, then beat an always tough West Noble team on their court in the NECC Title game, and for them to beat Bishop Dwenger on their court in sectional play the way they did it was indescribable.

I can go as far as to talking about the Peppler Sisters. My experience calling one of their softball games at CN a few years back where they’re probably the most gifted at. Regan Peppler was the kind of player that can make stops make big baskets and keep the team’s energy up. Reace who’s now playing an important role on that team this season is a bit more gifted offensively but she did basically the same things as her sister in terms of leadership and defense. I’m almost to the point now that she has been the spark plug of this year’s team because as I mentioned before when they went through some of those patches they had, Reace was such an important teammate to those players on that roster.

I talk about how much Hanna Knoll has grown in her first two seasons and how much potential I see out of her. Her ability to score at will from distance or in the paint, her high IQ, her stout defense, her blazing speed, and honestly she’s slowing becoming a leader of this team and she’s not even a junior yet. Next year, I think she can be the best guard in the NECC.

Kayla Fenstermaker, her knack of making big plays on defense and making big baskets, further compliments this club. Then you have Sarah Duvendack and how much she and many of the other players on last year’s and even ‘this year’s team play an integral part of a great culture that emphasizes more aspects than simply wins and losses.

Finally, I can’t stop talking about this team without the senior leadership there. The presence of the seniors of Sarah Brandt Regan Peppler and Ali Cranston were vital to their success. All 3 of these individuals set the standards needed to continue to maintain success in all sports not just basketball. They left their mark for this year’s seniors to do well. But, these three seniors, especially with Ali, did whatever it took to win. Sarah who had dealt with some injuries at times that season never gave up and did whenever she could to help her team.

Ali in particular stood out to me the most when it came to senior leadership, being a coachable figure, and for being the spark plug of what last year’s team was. For 6 years, I’ve watched a ton of talented and hard working kids boy or girl in all sports. But, she was one of the hardest workers I had ever watched. Her ability to defend the always talented Meleah Leatherman even though she was 4 inches shorter than Meleah, defend against the fast and mentally tough Sydney Freeman and contain some of their dominance the way she did it was remarkable. Her mental toughness was also in display in the sectional vs Bishop Dwenger.

However, I can’t leave out the other schools. In my 6 years, West Noble has created the most exciting games I had ever watched. Their run in girls basketball for nearly 8 years has been one past and present players will never forget. Past players like Kaylie Warble, Becca Schermerhorn, Kelsie Peterson, Kenzie Cox, and Paige Shearer were all important players during that run that set up the team they have right now. The 6 seniors at WN have left their mark in every sport they’ve been involved in especially with Madison Schermerhorn particularly in volleyball of course.

You have that Fairfield Lady Falcons team that won the NECC regular season title and made the run to semistate. Much like with Angola, they were mentally tough and was gifted with a lot of talent like Katie Lashley, Jordan Kintigh, and Erica Zook to name a few. Yes, they’re now struggling this season with a younger roster, but they’ll get back there again in a couple years. For them, to have the character to win that sectional, go to Columbia City beat Concordia, and ultimately win that regional took pure guts.

Then you had the Eastside Lady Blazers who built some good teams and last season was the best season under Shane Connell with 1,000 point scorer Lindsay Beard to lead the way. Again, much like with Fairfield, this year’s team is quite younger with head coach Nate Young, but they’re not as bad as you think they are considering their record.

Had an opportunity to watch them in person and I must say they did an outstanding job defending the paint, forcing CN to use some of their talents to get production, and making them earn their points from the free throw line. This is not a team I want to be facing in the first round of sectionals if they can stay somewhat healthy for another week.

This was the year that Lakeland started to field a competitive girls team for the first time in a long time and they’re only going to get better from yet another strong year this season. Maybe 2019-20 will be the year they’re in the legit NECC Title hunt.

Finally, you can’t keep the Westview Lady Warriors unnoticed. This was the team that became the face of the NECC for 4 years with Grace Hales and Maria McCoy. Though they’re not the team that they were from 2013-2016, this is still a tough team to beat led by Ashya Klopfenstein who will become Westview’s 15th 1,000 point scorer and the 6th from the girls program.

My Story on Central Noble’s Run to Girls Basketball Excellence (Part 4)

Chapter 4 Their Run to the 2017 Semi-State game

I remember reading John Harrell’s stuff on the sectionals that year and I remember reading his statistical predictions on who had the best chance to win state from each class. As I much as I have profound respect for the guy, he put that Whitko had a 48% chance of winning state. I for one was not convinced that they were a state title team.

Even though they had this talented team, I felt like they had to prove to me that they can beat Central Noble twice and win their first sectional before I even consider them as a state favorite. I told John that while I respect his work, I wouldn’t be counting out this up and coming Central Noble team not because I was being bias (which that wasn’t the case) but I had seen enough of their games that I knew they could legitimately beat Whitko.

So, it was about 4 or 5 days before sectionals, I was scrolling through the Dish On Demand for any free movies that I would be interested. I then come across the famous 1986 movie “Hoosiers” and I ironically had never seen the movie at its entirety. So, I watched the amazing true story of the high school boys basketball team in Milan, Indiana winning state over Muncie Central.

I remember thinking that I would like to see the community that I was raised in through my childhood do the unthinkable and that was winning a state championship. I mean isn’t that our ultimate goal regardless if we’re being realistic or not? We like to dream about it.

I can remember clear as day before the girls sectional having this dream out of nowhere that somehow the Central Noble Lady Cougars we’re going to beat Whitko in win the sectional. Yes, I dreamed about this before it even happened.

So, the ladies drew Prairie Heights in the first round and dominated them for their first playoff win since 2006. Then they faced Bremen and much like their first encounter with them, they trailed by 8 at the half before ultimately beating Bremen 60-44.

Then came the Whitko game, the whole high school and middle school parking lots were jammed packed. A school record 3200+ was in attendance that night and you couldn’t find a seat there. I unfortunately was unable to call or even attend that game because I had church service that night. However, I wanted to know what was going on so bad that (lord please forgive me) I did look at my phone on multiple occasions for updates.

I saw that they were trailing 23-4 after the 1st Quarter, and my reaction at the time was “Crap! It’s too bad we couldn’t win sectionals but it was a great fight.” Treesh said to me that most teams by then would say “Well, the game’s over.”

However, the Lady Cougars battled back to go to 2 overtimes, forced Aly Reiff (now playing at Xavier to foul out), and Sydney Freeman’s clutch performances in the second OT clinch the program’s first ever sectional title 47-40. Syd led all scorers with 23 points and Meleah had 11 in the clincher.

Back in October 2018, I interviewed Coach Treesh, the coaching staff, and some of the players from that state championship team for a college project. Coach Treesh described that sectional title game as the one that “changed the culture of their program”. Treesh said they went from man-to-man to zone defense.

“Them being a veteran team Whitko was,” Coach Treesh said, “we thought they would hold the ball, make us foul, they would go to the free throw line, and the game would be over. But, we actually forced them to miss some shots, some of our girls got their confidence going, and what really did it for us was our defense. I thought we frustrated them, made them very difficult to score, and we rebounded the ball very well, and that got our confidence going.”

Then came the Winamac Regional, and knowing this was the girls’ first experience of this environment, I knew this proved to be a great challenge. I felt like if we can just get past South Adams, we should go to semi-State. But, I knew the Lady Starfires posed a threat to us and Coach Brett Freeman knowing the girls there and the school from his days as a student there, made it a bit of a difficult task. I remember watching the game on The Witness Media which is in Berne, Indiana of course. I’ll admit I did cheer them on to win and even though it was sloppy as all get out, they held on to win 34-33 and win the Regional later that day 64-40 over Delphi.

Then came the Semi-State game @ Logansport. Central Noble vs Oak Hill. Thanks in part to Eric Custer the president of the CN Booster Club and his help getting sponsors for the broadcast, I was able to arrange with a local live stream group from Union City, Indiana to broadcast that game.

I did the play-by-play while a guy by the name of Tim Christopher did some color commentating and we called the CN-Oak Hil. It was a scrappy defensive game, but I just knew it wasn’t their night as they seemed to have been nervous that night in their 42-33 loss. Coach Treesh and some of the players referred to that loss as motivation for the season they would wind up having in 17-18.