MUNSTER — As Crown Point freshman guard Jessica Carrothers asserts herself as one of the Region's top basketball players, there's a new sheriff in town.
It isn't Carrothers, though. Rather, it's Bulldogs senior guard Ellie VanDeel. VanDeel is "The Sheriff" — or "The Deputy", depending on who you ask — and Carrothers says she's VanDeel's humble cadet.
VanDeel isn't a fan of Westerns and has no experience in law enforcement. She's a team captain, however, and one day walked into practice declaring that she runs the Bulldogs.
Carrothers thinks it's hilarious. For a deep team like Crown Point that routinely plays 10 or 11 players, the chemistry that springs from such inside jokes holds on-court significance.
“We have such a great team that shares the ball, and we're all so fundamentally sound that people can take certain people away, but everyone else is still gonna get the job done,” VanDeel said. “So you can trust in your team.”
Crown Point knows it will need contributions from across its roster to make a deep postseason run. Carrothers sits at the top of the scouting report: The freshman averages 22.9 points per game, 11 more than any other Bulldog entering Thursday.
In the Bulldogs' 60-37 win at Munster, however, VanDeel showed with her 11 points that Crown Point has dangerous players all over the floor.
“She really got us to that lead in the second, then we were able to extend it in the third,” Crown Point coach Chris Seibert said. “(I'm) just happy that we were able to play a lot of kids and get a lot of kids some important minutes that they're gonna need coming down the stretch here.”
While Carrothers battled foul trouble for much of the first half and mostly deferred to teammates, VanDeel went right to the hoop. Playing significant time at power forward, the left-handed VanDeel took the Mustangs by surprise with lefty finishes.
No matter what position Crown Point's guards found VanDeel in — whether turned away from the basket, a ways out from the rim or with defenders in her face — she found whatever open lane Munster gave her. When the Mustangs swiped at the ball, VanDeel kept hold of it and made them pay with 3 of 3 free-throw shooting.
VanDeel's ability with the ball could be crucial to Crown Point's playoff chances if opponents opt to trap or double-team Carrothers.
“We feel like we have five or six kids that if they're gonna trap or try and take Jess away, that we have other kids who can step up and either make plays or make shots,” Seibert said. “To have someone like Ellie who is really consistent and really reliable and we know what we're gonna get from her on a night-in, night-out basis, it's calming as a coach to have someone like that.”
Carrothers had another big game with 17 points, knocking down two 3-pointers and setting up teammates with one-handed flip passes in pick-and-roll sets. Crown Point (19-0) got out in front early with a 9-0 run after Munster's Maddy Lakomek opened the scoring, and the Bulldogs took a 34-13 lead into halftime.
Munster coach Jim Davidson said the Mustangs did a good job breaking Crown Point's full-court press, and Emily Zabrecky had some success with 10 points. The Mustangs (12-7) made sure Crown Point didn't explode with one big run, but the hosts couldn't muster enough offense to put pressure on the Bulldogs.
“I was real happy with the way our girls battled,” Davidson said. “... So I'm hoping that we do understand that we're not that far from where we need to be. That's one of the best teams in the state, so the fact that we were at least able to battle and not just completely get drilled is a big thing.”