Crown Point girls basketball coach Chris Seibert feels an extra energy around town.
As the Bulldogs prepare for Saturday’s Class 4A LaPorte Regional semifinal against Kankakee Valley, Seibert said he has been flooded with calls and emails in support of his young Bulldogs. It’s Crown Point’s first regional appearance since 2001, and the undefeated Bulldogs are excited for the peak of their season, which to this point has been characterized by non-competitive wins and little drama.
“There’s a tremendous buzz in the community,” Seibert said. “There’s definitely a sense of pride and a sense of excitement within this community.”
A familiar foe awaits Crown Point (26-0) at noon Saturday. Kankakee Valley (20-4) fell 61-46 at Crown Point on Jan. 15; however, the Kougars advanced to their second straight regional after a sectional-clinching win over Michigan City, which took the Bulldogs down to the wire on Jan. 4.
In the teams’ first meeting, Kankakee Valley committed 28 turnovers and shot just 3 of 16 from 3-point range, while Crown Point freshman point guard Jessica Carrothers poured in 29 points on 12-of-24 shooting. The Kougars need to cut into those advantages for Crown Point if they hope to pull the upset.
“The first time around when we played them, we played pretty well for three quarters,” Kougars coach Doug Nelson said. “The second quarter, they went on a run where we got in foul trouble. We were playing defense with our hands and grabbing a little bit, so we’ve got to play better defense with our feet and stay in front of them rather than grab them.”
On Crown Point’s side, Seibert said the Bulldogs must shoot well from outside and, similar to the Kougars, defend without fouling. Crown Point held Kougars leading scorer Sarah Martin to 11 points on 4 of 11 shooting in the first matchup, and another defensive effort along those lines would go a long way.
Undefeated Penn, ranked No. 2 in the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association poll, lurks on the opposite side of the bracket, along with Plymouth. Crown Point currently sits at No. 5 in the poll, while Kankakee Valley and Plymouth received votes.
That makes this regional perhaps the most compelling of any involving local teams. Seibert said he expects fans to flock to LaPorte on Saturday and that many Penn and Plymouth supporters may stick around to add even more juice to what should be an electric atmosphere.
“As far as the game goes, the crowd should be fantastic,” Seibert said. “The kids know what’s at stake.”
West Side faces tough test against 3A favorite Northwestern
First-year coach Shanee’ Butler has a grand vision for West Side girls basketball: She wants to take the Cougars to a “national level.”
That starts with games like Saturday’s Class 3A Rensselaer Regional semifinal against Northwestern, the defending state champ that also ranks fourth in the IBCA poll.
“We know that Northwestern is the best in our class at 3A right now,” Butler said. “We’re up for the challenge. We know we’re the underdog. … We have faith in ourselves; we just have to show it on the court.”
Northwestern’s junior duo of Madison Layden and Kendall Bostic will draw much of West Side’s attention, as Bostic shoots 68 percent from the field while Layden makes 44 percent from behind the arc. The Tigers’ only in-state loss came against 4A power North Central, and they rolled West Side 61-23 in last year’s regional final.
The Tigers (23-3) don’t have Dash Shaw, however. Shaw has affirmed her status as one of the Region’s top guards as a junior, averaging 24.3 points per game on 52 percent shooting and adding a more consistent outside shot. Plus, her quickness and athleticism make West Side’s aggressive, pressing defense more dangerous.
West Side (20-7) has its formula — a disciplined defensive effort on Layden, and typically strong play from Shaw and freshman guard Trinity Barnes.
“If we can contain (Layden) and keep her numbers low, then I think we’ve got a really good chance of winning this game,” Butler said.
Bishop Noll gets undefeated Central Noble after dominant sectional run
Bishop Noll looked dominant in sectional wins over Lake Station, Andrean and Bowman Academy, running up an average margin of victory of 28 points. Courtney Blakely and company will face a stiffer test at Saturday’s Class 2A Winamac Regional, however.
While sophomores Blakely, Rose Fuentes and Laila Rogers lead the Warriors, Central Noble’s experience has helped it to a 25-0 record. Senior guard Sydney Freeman leads the Cougars with 17.9 points per game and is one of the most efficient high-volume scorers in the state — she shoots 41 percent from 3-point range on nearly six attempts per game.
Noll’s perimeter talent should help it deal with Freeman, but senior center Meleah Leatherman is a force for Central Noble in the paint. The 6-foot-1 Leatherman averages 16.5 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, and opponents can’t put her on the free-throw line either — she shoots 70 percent from the stripe.
Central Noble defeated Bishop Noll 48-36 in last year’s regional final en route to the 2A state title, so the Warriors (21-6) have plenty of motivation and a familiarity with the Cougars.
Marquette Catholic and South Central face off in Caston
South Central coach Wes Bucher knows his Satellites are underdogs entering Saturday’s Class 1A Caston Regional semifinal against Marquette Catholic.
The Blazers are the reigning state champs, and their only in-state loss this season came in a nail-biter against North Central. St. John’s-bound senior forwards Emma and Sophia Nolan routinely make good defense look silly with their ability to make contested shots.
Still, South Central won’t be intimidated.
“This season started on May 28, and we went over to Plymouth and played Plymouth High School, who’s also playing in a regional right now, and we got beat up by Plymouth a little bit,” Bucher said. “But you go to those tournaments in the summer time to play these big schools that will either pummel you, or you’ll be right there if you can match the physicality. The whole reason for that is to be ready for this moment.”
The Satellites’ commitment to their 1-3-1 zone makes them a unique opponent for Marquette Catholic, but Blazers coach Katie Collignon said she’s more focused on the other end of the court.
Everyone knows Marquette Catholic can score. Continued defensive improvement could be what the Blazers need most over the next two weeks.
“I think we’re really focused on bringing an intense defensive effort every game that we play,” Collignon said. “When we play well defensively as a team, … that makes our offense run better.”
Collignon said the Blazers hope their size can help limit versatile South Central junior forward Amber Wolf, who leads the Satellites in scoring and rebounding at 12.8 and 8.0 per game, respectively.
On the other side, Bucher said the Satellites (19-6) need to keep the Blazers under 50 points if they hope to advance. Marquette Catholic (23-2) averages 62.5 points per game, so that’s a tall order. South Central will need to win the defensive glass and limit the wing and corner 3-pointers 1-3-1 zones are susceptible to, but the single-game nature of the postseason makes upsets more attainable.
“We’re here for a reason,” Bucher said. “We’re not here as some charity event for somebody. We’re here because we busted our tails for eight months to get ready for this.”