Given the freezing cold weather that's in the forecast, it was uncertain at press time when all the girls basketball sectional games will take place.
However, Times sports writers James Boyd and Robbie Weinstein have a breakdown of all the big games so you'll be ready whenever they tip.
Class 4A - Lowell
Undefeated Crown Point, ranked fifth in the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association poll, starts its postseason journey against the host Red Devils on Wednesday. The Times No. 1 Bulldogs defeated all six potential sectional opponents in the regular season en route to a 23-0 record and Duneland Athletic Conference title, with all of those wins coming by 23 points or more.
Freshman point guard Jessica Carrothers leads the Bulldogs with 22.0 points per game on 51 percent shooting, but Crown Point’s defense has been its strongest attribute. Head coach Chris Seibert’s squad has allowed only 33.7 points per game despite leaning heavily on underclassmen like Carrothers, Alyna Santiago and Lilly Stoddard.
“There’s been so many firsts this year for a lot of our younger kids,” Seibert said. “Postseason-wise, we’ve won a game here or there, but for the most part, a lot of these kids, it’s their first experience.”
Times No. 10 E.C. Central could challenge Crown Point in Friday’s semifinal, as the Cardinals have won their last six games. Three of those wins came over Times Top 10 teams Bishop Noll, West Side and LaPorte.
Senior forwards Taiyanna and Tiara Jackson are playing at their best after missing portions of the season, and they give E.C. Central two of the Region’s best players. Crown Point has plenty of size to throw at them with Abby and Lilly Stoddard — 6-foot-1 and 6-foot-3, respectively.
“With having Taiyanna and Tiara, that’s the ultimate equalizer,” Seibert said. “When those two are out there, both defensively and offensively, they create a lot of matchup problems for all teams. We knew that once they all came back that E.C. would get going, and that’s definitely what’s happened at the end of the season here.”
Munster is the only team on its side of the bracket with a winning record and will need to beat Morton and Highland to advance to the title game. Lake Central will try to knock off Jackson and the surging Cardinals on Wednesday.
Class 4A - Merrillville
This sectional is among the deepest and most talented involving Region teams. Times No. 3 Kankakee Valley and Times No. 4 Michigan City could meet in the final, but both must first defeat tricky opponents.
Michigan City storms into sectionals having won 15 of 16 games and six straight, but Chesterton could provide a challenge in the first round. The Wolves won 50-47 at Chesterton on Nov. 30, and the Trojans have come close against E.C. Central and Andrean.
Coach Mike Megyese’s squad has plenty of motivation. The Wolves haven’t won a sectional game since 2016 and haven’t advanced to regionals since 2012.
“Obviously, we aren’t very happy with our situation (recently),” Megyese said. “That’s not what we’re used to.”
Michigan City’s offense needed a few weeks to get going as new additions learned to play with each other, but the Wolves finished the season atop the DAC in offense at 65.6 points per game. Xavier commit Hannah Noveroske has been a consistent force all season, but newcomers like sophomore forward Trinity Thompson have settled into their roles.
“A lot of people don’t realize that we only had two girls with multiple years of experience, that being Janicia Anderson and Hannah Noveroske,” Megyese said. “Once we got connected with each other, I think things have started to flow pretty well for us.”
Kankakee Valley opens against Valparaiso on a to-be-determined date, and the Vikings have beaten LaPorte and E.C. Central this season despite posting a 9-13 record. The Kougars forced 36 turnovers in the teams’ meeting on Nov. 6 (a 59-40 KV win) but fell to Portage in their last regular-season game for their first loss against a sub-.500 opponent.
Portage and Merrillville will face off in the first round, with the winner facing Michigan City or Chesterton. The Pirates have won three straight — including a 42-36 win at Portage on Jan. 18 — and sophomore guard Torri Miller has given them an impact player in the backcourt with her scoring, passing and quick hands on defense.
The Indians have won with balance, as seven players average over 5.0 points per game, with none over 8.9.
Class 4A - Mishawaka
Times No. 8 LaPorte is the only Region team in this sectional, and it’s unclear when the Slicers will learn who their first opponent is. With a bye to the semifinals, LaPorte will face either Mishawaka or South Bend Riley — that game was postponed due to weather.
The Slicers had to survive without leading scorer Riley Ott earlier in the season when the senior guard went down with a sprained ankle, but coach Rob Walker said Ott is good to go. Along with sophomore wing Ryin Ott, Riley’s sister, LaPorte has two talented perimeter scorers with positional size.
“We have been playing really good basketball with Riley Ott back,” Walker said. “We’re still figuring out our roles, and fine-tuning some things. I like the direction where we’re headed.”
If Mishawaka advances, its slow tempo could make it an uncomfortable opponent despite its 7-16 record. The Cavemen have been competitive in the vast majority of their games, including a 43-30 loss at LaPorte on Dec. 8.
If LaPorte advances to the final, it would likely face either South Bend St. Joseph or undefeated Penn. Walker said he thinks St. Joseph junior guard Keegan Sullivan may be the best player in the Northern Indiana Conference, and Penn’s 21-0 record speaks for itself.
The Slicers played Penn evenly for three-plus quarters in the teams’ opener on Nov. 1 before the Lady Kingsmen took over in the fourth. The game took place so long ago, however, that it may not be predictive of how the teams match up now.
“Something we talked about in the locker room that night is it would be great to get another opportunity against them,” Walker said. “You can’t count out South Bend St. Joe from that other half of the bracket, either.”
Class 3A – Griffith
West Side coach Shanee Butler just wrapped up her first regular season with the Cougars. She believes her team showed flashes of how dominant it could be but it also went through some growing pains. West Side finished 17-7 and won a share of the Great Lakes Conference title, and now the No. 6 Cougars have their eyes set on bigger goals.
“The biggest thing for us is to just change our mindset,” Butler said. “We don’t want to just make it out of sectionals. We don’t want to just go through the motions in regionals. We actually want to compete and compete at a high level.”
Junior Dash Shaw leads the way for West Side, which will face Lighthouse on Tuesday night. Shaw has been one of the Cougars’ most steady players. She is averaging a team-high 24.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 2.6 points per game, but Butler also recognized freshman Trinity Barnes as a catalyst for her squad.
The freshman is averaging 14.6 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game. She has also notched three 20-point games.
“She’s done a great job as a freshman,” Butler said. “She does a great job competing. You can see the things she needs to work on as a freshman, but I wasn’t surprised to see her compete.”
Griffith, Hammond, Clark and Gavit are the remaining teams competing in the sectional, but the Gladiators are the only other team above .500. Gavit senior Darlisha Reed has been on a tear for her team all year. She’s averaging 25.1 points, 15.4 rebounds and 2.9 steals per game.
The Gladiators’ leading scorer has also recorded 14 double-doubles, including 35 points and 17 rebounds in a 21-point loss to West Side on Nov. 14. And if Gavit and West Side each win their sides of the bracket, they could matchup again in the sectional championship Saturday.
“We won’t change our game plan,” Butler said. “We won’t change that at all. Our approach is to be in the best shape that we can, so that way our defense can outlast our opponents. If we can get things going defensively and stop teams, the offense will come.”
Class 2A – Bowman Academy
Bishop Noll started its season off on a 14-game winning streak but ended the year losing six of its last 10 games. Despite the rocky end to the regular season, the No. 5 Warriors still won the Greater South Shore Conference title and enter the sectional as the likely favorite.
Courtney Blakely is one of three Warriors averaging double figures in scoring. The sophomore is averaging a team-high 20.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3.3 steals per game and will square off against another top-tier guard when Bishop Noll plays Lake Station on Saturday.
The Eagles are led by sophomore Taylor Austin, who became the second girls basketball player in program history to score 1,000 points. She is averaging 25.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 4.4 steals per game and helped Lake Station end the regular season 15-6. The winner of this matchup could potentially face Andrean, who plays Whiting in the opening round on Saturday night.
“I think we’re playing really well right now,” 59ers coach Tony Scheub said. “We’re relatively healthy, so I’m looking forward to hopefully a good tournament run.”
Andrean finished second in the Northwest Crossroads Conference and has won three of its last four games. Senior Karli Miller and sophomore Julia Schutz are averaging 11.8 and 9.6 points per game, respectively, and Scheub praised both of them for their consistency.
He feels that Miller, Schutz and the rest of his players have faced a number of strong opponents this season and have gained valuable experience. If the 59ers defeat the Oilers in the first round, he is confident his team will be prepared to take on whoever it meets up with.
“We play a difficult schedule,” Scheub said. “We play all types of teams. We play teams with bigs, we play teams that run, we play patient teams so we’re kind of always tournament tested coming in. So we’re not gonna see anything we haven’t seen all season long.”
Andrean, Whiting, Bishop Noll and Lake Station — the sectional’s only teams with winning records — are all on the same side of the bracket. Bowman Academy, River Forest and Roosevelt make up the other side and have a combined record of 10-48.
Class 2A - North Judson
Boone Grove and Times No. 9 Hebron — the only Region teams in this sectional — were the only two teams not to receive byes. As a result, they’ll face each other on Tuesday.
It’ll be the third matchup between the teams this season, with Hebron winning 49-35 on Nov. 7 and 52-46 in the Porter County Conference Tournament semifinals on Jan. 18.
Will the Lady Hawks have the mental edge thanks to their two victories, or will the prospect of a three-game sweep give Boone Grove a motivational advantage? Hebron hasn’t faced a team three or more times in a season since falling to Boone Grove four times in 2009-10.
“It is a concern,” Hebron coach Doug Godbolt said. “You hear that it’s hard to beat a team three times in a season.”
The Wolves (14-8) and Lady Hawks (15-7) hold nearly identical records, yet Winamac (17-6) and North Judson (19-3), have been better in this sectional. Throw in North Newton (11-9), and every team in the field has a winning record. Only the Class 3A Norwell sectional can say the same.
Combine the level of competition and the anxious thrill of win-or-go-home play, and this sectional could be among the state’s best.
“I have not been in a sectional that has been such a positive group of teams,” Godbolt said. “This doesn’t happen too often. … Even our practices lately have been more fired up. I never get any bad vibes.”
Class 1A – Marquette Catholic
Marquette Catholic begins its quest for back-to-back state championships Tuesday night against 21st Century. The No. 2 Blazers only had two losses during the regular season and won a program-record 16 consecutive games.
Senior twins Emma and Sophia Nolan made history last season by guiding Marquette Catholic to its first state title. And Blazers coach Katie Collignon said the entire senior class is geared up to try and win it again.
“They want their last year to be their best one yet, so I think they’re excited to get the tournament started. “ Collignon said. “We’re extra excited I think because we host sectionals, and that obviously adds a little more in terms of the girls playing on their home floor for hopefully the next few days.”
Emma Nolan averaging a team-high 22.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.7 steals and 2.0 blocks per game, while Sophia Nolan continues to hold her own with averages of 17.4 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.8 blocks. The sisters have combined for 23 20-point games, 13 double-doubles and each notched single-game career highs of 38 points this season.
On the opposite side of the bracket, Morgan Township and Washington Township will face each other in the first round. The Cherokees finished the regular season at 13-8, while the Senators ended 5-14.
Junior Sahara Bee has been a force in the paint for Morgan Township and will be a matchup problem for Washington Township, whose tallest players are 5-foot-8. Bee stands 5-11 and averages 13.6 points and 10.5 rebounds. She has recorded seven double-doubles.
“This is the second year in the row where she’s been our leading scorer and rebounder,” Morgan Township coach Scott Adams said. “And obviously this year she didn’t sneak up on anyone, but I think she’s ready. I think she knows that for us to advance far in the tournament, not only her, but our other post players have to play very well.”
Westville and Kouts are the other two teams in the sectional. They both received first-round byes, but Marquette Catholic and Morgan Township could still meet in the sectional championship on Saturday if they win their opening round games and the Blazers defeat the Blackhawks and the Cherokees down the Mustangs in the second round.
Class 1A – Oregon Davis
South Central took home the Porter County Conference Tournament championship in dramatic fashion. Freshman Delanie Gale made two last-second free throws to lift the No. 7 Satellites past Hebron, and coach Wes Bucher believes the narrow victory speaks to the larger identity of his team.
“What I’ve seen all year is that there’s no real fear,” Bucher said. “We are pretty steady, and I think that’s something that’s going to follow us in sectionals here. I got two freshmen starting, but even with that I don’t think that they really show any nervousness in any situation.”
Bucher added that his team has matured over the course of the season and has been playing some of its best basketball. He thinks the hostile environment at the PCC Tournament and South Central’s close loss to LaCrosse to end the regular season can be used as stepping stones for a strong sectional showing.
The Satellites lost 48-46 to the Tigers on Jan. 25 but could potentially face them again in the sectional championship.
South Central will play Triton in the first round on Tuesday night, and LaCrosse will open against Culver on Wednesday. The Satellites and Tigers are the only two region teams appearing in the sectional, while Oregon-Davis, Argos and Career Academy are the other remaining teams.
If South Central can start the tournament on a high note by beating Triton, Bucher is certain his team will be prepared for whoever they may face next – starting with its leader.
Junior Amber Wolf has notched two 20-point games this year for the Satellites. She is also averaging a team-high 12.1 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.9 steals and 1.3 blocks per game.
“Her and I just talked about this being a new season,” Bucher said. “After us winning the PCC, there’s a fire there that she’s got burning to win this thing. I’m excited to see what she does here during sectional time because like I said, she’s very diverse.”