If there is a better Saturday than Regional Saturday, I sure don’t know what it is. The build up and anticipation for two big games is great. The fact that the winner is just one game away from a state final is greater.
For the first stop on our two days of previewing area teams in the regional round, we head to Class 1A where Fremont will be one of four NECC teams vying for a Regional title this Saturday.
MARQUETTE CATHOLIC (23-2)
When your two losses are a season opening loss to a very good Class 4A team and to one of the best teams in Illinois, chances are you are a good team yourself. And this is Class 1A we are talking about. Marquette Catholic is one of the very best teams in the entire state, regardless of class. They are 5-0 against Class 1A teams and that speaks volumes because they played three of those games last week. They don’t play against Class 1A, they sharpen themselves over bigger and better teams and played three games against Illinois teams.
The biggest catalyst are twin sister seniors Emma and Sophia Nolan, both Indiana All-Star candidates. They are nearly identical in every way and that includes highly impressive stat lines. Emma has the better overall numbers with 21.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.6 steals and 1.9 blocks and if the Blazers can win a state title, I think it would be fair to consider her a Miss Basketball candidate, but Bounce doesn’t make those decisions.
Sophia, who became the school’s top scorer all-time earlier this season, averages 17.3 points and 7.4 rebounds and they aren’t exactly bankrupt from there with fellow seniors Morgan Crook and Claire Salyer. Crook has scored more than 750 career points herself and has over 350 career assists. This team is also the defending Class 1A state champion, in case you forgot. They ran through this region against two teams who aren’t in it this year on the way to beating Vincennes Rivet for the state title. Marquette Catholic is good, very good. It will take a monumental performance to beat them at all, let along in this Regional. They will open with South Central at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
When it comes to strengthening yourself, Fremont has been able to do that in arguably the best NECC that there has been. The Eagles are one of four Sectional champion teams from the conference and because of the conference’s streak, Fremont played teams above Class 1A for all but two games this regular season. Is Fremont a real contender? Well, you’ve seen what I say about Marquette Catholic. But could Fremont get to a regional title game? Absolutely.
Bella Dangerfield (11.5 points, 2.2 steals per game) is the only senior on this roster and has been the leader in more than just de facto ways since day one. She gets to the basket well and has shown an ability to shoot the ball at a high level. Behind her, a bevvy of underclassmen make Fremont likely more a team of the future but they have played well this year to get going. Freshman Jada Rhonehouse and junior Samantha Kuhn are both big helps offensively and junior Grace Schmucker (2.5 steals per game) is a big help on the defensive end. They will play the noon game against Pioneer.
The Panthers are winning by an average of 7.5 points per game and have done it by playing a pretty balanced roster of players. Eight players have played in 20 or more games and four players average eight points or more per game which means you can’t quite key in on one player. But because of that, there certainly isn’t one player that stands above the rest offensively. Tia Freshour and MiKenna Landis are the lone seniors that contribute significantly. Pioneer may be a year away from their peak.
SOUTH CENTRAL (19-6)
The Satellites have only lost once to a Class 1A team but were not really challenged in their Sectional. Their biggest benefit is that they go deep on their bench, playing nine players regularly, led by 12.8 points and 8 rebounds by junior Amber Wolf. This isn’t a bad team per say, but I said what I said about Marquette Catholic.
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