Indiana now holds the tie breaker on the girl’s side of the Nancy Rehm Border Wars, beating Ohio 83-56 on Sunday for the state’s 14th win in the 27 year series. It was the last high school game for most of the girls on the court, but it was Central Noble’s Sydney Freeman who stole the show.
Freeman scored a game high 20 points and added nine rebounds and four assists in the win, putting her fingerprint on ever quarter of the ball game.
“It was really fun. A bunch of them, I played AAU with them so it was fun to play with them one last time,” Freeman said. “The other team had to get used to each other but we’ve played together for years.”
“Any time you can coach all these good players, it is a treat for us,” said Indiana coach Karl Grau of Bluffton High School. “These girls were great to work with. They bought into being a team and defending. It was a lot of fun.”
Indiana’s pace was the difference in the first quarter, jumping out to a 14-7 lead after one as they consistently got to the basket while Ohio settled for jump shots and three pointers that were not falling.
The comfort together of Freeman, Bellmont’s Grace Hunter and Homestead’s Sylare Starks was critical in the ball movement early for Indiana.
With 2:47 left in the first, it was future Saint Francis Cougar Aubrey Dunnuck that left a mark on the game with her trademark hustle. After driving to the basket and dishing off a crisp pass to Homestead’s Liv Seifert for a score, Dunnuck hustled back up court to take a charge on the defensive end.
“You want to get the ball out and go. The big thing was defend. If we could defend, we could get rebounds and run the floor,” Grau said.
In the second quarter, Ohio ramped up their pace to work to match Indiana’s. After contesting a Grace Hunter three pointer on the opening trip, they were able to score the next five points on transition pull up from Abby Freeman and Rylee Sebert before tying the game on a three pointer from Morgan Leppelmeier at the 8:22 mark to five them a 15-14 lead and cap off an 8-0 run.
Indiana lost Hunter, who was Outside the Huddle’s Player of the Year, early in the second quarter after she got caught in the eye with a scratch that drew a steady trickle of blood down her face. Her absence however was brief and in her return, the backcourt of herself, Freeman and Dunnuck was immediately effective in stifling Ohio’s energy, capped by a 5-0 run from Freeman that gave Indiana a 27-22 lead with 3:57 left in the half and forcing an Ohio timeout.
Indiana led 35-26 at the break.
Hunter, after going scoreless in the first half, put up five third quarter points as Indiana pulled away from an again cold shooting Ohio group. Sophie Bussard of Tippecanoe Valley put Indiana up by 20 (48-28) with 5:30 to play in the third quarter.
“There are things that they can do that you just don’t teach. They are instinctive and they play hard,” Grau said. “You could tell them something and it was done, they just do it.”
Ohio made a run late in the third, pulling back within 13 points with 1:24 to go on a Lily Krieger basket as they once again changed their pace to play more in transition with Indiana. Ohio trailed 52-39 after three after closing in as close as 11 points.
Indiana started the fourth quick. Off a Jala Johnson miss, Freeman rebounded the ball and made a full court pass to the streaking Hunter for one of the best assists of the game. When Homestead’s Haley Swing rebounded a Freeman miss on the next trip up the court, Indiana had again extended their lead to 17 points.
Freeman’s three pointer with three minutes remaining from about 28 feet deep pushed the Indiana lead to a then game high 25 points. It was her fourth three pointer on the night. After the game, Freeman was named the contest’s Most Valuable Player.
“I am very blessed to be able to receive it. I worked hard for it so I am very thankful,” Freeman said.
Swing added 11 points and six rebounds for Indiana and Hunter and Bussard each scored 10 points in the win. Ohio was led by 11 points from Erin Kaufman and 10 points and six rebounds from Maverick Delp.