One of the most anticipated Northeast 8 Conference games will take place on Friday as the #2 team in our Outside the Huddle Power Poll, Norwell, travels to Columbia City. The Eagles have lost the last 17 games against Norwell dating back to 2005.
1. PLAYING FROM BEHIND
Yeah, I’m gonna mention THAT game for Columbia City. Up big on Carroll to start the year, they let the Chargers battle back. And Norwell looked to be down and out twice, versus Angola and at Bishop Luers, before battling back to win. That means this game isn’t going to be over in my eyes until the very end. Columbia City is 3-0 versus the SAC since then and have clearly learned from errors there.
2. LAST BIG GAME IN COLUMBIA CITY?
Plenty of games remain on the schedule to be played in the Eagles home gym during this last season in that building. But, none of them really hold the weight that this one does. Top team in the conference, one of the top teams in the area coming into your gym? Anyone who says nostalgia doesn’t pump teams up sometimes is looking at the bigger picture. This is a game that could bring that up and if the crowd gets behind the Eagles big, that will matter.
3. CONFERENCE TITLE IMPLICATIONS
With four total teams sitting at 1-0 in the Northeast 8, this far from decided the conference. But what if this decides the conference? It’s fair to say – sorry everyone else – that Norwell has shown to be the significantly best team in conference. So what if Columbia City is the last team that has a chance to give them a game in the NE8? I wouldn’t count against it. Whoever goes to 2-0 in conference here could very well be in the drivers seat.
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
CARLY MABIE, COLUMBIA CITY
At full health, Mabie is a gritty and tenacious defender that could add some excitement to a matchup with Norwell’s Kaylee Fuelling. Most teams don’t have someone with the speed and defensive prowess to try and match straight up with Norwell’s best guard by Mabie could do that we think. She has a smart gameplay and will be big in the Eagles’ defensive backcourt.
LAUREN BALES, NORWELL
While relying on Fuelling to set a frenetic pace, Norwell will need Bales to set a standard tempo. She can play in a lot of different speeds to try and keep Columbia City off pace and off balance as much as possible. Bales will be the one person in this game with the best ability to dictate tempo.
HAYLEY URBAN, COLUMBIA CITY
When they upset Bishop Luers a couple of weeks ago, it was through the help of a big fourth quarter push from Urban, where she hit 7 of 12 free throws in the closing quarter. Urban can be aggressive to draw fouls and if the Knights aren’t careful down on the interior, Urban’s ability to initiate contact and get her freebies could be a big detriment when it comes to foul trouble and points given up. Urban is another piece for the Eagles that has found herself in valuable minutes.
GRACE BRADTMUELLER, NORWELL
She is able to slow down a lot of tempo inside when she is on her game. If Bradtmueller rebounds well, that gives Norwell a significant advantage. She is also a guard stopper, clogging up the lane at the basket by having the ability to take charges pretty well. If you are the Columbia City guards and you beat your defender, you have to hesitate at the rim because Bradtmueller can make big defensive adjustments.
KEYS TO VICTORY – COLUMBIA CITY
1. PRESSURE THE BALL
Norwell is going to throw the house at your ball handlers so you are better off throwing yours right back at them. In the Knights’ frantic pace that they win games with, they can also be turnover prone. Columbia City will need to bring some of their best defense, trap every chance they get and fly around at the Norwell guards. Columbia City traps the ball very well and they will need to execute that.
2. DIVERSIFY YOUR OFFENSE
To be the most difficult to guard, Columbia City will need to try and get everyone involved and have the best balance they can. There are a lot of good scorers. Ball rotation will be key in beating the Norwell guards and also freeing up the entire core of Eagle scorers so that the green pages of that scorebook look even come the end of the night.
KEYS TO VICTORY – NORWELL
1. ESTABLISH INTERIOR GAME
If Columbia City is to shift the tide in the Northeast 8, they are going to need to win the rebounding battle and also scoring at the rim. So obviously Norwell has to counteract that. Grace Bradtmueller has had some solid performance, maybe even getting overlooked. This could be an important one for her but also added aggression from not-always forwards Maiah Shelton and Breann Barger will be helpful.
2. AVOID THE HOLE
Look at one of those storylines and you’ll know how important this may not be. Norwell can make comebacks and Norwell can surge late. But if you are the Knights, you really don’t want to have to do that and especially on the road. Norwell doesn’t want to have to battle back to be in this game.
Plenty of people in Whitley County think that I am underestimating Columbia City; is that true? It could be, but the last two preseasons in a row, I may have overestimated them so they need a big one to convince me. Norwell, on the other hand, has done plenty of convincing things to this point. Bounce picks Norwell