It was a major week of games in three of the conferences with conference champions named in tournaments for the NECC and ACAC. But the NE8 got clarity too and that’s what we wanted. We are one week away from the Sectional pairing draw for girls basketball and it is hard to believe that it is almost the postseason already.
• I love seeing full scorebooks out of games, so Tuesday’s Bishop Luers scoring was a welcome sight. The Knights saw all 11 girls score in their win over New Haven, led by 11 points from Janaiya Bright. It’s a good, balanced look that also shows Luers has scorers in bunches.
• That said, Carroll went ahead and upped it on Friday in beating Bishop Luers. The Chargers have some monster wins this year and the Luers win ranks right up there. There were nine girls that scored and I will keep pushing the fact that Carroll is playing without one of their top players during this current run, so beating a top 5 team in the area is huge. Malia Williams is doing what seniors should do. She had 18 in the win on Friday and is leading her team when they need her most.
• Before the week’s NE8 clarity, Norwell picked up an impressive win on Wednesday where they spread out their offense to pound by Bishop Dwenger. We talk about their variety a lot, but Breann Barger sometimes gets lost in that. She is a quality post, who can also shoot from range. On Wednesday, she scored 18 points, 10 rebounds and four steals in the Dwenger win, helping out in a wide variety of ways.
• We got our needed clarity in the Northeast 8 on Saturday when Norwell edged rival Bellmont 36-32 despite a game high 15 points from Bellmont’s Meghan Busick. Norwell used their defense to find a way to win despite a poor shooting night (25.6 percent from the field) and a lot of turnovers. It does however give them a chance to split the conference title with Columbia City, who beat Huntington North on Saturday. Each of those teams sit with one loss in conference and a share of the lead. They both still play New Haven while Norwell will get tested by a scrappy East Noble and Columbia City also plays Dekalb. There isn’t a guarantee of a title yet, but Saturday was a big step for those programs.
• Woodlan girls basketball capped off the ACAC Tournament with a title on Saturday night. Their win and the boys’ win gives the same school both titles since 2016 and Jay County. But the story for the girls isn’t as much about that Woodlan wide title swag as it is a monumental comeback. Bounce wasn’t in Berne on Saturday, but kept close tabs on the games. Things, to be polite, didn’t look good for the Warriors. They trailed by 14 after three quarters but outscored Adams Central 31-12 in the fourth quarter. Addison Bayman‘s 24 points and Tournament MVP honors were all icing on the cake but this was a maximum team effort that showcased how dangerous this team is, no matter what a scoreboard says.
• Tuesday allowed me to take in Bluffton girls basketball for the first time this season and I was pleasantly surprised, at least in the second half. The team I saw in the second half of a win over South Adams seemed perfectly blended with confidence and competence. Despite early struggles that came for a variety of reasons this season, the Tigers in their first round ACAC Tournament team looked a lot more like the two time defending Sectional champions should. Emme Boots, who scored 18 on Tuesday, was every bit of the force she should be in her third varsity season and this team looked coachable and consistent.
THIS WEEK’S ACAC NEWS
• We should be way over any talk about Central Noble and who they are today versus who they were in the previous two seasons. This week’s NECC Tournament, where Eastside and Garrett were expected to be Angola’s top challengers, was changed when Central Noble went ahead and beat them both. A four headed beat of Madi Vice, Meghan Kiebel, Lydia Andrews and Bridgette Gray all scored eight or more points at Eastside on Tuesday while the steady hands of Andrews (12 points) and Gray (11 points) led the way against Garrett. This is a program that knows how to win and they are showing they can do that with a variety of players through the years. They also put up one heck of a fight against Angola on Friday, a team that looked uncontrollable in the conference. Central Noble basketball is still very much a factor.
• I am becoming more and more a fan of Sullivan Kessler of Eastside. She and the Blazers weren’t a focal point this week because of an early NECC Tournament exit, but she played very well including 21 points in a Thursday consolation win over Prairie Heights. Kessler is full of educated effort and potential.
• Angola got pushed to the brink on Friday night before beating Central Noble in the NECC semi finals. Hanna Knoll was, again, great. But how about Ally Lorntz being the one to pull it out. She went to the line with three seconds left in a tie game to shoot two free throws, which she knocked down to win the game 47-45. Lorntz finished the game with 10 points and seven assists. The Hornets again rode the Lorntz wave in Saturday’s title game. The fact is, she was magnificent, shooting the ball with major confidence and getting after it on defense, diving for loose balls and just generally causing chaos. It was a great week for Ally Lorntz.
Another Hornet who had an underrated but big week was sophomore Danielle Dunham. She was there to chip in every game in the Hornets’ NECC title run, including 10 points in the title game where she just couldn’t miss. Her shots against Fairfield broke up scoreless runs and helped inject life into Angola.
• Blackhawk Christian‘s win over Bethany Christian on Thursday gave them their 12th win of the season. Focus isn’t often on the Braves girls, but that 12th win matches their second best win total in the last 20 years. With four games left on their regular season schedule and a possible run towards a Sectional title, the Braves could end up with their best record in that same 20 year span. Hailee Kline scored 17 points in the win over Bethany Christian and a consistent pace setter for Blackhawk Christian.
As always, make sure you vote in this week’s Performance of the Week FAN VOTE. Remember, this doesn’t reflect a body of work as much as the best single game performance. Voting is open through Tuesday: FAN VOTE: Girls hoops Performance of the Week for Jan. 13-18
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