Outside the Huddle and Bounce are counting down who it feels are the top 50 individual girls basketball players in northeast Indiana heading into the 2020-21 season.
Today, we unveil five of the best in the area at positions No. 45-41.
No. 45 – Bekah Marshall, Columbia City
What will be Bekah Marshall’s role in 2020-21? As a freshman, she really stood out as a rebounder and strong interior defender that had a bright future in front of her. She didn’t pop out as much in her sophomore year as expected, but still supplied a steady role player output behind some big stars for the Eagles’ conference championship frontrunner. With several major pieces lost to graduation, Marshall will be expected to fill a bigger role but everything she has shown, even as a freshman, makes it seem like she is capable of taking the lead now as a junior.
There will still be a steady stream of versatile posts in the Northeast 8 so Marshall will run with the front of that pack from Day 1. He scores well inside because she uses her long frame to post up other girls who may be just as tall, but find it hard to handle her wingspan. At the rim, she is a consistent finisher (41% FG) and perhaps even more consistent at getting to the free throw line to finish (74% FT). Expert her numbers and confidence to go up pretty quickly in keeping Columbia City in conference contender status.
COACH’S QUOTE ON BEKAH MARSHALL
“Versatile player with great length, great hands and can score both inside and outside; understands the game very well.” – Columbia City coach Amy Shearer
No. 44 – Saniya Jackson, Carroll
There really shouldn’t be a surprise at Jackson’s immediate development during her freshman season considering her basketball pedigree. But she caught a lot of eyes, more so than expected, on her way to IBCA Underclass All-State Honorable Mention status. Jackson averaged 5.8 points and 3.3 rebounds, immediately fitting into Carroll’s methodically planned pace each game.
Defensively, Jackson probably doesn’t get as much recognition as she deserves. She is a very educated defender in almost all aspects of the game. Again, that probably harkens back to her pedigree with an IQ that has long been taught and a tenacity to match. Nothing I can say won’t be repeated by coach Mark Redding below, but it is all true…every glowing comment. She gets into passing lanes well and makes it very difficult for defenses – especially those who have picked up their dribble – to have viable options in how to move the ball against her defense.
COACH’S QUOTE ON SANIYA JACKSON
“Saniya Jackson has a passion for the game. She really enjoys the game of basketball as well as her teammates. Very unselfish player and very talented as well as athletic. Saniya is an outstanding scorer who can shoot the 3 point shot as well as drive to the basket. Saniya sees the floor very well to get her teammates the ball when open. She handles the ball very well so when she rebounds she leads the team into a fast breaks opportunity. On defense, Saniya is very athletic and long which she led us in deflections. She anticipates very well and reads offensive players. She is also a great on ball defensive player. Saniya has a great understanding of the game as well as a basketball IQ.” – Carroll coach Mark Redding
No. 43 – Amber Austin, Homestead
It will be quite a while, if at all, before we see Austin play this season due to a torn ACL suffered over this summer. So why does she still make this countdown? As was the case with a couple of football players, we find it important to represent her growth and strengths that she has provided for the Spartans and still may late this season depending on how her rehab continues to progress as we move into 2021.
Austin bided her time behind some Spartan posts her first two seasons, getting sporadic appearances on the court. Last year, she showed why coach Rod Parker had her getting varsity experience of some sort from day one. Austin shot 47.1 percent from the field, scoring 131 points and pulling down 169 rebounds per game. Her double digit rebounding in tough games with the likes of Carroll and Lawrence North show her true double double threat. If Homestead gets Austin back for a postseason run, she is really going to bolster their lineup.
COACH’S QUOTE ON AMBER AUSTIN
“Amber tore her ACL in July and will miss the majority of the season. This is a big loss for our program as we will miss her athletic abilities and leadership on the court.” – Homestead coach Rod Parker
No. 42 – Peyton Pries, South Adams
One of the freshmen that shined on the varsity level immediately in 2019-20, Pries set herself up as one of the best players, regardless of class in the ACAC immediately. She immediately led the Starfires in scoring at 13 points per game and never shied away from the enhanced tempo and physicality of the varsity game. Because of that, she has been a catalyst in South Adams not slipping too far down the conference ladder and actually has them right there as a contender now as a sophomore.
Pries can play well on or off ball, which really lets her accentuate her teammates with what South Adams may need on any given night or quarter. Playing alongside Kristen Wynn, she can shoot or get to the basket. With Wynn out of the lineup, she has no problem pushing the pace as the lead guard and did average 2.1 assists and 2.5 steals per game last season.
COACH’S QUOTE ON PEYTON PRIES
“Peyton is a competitor. She will do whatever it takes to win. She does such a nice job getting to the basket and drawing contact. She’s really worked hard on her shot to get more consistency. Her and Kristen [Wynn] are our two returners that lead us in PPG and 3’s made. She’s also our best defender. She wants to take the best player every night. Peyton really sets the tone for us on both ends of the floor.” – South Adams coach Brett Freeman
No. 41 – Janaiya Bright, Bishop Luers
Every year she has taken the court for the Knights, Bright has upped her game and with it, the expectations in house of how she can continue to grow. In 2019-20, as a junior, she really broke out of her role player status to become a major player on the perimeter for a team that needed other players to step up big when Lydia Reimbold drew and and all junk defenses. You could tell immediately early in the season as the Knights had tough games every night, that Bright had been preparing for that moment in her previous two seasons.
Now a fourth year varsity player and team captain, the onus is on Bright to continue to drive the force of Luers’ athleticism. The Knights bring back a relatively OK group behind the perimeter, but for any of their offense to work, it will take Bright’s hard charing spirit to really shine. She shot 49 percent from two point range last season and was third best on her team at drawing contact and getting to the foul line. She will need to vastly improve her free throw numbers, but getting there is a big part of the battle for Bright and she can do that with the best of them by simple ignoring any size disparity when attacking the rim.
COACH’S QUOTE ON JANAIYA BRIGHT
“Quick Hands, Ball hawk, High energy player. [She] Gets to the basket for buckets.” – Bishop Luers coach Mark Pixley
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