• Carroll reigns supreme. The Chargers, at times, were dominant on Tuesday in a battle of who we have believed to be the top two teams in the area on the girls side against Norwell. The Carroll defense was critical as they almost made Norwell’s turnover total (25) match their field goal percentage (34.5). That is a good balance for any defense.
Their win over Bishop Dwenger on Friday sets them up for a showdown with South Side on January 22 that could likely determine the SAC champion. That will be the first Archer game back from quarantine but Carroll can’t look too ahead to that with trips to Luers and Carmel ahead. The Chargers though have now won 10 straight games and look primed to have a chance to win their first ever SAC title.
Friday’s conference win over Dwenger is no different than the rest of the last 10 in a row: you never know where the scoring is going to come from. This time, it was Kayla Gibbs‘ 18 points leading the way, followed by 13 each from Emily Parrett and Saniya Jackson. The Luers game may not tell us a lot, but the Carmel game this week could really giver an indication what the Chargers’ postseason hopes look like.
• Concordia Lutheran had a solid bounce back week, in part on the hand of Grace Hedtke, who has become one of the most consistent performers in the SAC. Hedtke led Concordia Lutheran on Tuesday as they beat ACAC leader Jay County in a game that wasn’t as clear cut as most SAC vs. ACAC games usually are. The Patriots held strong early, challenging the Cadets at every turn but Hedtke (18 points) and Chanteese Craig (17 points) pushed Concordia to a win.
Friday night, playing solo without a boys game, Concordia beat Bishop Luers in conference play. Again it was Hedtke leading the way with 18 points. She hit 7 of 8 from he foul line and a trio of triples to push Concordia forward in a really close battle. Hedtke was also the screen setter on the Annaka Nelson game winner.
As the Cadets’ Sectional opponent pool strengthens themselves down the stretch of the season, especially those in the NECC, wins like both of these are great challenges for Concordia. Hedtke has been so solid all year long and this is a great week for her to hang her hat on.
• What do you say about Wayne now that I haven’t already hinted at this season? This is a team on the rise and after beating Whitko and North Side, the Generals have won four straight games for the first time since 2015 as they now sit at 5-6 and have matched the win total from the last two seasons combined.
Aniah Hill just continues to be a big problem for opponents, posting 24 points on Wednesday against Whitko, followed by 10 points and seven blocks from Shabrea O’Quinn. On Friday, in a conference win at North Side, the Generals were led by Hill’s 22 points and five steals while Sydney Gorman scored 10 points. The win over North Side gives them a SAC win for the second straight season after spending three years winless in the conference.
Baby steps have turned into major steps for coach Lacia Gorman‘s team. While the Generals will spend this season fighting at this sub-.500 mark, this is a very young team. Every indication is that Wayne is going to be a consistent player in the area sooner than later and that is a major step for a program that, within the last three years, spent back to back seasons as the one-win mark.
In Wayne’s win steak, they are outscoring opponents 63-39 on average while registering 19 steals per game and shooting 49 percent from the field.
• Things aren’t locked up yet in the NE8 for Norwell and we learned last season that they may never be in this conference until games are done. But things took a good turn for the Knights this week. As they edged by the stifling Huntington North defense on Saturday, Norwell improved to 4-0 in conference. It allows the Knights to cleanly bounce back with two straight conference wins to end the week after a tough loss early in the week too Carroll.
Meanwhile, Columbia City got a year later revenge on Bellmont on Friday night. Last season, Bellmont’s win over Columbia City stripped away the Eagles’ hopes of a solo conference title although Columbia City did get to share the crown with Norwell. This year, Hayley Urban struck big as the Eagles ran away with a 57-33 win and handed Bellmont their first conference loss of the season. Urban’s 21 point, five rebound and five assist effort keeps Columbia City in the title hunt (3-1) but really opens it up for Norwell.
Huntington North also suffered their first conference loss of the season on Saturday, losing to Norwell by a hair. The Vikings defense had them on an eight game winning streak and they put plenty of scare into the Knights.
As long as Norwell wins out, they will have a conference title but Bellmont, East Noble and New Haven would all like to throw a wrench in that with the Squaws, Columbia City and Huntington North all liking the idea of trying to share a conference crown.
• Chaos is in the NECC and Angola is at the forefront. The Hornets went 4-0 this week, all in conference and handed Lakeland and West Noble their first losses in the NECC this entire year. Angola has essentially given Garrett the keys to the conference if the Railroaders can win out. But this coming week, and this past week, all of that can get put aside. For this coming week, the wrench that Angola has thrown at the conference means that almost any team could take home the conference tournament title.
This week, it started with a record breaking Monday night for Hanna Knoll. Knoll finished the win over Lakeland as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,228 points for her career as of the end of that game. Knoll broke Rachel Rinehart‘s eight year old scoring mark, which continued to grow all week and will continue to grow for the rest of her senior season. Knoll broke the record with her 10th point of a 17 point night. The night was about Knoll but also about Lakeland’s fall from the top of the conference as they would go on to lose to West Noble as well later in the week.
Angola didn’t lose to West Noble though. On Wednesday, they beat the Chargers 54-51 to hand them their first NECC loss as well. Again, it was a Knoll kind of night as she beat the buzzer with a triple to steal the game away, part of her 23 point night against the Chargers. Knoll hit two free throws in the closing minute to tie the game and then stole the ball with just over 30 seconds left in the game to set up the winner.
Angola survived a peak effort from Prairie Heights and Alayna Boots on Friday to get that third win in a four game week. Knoll led the way with 23 points while Boots had 20 for the Panthers. Angola capped their week with a dominant win over Fremont on Saturday, giving them their fourth win in six days.
• The week avoided total craziness as Garrett pushed past two very good challenges from Fairfield and Central Noble.
On Tuesday, the Falcons dictated a lot of temp, holding Garrett to just 37 points. But what they didn’t have an answer for was Morgan Ostrowski. She scored 16 points and was consistent as a true post that just was able to overpower Fairfield in the two point win.
On Friday, they faced an aggressive Central Noble team fresh off a big performance of their own earlier in the week. Bridgette Gray had tied a career high with 26 points in a win over Wawasee and the Cougars were ready to take a bite out of Garrett. There were plenty of times in this game where Central Noble was completely in control with a balanced effort all over the floor. For the majority of this game, it looked like the conference could again be wide open, the Cougars leading 29-24 at halftime and trailing by just one after three.
The fourth quarter though saw the Railroaders draw in a lot of contact and make trip after trip to the free throw line, where they converted 10 of 11 attempts. Garrett’s stops on the other end helped them beat Central Noble to remain unbeaten in the NECC. Again, it was Ostrowski doing big things with 17 points and 13 rebounds.
• Amongst the craziness of the NECC girls race this week and heading into next week’s conference tournament, the Kesslers of Eastside had a really solid scoring week including Sullivan Kessler delivering almost half of her team’s points Tuesday with 15. The 36-33 win over county rival DeKalb really set the stage for a bigger game later in the week, again led by a Kessler.
Friday’s game was a big moment because Eastside and their opponent Fairfield are both on the toughest side of the NECC Tournament. So momentum out of Friday was key and while Fairfield raced out to an early lead that Eastside, could never quite puncture enough, the Blazers’ third quarter showed what kind of fight they have in them.
This time it was Skylar Kessler and a 17 point output that led the way. Eastside is at their best when they can play aggressively like they did in pockets on Friday night. Don’t count them out of upset specials in the next week’s tournament.
• The march to a win was a rough one for Westview this season. Never struggling to get a game in, the Warriors lost 14 straight before taking back to back wins this week. The Warriors hadn’t put up more than 31 points in a single game this season before scoring 59 against South Bend Career Academy and 72 against Hamilton.
Sometimes, you just need a little sunshine to push you forward.
A very balanced, nine player scoring effort led the Warriors by South Bend Career Academy, led by 10 points from Andrea Miller. When Westview reconvened on Friday, they used a 35-1 first half to power past Hamilton, who they will matchup with again next week in the NECC Tournament. This time it was Hope Bortner‘s 21 points that paced the Warriors and their, again, nine different scorers.
Churubusco ended a five game losing streak on Friday with a 10 point win led by 19 points from Mariah Hosted….New Haven has guaranteed their best season since 2014-15 with back to back wins by beating DeKalb. At 5-7, the Bulldogs have won back to back games twice this year, something they haven’t done since 2013….Lakewood Park coach Amy Bartkowiak picked up her 50th career win on Tuesday….Churubusco‘s Mariah Hosted broke the program’s career rebounding record against Columbia City on Tuesday….North Side picked up their first win of the season on Thursday, beating Canterbury behind 15 points from freshman Aniya Woodson. 38 of North Side’s 60 points were scored by freshmen….Homestead senior Amber Austin returned on Saturday in. a win over Lawrence North. It was Austin’s first action of the season after a torn ACL….Karly Kirkpatrick has become the leader in assists all time for the East Noble girls.
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