THE TEAM TO BEAT
WEST NOBLE (16-5)
At the top of their game, West Noble plays outstanding basketball. They need to channel that team that had conference champion Garrett on the ropes for the vast majority of their game less than two weeks ago. In that game, West Noble not only pushed their tempo, but they were able to slow Garrett down and spread them out with an aggressive and trapping defense. They want to do very similar things against every team in this bracket.
You can’t rival the combined aggression of Lilly Mast and Mackensy Mabie on both ends of the court. They have virtually unrivaled motors and you can expect them to really lead the way. Mabie has been one of the area’s top breakout players in her 13.2 point per game sophomore year. If Mabie can shoot the ball well, there is no reason West Noble shouldn’t be highly in the mix for their first Sectional title since 2019.
CENTRAL NOBLE (17-5)
Don’t get it wrong with Central Noble listed here as the contender, this is my upset pick, because of the way they are playing, to win this Sectional. Their senior class knows how to win and you just can’t replace winners who came in that way and have the drive to go out that way.
No other team in this Sectional has four different players who are capable of going for 20-25 on any given night. It makes the Cougars difficult to defend because they are a legit four headed monster out there with Bridgette Gray, Lydia Andrews, Madi Vice and Meghan Kiebel. The Cougars feed the hot hand and are willing to take backseat roles on a night where any of the other big four are at the peak of their game. The Cougars have now won six of their last seven and that one loss was in triple overtime so its not like they weren’t in that one. Central Noble also enters with the best record.
This team is really missing Faith Riehl in the closing games of the season and the Sectional will be no different. They will need a consistent group to step up and fill her roles. That said, Bailey Hartsough is the best scorer, IMO, in this Sectional. She averages 16.9 points and 8.3 rebounds per game and her value is so unquestionable at this point. This is a situation where fellow senior are going to have to make a push to get a Sectional title for the first time since 1996. Madison Keil and Kendall Moore need to be huge in their spots for the Lakers this coming week.
TIPPECANOE VALLEY (13-8)
Sidney Wagner can do about everything and that makes the Vikings dangerous. With all of the NECC teams on the other side of the bracket, Tippy Valley is pretty close to a no brainer pick to make Saturday’s title game. Once they get there, we will see if their NECC opponent has figured out to alter the way Wagner can effect games. She averages teams high in scoring (18.8 ppg), rebounding (7.7), assists (4.9) and steals (4.8). The Vikings are close to a contender too as they won’t have to wade through as heavy of games as the other side of the bracket. Kaydence Mellott is another solid threat for the Vikings.
The host team got a favorable draw here by being away from the NECC teams and facing one win NorthWood. A junior laden team, led by Kennedy White, we aren’t looking for much out of the Warriors this year but they are a team who could be a year away from contending.
A state finals run is followed by a complete rebuild. Senior Alea Minnich averages 16.1 points per game and could be one of the better individual scorers in this Sectional but they fall short of a great hierarchy behind her. NorthWood is team you have to keep an eye on, but with one, it is hard to boost them up from the bottom before games begin.
BREAKOUT PLAYER ALERT
MEGHAN KIEBEL, CENTRAL NOBLE
She comes in as the lowest scoring of Central Noble’s big four at 10.1 points, though the top of that quartet is at 12.1 per game. Kiebel is a very dangerous scorer and while teams scramble to defend all four of Central Noble’s top players, Kiebel could really make a difference at all three levels.
PEYTON HARTSOUGH, LAKELAND
As Bailey Hartsough thrives and people, including yours truly, will talk about how the absence of Faith Riehl hurts this team, don’t forget how good Peyton Hartsough can be. Lakeland needs a consistent second presence replacing Riehl and Peyton is very capable of taking that spot and making an impact in games.
These opinions represent those of Bounce and Outside the Huddle. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. Follow Bounce on Twitter at Bounce_OTH