A trip to the Class 4A state championship is on the line at LaPorte on Saturday as No. 6 Carroll (25-2) takes on second-ranked Crown Point (23-1) at 4 p.m. Eastern Time, 3 p.m. Central Time.
Outside the Huddle has the breakdown on the battle to reign supreme in 4A in the northern half of the state.
Carroll coach Mark Redding said he was able to use last week’s regional semifinal game against McCutcheon as a bit of a tuneup for his players. The 30-point blowout allowed him to dip deep into his bench to give every player a taste of regional hoops.
Redding will not have that luxury on Friday. None of his players have appeared in a game past regionals, while Crown Point was in this situation two years ago and lost just once last year – in regional action.
The Chargers are primarily made up of youngsters. Perhaps their naivatè will prevent them from getting too nervous in the moment?
STRENGTH vs. STRENGTH
When comparing these two teams, there are more similarities than differences. Both like to pressure the ball and force turnovers, both are not laden with upperclassmen and both can frustrate offenses while filling the hoop.
Crown Point’s regional championship win came against Penn while holding the Kingsmen to 45 points, the very same team that dropped 67 points on Carroll in a victory over the Chargers in late November. A lot has happened since then, but could that be an indication that Carroll is going to find it difficult to find offense against a defense allowing just over 37 points per contest?
PLAYERS TO WATCH
EMILY PARRETT, CARROLL
Three years ago, it was Parrett who was the wide-eyed freshman at the varsity level running with a bunch of seniors on a Carroll team that won a sectional title. Now, she is the savvy veteran that is the unquestioned leader on the floor for the Chargers.
Out of huddles, Parrett’s teammates always look to her for extra guidance as the squad heads back onto the court. She has been there, done that and the rest of the Chargers know it.
It doesn’t hurt that Parrett is the team’s leading scorer at 13.1 ppg, but her leadership is her greatest asset. How she handles herself on Saturday will be infectious for the rest of the team.
JESSICA CARROTHERS, CROWN POINT
The junior combo guard is a problem. Carrothers has scored 25 or more points in every one of Crown Point’s postseason games. She connects on 50 percent of her threes and 71 percent from the line while also averaging five rebounds, four assists and four steals per contest.
Carrothers is sly and quick, able to close out in the passing lanes and turn turnovers into easy buckets.
SANIYA JACKSON, CARROLL
To win postseason hardware, teams need personnel that are stone-cold when the pressure is on. That was Jackson last week, stepping to the line to hit some clutch free throws down the stretch against Homestead, as well as adding a few key three-pointers.
Jackson averages close to 10 points per game, but it is her ability to secure position for rebounds as well as her quick feet defensively that could be problematic for Crown Point.
The sophomore may not have a lot of experience, but she has a versatile skill set, and the confidence, to be a threat.
LILLY STODDARD, CROWN POINT
Stoddard is the inside to what Carrothers is outside. The junior is a rebounding machine and has gone over 10 boards in three of her last four games.
On the year, Stoddard averages close to a double-double – 10.8 pts and 9 rebounds – while also swatting over two blocks per game.
Carroll struggles at times clearing the boards, allowing second- and third-chance opportunities on the offensive end. Someone needs to put a body on Stoddard and not allow her to dominate the paint.
KEY TO VICTORY
CARROLL – AVOID SCORING DROUGHTS
Crown Point has the propensity to holding foes without zero or limited points for an extended period of time. A close contest can be blown open by the Bulldogs in a matter of minutes when an 11-0 run over a few minutes comes out of nowhere, especially if they can force turnovers with their defense.
Carroll must not go dry on the offensive end. The Chargers have a variety of scoring options, and they must find opportunities and convert.
CROWN POINT – OWN THE POST
While Ayanna Patterson got hers against Carroll last Saturday night, Carroll was still able to do enough offensively to triumph over the high-D1 talent. That was helped by Homestead’s inability to find consistent scoring elsewhere.
That won’t the case with Crown Point, which has proven scorers inside and out. If the Bulldogs can get Stoddard on track inside and “clear the garbage” with help from fellow junior Nikki Gerodemos, the Chargers are going to have a tough time making things happen around the bucket.
Carroll is an attacking offense and averages 15 free throw attempts per game, many of which come from attacking plays to the hoop. Can this be sustained against a taller team like Crown Point?
This feels like a toss-up game. The only common foe is Penn, which Crown Point beat twice. Other than that we really have no ability to compare these two teams directly.
It feels cliché, but whichever team is able to make more buckets is going to win. Yes, that’s obvious, but every so often a team just goes cold, especially in high-pressure situations. Which of these squads comes out, plays loose and knocks down shots? Which does not turn the ball over or get into foul trouble?
In the end, Bounce is giving the nod to Crown Point by just a bit. Carroll has the balance, but the Bulldogs have the firepower.
BOUNCE PICKS CROWN POINT