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 2021-22 season.
Today, we unveil five of the best in the area at positions No. 20-16.
No. 20 Lauren Leach, Angola
Leach will see an increased role this season but she has been near top notch for years in any role that she has had to play. Coaches have asked Leach to do quite a few things since her freshman year and she has been able to find success that has helped Angola find consistent and championship level success. Last season, Leach averaged 9.5 points and 7 rebounds per game, imagine how much more of a double double threat that she will be with increased need for her to both score and rebound as the defacto leader on this team with so much experience to share with a younger group.
There aren’t many around the area who use their length to be a defense changer like she can be. She isn’t always going to steal the ball or block shots (she can do it though, don’t doubt that), but she can change shots and passes because she moves around well and uses length and effort to get into all of the lanes the basketball may be going.
COACH’S QUOTE ON LAUREN LEACH
“Lauren is one of the best all around players I’ve had the opportunity to coach. She can do everything on the floor at a very high level. She can play inside and outside. She can defend every position. More than anything is her leadership and basketball IQ. She truly loves the game and loves to study the game so she can find ways to always get better. We believe Lauren is going to have a huge year for us and we will need her to for us to accomplish our goals.” – Angola coach Nick Burlingame
No. 19 Annika Davis, South Side
If you haven’t heard, the Class of 2024 may be one for the ages in Northeast Indiana. Davis was one of several players in the area to quickly acclimate from middle school to varsity basketball. However, to do it in an aggressive 2020-21 SAC was something special. Davis came into South Side and was able to match everything about what makes the conference special. She can attack the basket well and seemingly doesn’t mind going through or around someone to get there. Davis may prefer the physical, getting to the line 31 total times in the SAC’s two most important games agaisnt Carroll and Homestead; she hit 22 of those.
Davis picked up Division I offer this summer and it is smart to jump on her recruiting early. Davis plays a solid combo of someone with good length who can muscle and a finesse first wing. Her shooting touch is improving, though she had some games where her deep range percentage wasn’t so hot. Still, she hit at least one triple each night and hit three in a game on three different occasions. As defenses continue to play her harder, watch for her to match that tempo often.
No. 18 Madison Dirksen, Jay County
Anytime you have a big, high volume post player, you want to know two things. One, that she can alter the game inside with a high shooting percentage and tough rebounding. Two, that when she is inevitably fouled, that person can step up to the line, knock down shots and show that with that weapon in play, that you really don’t have a good way to stop them. Let us introduce you to Madison Dirksen, the epitome of a quality post in the heart of the ACAC. And with that, she shot 47 percent from two point range and 76 percent from the free throw line.
What Dirksen did to compliment a star teammate is high quality and it speaks to her character. You think you’d love a quality post? How about one who can do that and also know her role, when to defer and when to just go to battle. Dirksen punished opposing ACAC teams at the rim. She scored a team second best 12.9 points per game while leading the team at 7.3 rebounds per contest in a conference that had plenty of other good posts to battle.
No. 17 Faith Riehl, Lakeland
The breakout player of the area last season, Riehl helped boost Lakeland into one of the best teams in the NECC and helped them tie a program record for wins in a season. While Lakeland was destined to be good with a high level scorer leading the way, the development of Riehl as a sophomore was a huge catalyst for that run. She is coming off a tough injury so her timetable to being 100 percent herself on the court is a wait and see situation as it could be a while or it could be day one for her to be as effective as she was when she last played for the Lakers.
Riehl only made it to late January before her injury but was averaging 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds before she went down. Most critical was that Riehl shot 51 percent from the field while also hitting 75 percent of her free throws and 42 percent of her three pointers. She was clearly one of the most efficient shooters in the NECC and was able to do it in every area. Riehl can score at all three levels and that really changes the game for her and Lakeland.
COACH’S QUOTE ON FAITH RIEHL
“Faith will be our three point shooter and scorer. She is coming off an end of the year ACL injury. She will be a valuable defensive player as well. She will be one of our leaders.” – Lakeland coach Dale Gearheart
No. 16 Mackensy Mabie, West Noble
The logjam at the top of the NECC last year made this year’s Top 50 countdown a logjam of NECC players in a lot of ways. You have to credit the breakout of certain players for that logjam in 2020-21 and Mabie’s transfer to West Noble was a huge catalyst for the tight race at the top of the conference’s teams and players. Expected to be a quality defensive stopped, Mabie lived up to certain expectations by adding a third really high level defender to the fold. She had 3.8 steals per game last season, taking plenty of educated chances when ripping the ball away from opposing teams.
What pushed Mabie higher on this list was the fact that she was able to not only contribute, but highly effect games offensively so quickly. Sure, there was the chance there it was going to happen, but for it to be so quick and seamless made Mabie a big threat. she shot 43 precent from the field and an even better 81 percent from three point ranges while averaging 12.6 points per game.
COACH’S QUOTE ON MACKENSY MABIE
“Mackensy Had a great year last year as a newcomer to our conference. She has continually put in work this summer and we are expecting another breakout season for her.” – West Noble coach Jeff Burns
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