Since the formation of the Northeast 8 in 2016, there has been one team in girls’ basketball that has been the benchmark, the team every program in the league aims to knock off – Norwell.
Yes, there have been moments for the likes of East Noble and Bellmont over the years, but by and large, the Knights have ruled the roost.
So not only did Columbia City open some eyes in its 55-34 rout of the Knights on Friday night at home to stay undefeated, it also set the barometer high for the rest of the league.
The NE8 no longer goes through Ossian, at least this year. It goes by way of Columbia City.
With a combination of aggressive man defense, hot outside shooting and consummate team basketball, the Eagles handed Norwell its biggest conference loss in seven years.
“This is a big confidence booster,” said Columbia City coach Amy Shearer. “We have a lot of younger kids on this basketball team and they really enjoy playing teams that are good, because they know that is how you are going to get better.”
Columbia City looked far more comfortable on Friday in front of what is believed to be the biggest crowd for a girls’ basketball game in the new high school. Despite some sketchy early few minutes, the Eagles jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter and ran away and hid – leading by as much as 41-16 late in the third.
Norwell (8-2) did not score its 20th point until the fourth quarter and was held to its fewest points since a game against Concordia Lutheran in 2017.
The fascinating thing is that this is not necessarily a senior-laden CC squad. The development of synergy between the youth girls’ hoops programs within the school system and the community has gives the Eagles the luxury of having the likes of sophomore Kyndra Sheets (16 points on Friday) and freshman Addison Baxter (15 points) enter the varsity level knowing exactly what is expected – tough, gritty defense, team basketball and not backing down from any challenge.
Despite Columbia City finishing second in the NE8 last year, it needed help as Norwell knocked off the Eagles by 17 points last December.
What a difference a year makes as the Knights were held without a point through the first four minutes of the game and never truly looked comfortable. By night’s end, no one outside of Kennedy Fuelling (17 points) looked as if they had any remote ideas of shooting the ball due to Columbia City’s man-to-man defense.
So what does it mean? In the short term, it keeps Columbia City undefeated at 10-0 and puts it atop the NE8 with only perhaps a Bellmont team next month being the only obstacle to a league title.
But looking ahead, the youthful energy and talent of the Eagles look ready to be a pain in the side of Norwell for awhile, something that program hasn’t had to deal with, at least from a singular program, since the days of Homestead and the old Northeast Hoosier Conference.
Because of that, Friday’s result could have a lasting impact on the league, and Columbia City’s quest for some postseason hardware for the first time in over 20 years.
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