NECC Tournament title a long time coming for Garrett girls

Garrett’s Nataley Armstrong makes her way up the court against Angola during January 15’s NECC Tournament final.

Garrett coach Bob Lapadot has had plenty to celebrate in his decade-plus at the helm of the Railroaders.

Ten double-digit win seasons in 11 seasons is quite the accomplishment, and sectional titles in 2014 and 2020 are highlights as well.

But Lapadot had never coached his program to an NECC Tournament title since the Railroaders rejoined the NECC in 2014. In fact, prior to Saturday, Garrett hadn’t even PLAYED in the final since 2005 and hadn’t won it since the year before.

That drought ended in dominating fashion.

Bailey Kelham dropped 21 points while Megan Ostrowski added 16 and Nataley Armstrong 15 as the Railroaders rolled Angola 70-42 in Saturday’s final.

The victory ended the Hornets’ quest for three-consecutive tournament titles, with sophomore Kylie Caswell leading them with 12 points in defeat.

While it was a slow start for both offenses, the Railroaders ended up jumping out to an eight-point lead at the end of the first quarter that grew to 19 by halftime.

The second half was more of the same as Garrett (20-1) was just too much for Angola despite not having the services of Taylor Gerke, who continues to be out due to injury but may return for the playoffs.

In the end, the Railroaders rolled and set the tone for the remainder of the regular season with three games left, all against league foes. A tournament title has been achieved and Garrett will now look to secure a conference championship over the next two weeks.

While there are ways it seemed like a forgone conclusion that Garrett would win this title, it doesn’t make it any less special. Gerke’s absence is part of that. It is easy to be seen as a dominating force when you have a starting five full of stars, all of which are capable of putting up big numbers across the board on any given night. But when you build around that and then lose one of those four pillars, you have to reimagine your foundation a bit. People may not be talking about Gerke’s absence enough because it is a big one. Yet, the Railroaders continue to rally around that gap, a self healing situation made stronger by their NECC Tournament win.

Garrett has not staked their claim to the NECC is bigger ways than ever before. They are working on staking their claim on girls basketball in Northeast Indiana and Class 3A, period.

The road began with the current senior class as freshmen showing a lot of potential. A year later they won a Sectional title maybe a year earlier than they should have. But it was all part of the story, one that doesn’t have an ending yet, but Saturday was an iconic chapter none the less.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply