It is time for semistate girls basketball and Bounce couldn’t be more excited! Just two teams have made it to their respective final fours, both representing our area and the NECC.
It should make for an exciting afternoon at LaPorte on Saturday with these two teams hopefully cheering each other on as conference mates.
CLASS 2A LAPORTE SEMI STATE
Fairfield (24-3) vs. Frankton (22-5), 1 p.m.
Projected winner: Fairfield by 5
This all starts with Coach Brodie Garber. He was here in 2018 with the Falcons, well at Logansport for semistate play anyway. He had a really good team and he just ran into a buzz saw that was Northwestern at that point. Bounce was in the Berry Bowl that night and saw the look in Garber’s face. He was happy for his team’s accomplishment but you could tell getting that close to state made him hungrier. Now in his 10th season at the helm at Fairfield he is back at semistate for a second time and there isn’t an immovable force in his way.
Fairfield boasts a steady lineup of girls who can help in a lot of ways and because of need this season, they all have. Brea Garber leads it off as the team’s leading scorer and even she has had to carry a heavier load with the loss of Brooke Sanchez to injury. There should be an emphasis though on players like Morgan Gawthrop and Bailey Willard for how they have become more important parts of this run. Willard is a really good shooter and there were times last weekend where she was locked in.
But the emphasis for this group comes on defense where Coach Garber has stressed smothering defensive strategies and seen it work out well for his teams. This year’s Fairfield group is no different, giving up just 32.1 points per game and allowing 40-plus seven times this season.
Frankton, much like Fairfield, has a pretty balanced attack of girls who are chipping in where they can. Senior Lauryn Bates leads the team in most statistical categories, including her 12.2 points per game. She has a lot of experience as a four-year varsity player and was part of the state runner-up team during her sophomore season, so she knows the road and has seen the ups and downs of a postseason run. Bates has scoring bursts, but what is great is her consistency. While a 20-point game is great, Frankton knows it is getting no less than a dozen points from her and at the team’s 55 point/game rate, that consistency helps.
Sophomore Emma Sperry (10.4 points, 6.4. rebounds) is another crucial piece for Frankton, while Cagney Utterback, Amaya Collins and Bailee Webb all contribute to the depth and diversity of the lineup. Sperry, at 5-foot-11, can be a tough matchup around the rim, but every now and then she steps out to knock down a three-pointer, which makes her a tough person to plan for defensively.
And hey, it is weird when any two coaches have the same number in their records. Either Brodie Garber or Stephan Hamaker will get their 87th loss on Saturday.
Matchup to look forward to: Morgan Gawthrop vs. Cagney Utterback
Is this a guaranteed matchup? No. But one that looks like it could be a lot of fun based on what each have done this season.
Gawthrop has stepped up significantly to help Fairfield on the perimeter after the loss of point guard Brooke Sanchez to injury. She has been given some significant defensive duties through a tough NECC schedule and beyond and has risen to the challenge each time. Her length is underrated as is the ability to get around tough defenders to attack the basket, including last weekend in a regional title win over Andrean.
Utterback has kind of been that pitbull for Frankton on both ends of the court. She leads the team with 2.2 steals, is second in assists at 2.4 per game and chips in 6.7 points each contest. Her numbers may not wow you, but her game could. Utterback’s presence looms larger that her 5-foot-2 self because she gets after the ball and helps Frankton create a lot of things in transition. With Gawthrop’s emergence this season, sending the seasoned Utterback after her makes a lot of sense.
What Fairfield needs to do to win: Feed Garber
There are a lot of great role players, as mentioned above, for Fairfield. But at the end of the day, with a trip to state on the line, you have to trust the biggest hand and that is Brea Garber. The daughter of a coach, Garber has been building for this moment basically her entire life.
Throughout the year, Garber has been special and with Fairfield on the fringe of the “area,” that fact may get lost way too much. She is a tenacious scorer who finds a great blend of toughness and intelligence to lead her team. The Falcons, to me at least, are favorites on Saturday in what should be a tight game. So give the girl the ball, let her go to work and IF that fails, go to a Plan B. But Plan A, 2A, 3A, 4A and so on should be to let Garber work and develop everything around her.
If she can start the game anywhere near as good as she started against Andrean last Saturday night (10 points in the first 8 minutes), then she is going to be pushing Frankton back on its heels all afternoon.
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