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 3A LAPORTE SEMI STATE
Garrett (27-1) vs. South Bend Washington (25-3), 4 p.m.
Projected winner: South Bend Washington by 4
The Panthers have been an absolute menace this season. They have just two relevant losses as it is hard to count non-IHSAA school LaLumiere. Along the way, senior Mila Reynolds has averaged 21.9 points and eight rebounds per game on her way to what should be Indiana All-Star status. She is as tough offensively as any player that Garrett has faced off with all season, shooting 52 percent from the field. Rashunda Jones (11 points/game) is no slouch either as she is tenacious at getting to the rim. Freshman Kira Reynolds rounds out Washington’s big three.
Garrett is well documented. It currently has four girls in the lineup that can take over games and the fifth starter, Makenna Malcolm, has had some critical moments since she was inserted into the starting lineup. The questions for Garrett are who takes over this game and can more than one of the top four have a blockbuster game at once? Morgan Ostrowski has done it impactfully, Nataley Armstrong has had some breakout scoring games, Faith Owen’s three-point shot always makes her a big weapon and Bailey Kelham kicking it into a second gear last Saturday helped propel the team to a regional title.
Is it a factor how each team’s postseason has gone? South Bend Washington plowed through its regional, winning by 69 total points, while Garrett won its two games by a total of four points. It could mean nothing, but it could also mean one of two things – Garrett could be more tired overall; this seems unlikely because it has been a week, but the Railroaders did have the majority of their players needing to play all 72 last weekend due to the close games. At the same time, it could also mean that Garrett knows hunger better right now. It had to scrap and claw for wins in regional and Washington didn’t; Garrett is hungry still. Will any of that play a role?
Matchup to look forward to: Morgan Ostrowski vs. Kira Reynolds
This is an easy one. So much of Washington’s game works through the 6-foot-4 freshman, who averages 10 points and a team best 9.3 rebounds per game. Reynolds has burst onto the high school scene as a substantial inside force. Ostrowski can be just as impactful and it has shown; there have been games this season that the Railroaders probably don’t win if Ostrowski doesn’t do what she did that nights.
One of those prime examples is last weekend’s regional title game. Ostrowski was pressured inside and Benton Central came after her. She didn’t overpower them but she didn’t panic either. Instead, Ostrowski found ways to help the offensive flow without having to use her power inside. Reynolds is a tough matchup, one that the Garrett senior can match up with well but maybe not overpower. It will be critical for her to change the game any way she can if Reynolds’ defense is too strong.
That said, it is relevant that one of these girls is a senior with experience and the other is a freshman. Is it a defining factor? No. But it is worth noting who has been there and done that and who is still just getting her feet wet.
It will also be important to see whose team helps most. Garrett did a great job of doubling the post when needed last weekend and if one post player gains an advantage, the rest of the opposing team will need to chip in.
What Garrett needs to do to win: Tempo control
Letting Nataley Armstrong handle how this game goes is key in Garrett’s ability to win this game. As dominant as Washington has been, I don’t think that Garrett is far off from being in the driver’s seat here in a very winnable semistate game. Last Saturday, Armstrong became the all-time single season assist leader in the history of the state, a record that was set in 1991. In wins last weekend, things felt calmer when the ball was in Armstrong’s hands.
The Railroaders were also able to slow down and speed up games with Benton Central and Hamilton Heights at will AT TIMES. Even though Garrett averages 53.9. points per game, the last thing they want to to do is get in a proverbial track meet with the Panthers, who average 68 points per game.
Tempo has to be something Garrett controls in this game and that tempo flows through the capable senior hands of Armstrong.
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