Regional Saturday is on the way and it sure looks different.
Gone are the morning semifinal games to try and win a regional title at night. Instead, each site is host to two games on the day where two different regional champions will be named. And those two teams will advance to a now-four team semistate.
So there is a chance of far more Regional champions coming out of Northeast Indiana this season. Who does Bounce thinks will be those teams?
CLASS 3A AT JIMTOWN
Fairfield [24-2] vs. Highland [17-6]
Highland had to win just two Sectional games to get to the Regional round and only one of them was against a team with a winning record. They have a balanced offense led by freshman Jordan Steele and her 11.1 points per game. But even with 17 wins, Highland just doesn’t past the eye test with the 32nd best Sagarin Rating in Class 3A. In Regionals, a lot of those regular season bets are off so its not fair to count out Highland at all but who do they have that can stop Brea Garber, let alone the other players who have become huge assets to the Falcons.
Morgan Gawthrop is among the biggest breakout stats in the entire area and she didn’t exactly come in unknown before the season. As teams have thrown everything they have at Garber, Fairfield has been able to adjust and how Gawthrop has taken care of things in big ways has made a major difference for the Falcons while Garber has certainly still gotten hers when she has needed to. This is a team who committed just five turnovers in their Sectional semi final game and that is impressive no matter who the opponent is.
Fairfield has shown that they can play within themselves and takes their time to make the right plays, the right way.
In the end, this one seems like a no brainer. BOUNCE PICKS FAIRFIELD
CLASS 3A AT BELLMONT
Hamilton Heights [19-5] vs. Norwell [21-3]
Both of these teams are coming off clutch championship games last week with Norwell edging Northwestern and Hamilton Heights beating Yorktown. More impressive for me was Heights beating Jay County earlier in the week. It proved that Heights has the ability to hold up some of the best scorers in the state when they stopped Renna Schwieterman. Kudos to Hamilton Heights for that; Norwell has a substantially deeper team though.
Camryn Runner (18.9 ppg) lead the way for the Huskies and her and fellow junior Ella Hickok are quite the backcourt guard duo with 2.7 and 2.3 steals per game each respectively.
Can Hamilton Heights stop the 22.6 points per game of Kennedy Fuelling? If they do, can they also stop the 16 points per game of Makenzie Fuess? The pair also shoot 43.3 percent from the field so slowing them, let alone stopping them proves difficult. Annabelle Johnson and her 2.2 steals per game are a not often enough talked about highlight of this Norwell team. They don’t have to have big scorers behind Fuelling and Fuess, but the Knights have so many players who make differences and that shouldn’t go unnoticed or unspoken of moving forward.
I counted out Hamilton Heights opposite Jay County in Sectionals. Am I going to make that same mistake twice? BOUNCE PICKS NORWELL
Twin Lakes [26-0] vs. Garrett [14-11]
When you get into the Regional round, the last thing you want to see on the line across from you is an undefeated record. You really don’t want to see that when your Sectional was a bit of a surprise to many and you were considered the underdog then.
I bought into Garrett much more than others in Sectionals, though still not enough to predict them to win the whole thing. They were fantastic in trouncing Woodlan early in the Sectional finals and the heavily favored Warriors battled back, Garrett showed a ton of maturity in holding them off in the end. That game alone gave Garrett so much tangible experience and chance to show off their quality play.
The Railroaders were supposed to be in a rebuild after a heavy 2022 graduation, despite having back one of the area’s best in Bailey Kelham. But what this season has proven is that there is an expectation at Garrett and players who don’t want to let down that tradition. Junior Kelsey Bergman has stepped up big time as has Aida Haynes. This isn’t a one player team at all and they continue to show that.
Twin Lakes, at the end of the day, is Twin Lakes. They are phenomenal and arguably the favorites to win the Class 3A state title. And their two best players aren’t even seniors. Olivia Nickerson (19 ppg) and Addie Bowsman (17.5 ppg) are one of the most dynamic 1-2 scoring punches in the entire class and maybe even in the entire state.
Count me among the Bob Lapadot coaching fan club. He proves himself time and time again. This time, the challenge may be too much though. BOUNCE PICKS TWIN LAKES
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