BACK TO INDY: TOP-RANKED NORTHWESTERN LADY TIGERS EARN RIGHT TO DEFEND CLASS 3A STATE TITLE

Northwestern junior and 2020 Miss Basketball front-runner Madison Layden has already committed to Purdue. (SJ photo/William Gibson)

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

LOGANSPORT, Ind. – For all of 60 seconds, the IHSAA Class 3A Logansport Semi-State championship game may have been in doubt – for the first time during tournament play, Northwestern center Kendall Bostic lost the opening tip. But then Klair Merrell hit a 3-pointer, Madison Layden stole a pass and scored and the rout was on as the Lady Tigers crushed Marion 59-31 to advance to its second straight state finals.

As for Bostic, it should be pointed out that the 6-foot-1 junior sensation lost the tip to the much taller 6-foot-6 RaShaya Kyle. The Northwestern standout then held Kyle to just 11 points and six rebounds as Bostic dominated the play in the paint. The strong defensive pressure by the Tigers was something Bostic was proud of after the game.

“RaShaya is a very talented ball player,” said Bostic. “She was our main focus; we haven’t played anyone that tall. We were able to pack it in and our communication was big tonight on defense.”

Marion entered the contest averaging more than 54 points per game but managed just three shots in the first quarter. By the end of the game, the Lady Giants were to 11 for 29 from the field (3 for 15 from beyond the arc), had committed 21 turnovers and were outrebounded 23-17.

“That was pure determination; they came out focused,” said Northwestern head coach Kathie Layden. “I had a feeling that Marion would be rattled because of the atmosphere, and we were able to score off of their turnovers.”

Meanwhile, the Layden and Bostic show was on full display as they combined for 13 for 23 shooting – Layden had 27 points, five steals and five assists while Bostic accounted for 12 points, six rebounds and two steals.

Northwestern jumped to the quick 5-0 lead and led 9-2 when Allison Miller got open for a bucket following a fourth Marion turnover. Merrell followed with her second triple of the quarter and by the end of the first stanza, the No. 1-ranked Lady Tigers led 14-5 – they scored 10 points off six Marion turnovers. Miller, a senior, was the fifth starter for the Tigers after junior forward Sarah Heaver injured her knee in the regional.

“We struggled a bit in the beginning of the game – they are big and strong. But Klair knocked down some big shots for us in the first quarter,” said Madison Layden. “And Allison played as well as she could – she grabbed some big offensive rebounds (three), stepped up and was ready to play.”

“Allison is the type of player who will do whatever is asked of her,” added Coach Layden. “I felt like today we put more on her shoulders – we needed her to go after rebounds and loose balls. And she did.”

The second quarter was much like the first – Katie Neher made it 16-5, Bostic was the recipient of sensational passing to score two and Layden knocked down two 3-pointers for a commanding 29-12 lead at the intermission in the Berry Bowl.

Layden’s fourth 3-pointer seconds into the second half put the lead to 20. The Lady Tigers put the game out of reach on a Bostic steal and pass to Layden for two followed by a fifth Layden triple – Northwestern led 39-14 and cruised the rest of the way.

“The way we passed tonight was great – getting inside and then right back out,” said Bostic, noting Northwestern held possession at one point for nearly three minutes with sharp passes and cuts. “If there is one person on me, I will take the shot; but if there are two, I will find the best shot on the floor.”

The defending 3A state champion Lady Tigers hit 20 of 42 shots, including 7 of 15 from 3-point range; they also canned 12 of 14 free throws and only turned the ball over seven times. In addition to Layden and Bostic, Merrell added 10 points, four assists and three steals, Neher had six points, and Miller four points.

Top-ranked Northwestern (26-3) will defend its state title against fellow Hoosier Conference member and seventh-ranked Benton Central (26-4). The two squads did not meet during the regular season as Benton Central lost to Lafayette Central Catholic and finished second in the West Division – meaning they played for third place and not against East Division champ Northwestern in the conference finals. Another interesting fact is Benton Central – representing the South bracket – is geographically North of Northwestern High School.

“Confidence helps me, definitely,” said Merrell. “Our confidence will be high going into next week. I am excited and confident.”

The Class 3A championship game is set to tip-off at 6 p.m. at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The Northwestern athletic department will be selling tickets this week during normal business hours – a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales generated in the athletic office will stay at the school; tickets sold at the gate do not.

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NORTHWESTERN BOYS BASKETBALL WINS HOOSIER CONFERENCE TITLE

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – The Northwestern boys basketball team continues to roll through nearly all-comers – including a clean slate in the Hoosier Conference. After going 4-0 during the regular campaign to claim the West Division title, Class 3A No. 5 Northwestern defeated West Lafayette 49-35 to claim the overall Hoosier Conference title. It is the second conference title in three years for the Tigers.

In a defensive battle, Northwestern kept West Lafayette to under 35-percent shooting. The Red Devils entered the contest averaging more than 50 points per game.

Despite being held to 49 points – which matched its lowest output of the season – the Tigers got off to a quick start, leading 17-9 after the first quarter and 29-16 at the break. The Red Devils cut the lead to 10 with three minutes left in the third quarter (45-35), only to see junior Tayson Parker score a quick four points to put the game out of reach.

Parker finished with 29 points and now has 1,073 career points in just two varsity seasons with the Tigers. Cameron Austin added six points while Logan Bowser and Ben Harris had five points each. Harris had a team-high six rebounds.

For West Lafayette, Yanni Karlaftis had 10 points and Nelson Mbongo added nine.

Northwestern (19-1) has one more regular season test when they host Oak Hill on Feb. 19 at 7:30 p.m.

The Tigers will then set its sights on cutting down another net when it plays in the Frankfort Sectional at the historic Case Arena. Northwestern is 10-0 against 3A squads and 6-0 against the Sectional 20 field. They drew a bye and will play the winner of the Frankfort (2-19) and two-time defending sectional champion West Lafayette (12-9).

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IU KOKOMO MEN’S BASKETBALL WINS RIVER STATES CONFERENCE WEST DIVISION

Antoin Clifton joined the Cougars 1,000 Point Club. (SJ photo/Dean Hockney)

KOKOMO, Ind. – With an 87-73 win over IU Southeast, the NAIA Division II No. 24-ranked IU Kokomo Cougars clinched the West Division of the River States Conference for the first time in program history. Clinching the top spot in the division ensures home court for the RSC Tourney with the first round being played at the Cougar Gym on Feb. 20.

“Last night was a huge win for our program,” said first-year Cougars coach Eric Echelbarger. “To be able to win the West Division in the conference and have the No. 1 seed is really big for our team.”

It was a big night for junior Antoin Clifton, who scored 18 points to become the third member of the Cougars 1,000 Point Club. Clifton also had six rebounds and one assist.

Trequan Spivey led the Cougars on offense once again, contributing 27 points in the win after going 10 of 13 from the floor. Coming off the bench with a strong 10 minutes, Desean Hampton scored eight points, had seven rebounds and two assists.

“I thought we got great play from a lot of people,” said Echelbarger before turning his attention to defense. “I think our guys have bought in to that fact we have to guard. We have a lot of weapons, but defensively I am very proud.”

Cougars No. 1-seed in men’s tournament

The 2018-19 River States Conference Men’s Basketball Championship bracket and qualifiers are in place after the end of the regular season. Eight teams will be vying for the conference title from Feb. 20-26 with the winner automatically qualifying for the NAIA Division II National Championship.

It is a very strong RSC bracket with four teams from the NAIA Division II Top 25 Poll and four squads with 20 or more wins on the season. The championship begins with the quarterfinals on Feb. 20 followed by the semifinals on Feb. 23 and the finals on Feb. 26.

WVU Tech, the No. 9 team in the country, is the No. 1 overall seed in the championship. It went all the way down to the final game, but the Golden Bears (26-4, 15-2 RSC) secured the RSC regular-season title and are guaranteed an automatic bid to nationals. The RSC East Division champs begin the playoffs by hosting No. 4 seed Brescia (Ky.) University (15-13, 11-7 RSC) from the RSC West.

Asbury (Ky.) University (20-9, 13-5 RSC) reached the 20-win mark on the final game of the regular season to clinch the No. 2 seed out of the RSC West. The Eagles host University of Rio Grande (Ohio) (12-18, 6-11 RSC), the No. 3 seed from the RSC East.

IU Kokomo, ranked No. 24 in the nation, won the RSC West Division title and the No. 1 seed in its half of the bracket. The Cougars (23-6, 13-5 RSC) host No. 4 seed Point Park (Pa.) University (9-17, 5-12 RSC) from the RSC East on Feb. 20 at 7:30 p.m.

IU East, the No. 13 team in the country and the RSC champion the last two years, is the No. 2 seed from the RSC East. The Red Wolves (23-7, 15-2 RSC) also won 15 RSC games like WVU Tech but lost the tiebreaker. IU East hosts No. 3 seed IU Southeast (19-10, 12-6 RSC) of the RSC West. The Grenadiers are currently “receiving votes” toward the Top 25 poll.

Cougars No. 2-seed in women’s tournament

The 2018-19 River States Conference Women’s Basketball Championship qualifiers and bracket are set after the completion of the regular season. The eight-team championship will be held Feb. 20-26 at campus sites around the conference.

The higher seed hosts each game of the championship, which begins Feb. 20 with the quarterfinals. The semifinals are set for Feb. 23 with the finals on Feb. 26. The championship winner will earn an automatic bid to the NAIA Division II National Championship.

WVU Tech (21-9, 16-1 RSC) is the No. 1 overall seed and has already locked up a national bid as the RSC regular-season champion. The Golden Bears won the RSC East Division, and they open up the postseason at home versus Midway (Ky.) University (16-13, 9-9 RSC), the No. 4 seed from the RSC West.

IU Kokomo (17-10, 13-5 RSC) is the No. 2 seed from the RSC West and begins the championship hosting Point Park (Pa.) University (13-15, 9-8 RSC), the No. 3 seed from the RSC East on Feb. 20 at 5:30 p.m. at the Cougar Gym. The IU Kokomo-Point Park winner will face the WVU Tech-Midway winner in the semifinals.

Alice Lloyd (Ky.) College (17-8, 13-5 RSC) won the RSC West Division for the second year in a row and is the No. 1 seed in its half of the bracket. The Eagles host RSC East No. 4 seed University of Rio Grande (Ohio) (16-14, 6-11 RSC).

IU East (13-16, 11-6 RSC) claimed the No. 2 seed from the RSC East and will host No. 3 Cincinnati Christian University (14-15, 10-8 RSC) from the RSC West. The IU East-CCU winner will play the Alice Lloyd-Rio Grande winner.

Courtesy of IU Kokomo and River States Conference

 

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