THE DEAN’S LIST BY DEAN HOCKNEY
KOKOMO, Ind. – In case you haven’t been paying attention, something special is happening in the northwest part of Howard County and it is called Lady Tigers basketball. Through the first 13 games of the season, the Northwestern girls basketball team has taken on all-comers – and all 13 teams have left the gym with a loss.
This Lady Tigers team is good – and I mean really good. Sure, people have been talking about this group of players for years as they swept through the middle schools ranks with dominance. Tiger Nation has been talking about this group of young women and how they would make a run at a state title by the time they are juniors and seniors. Well guess what, they are freshmen and sophomores right now and currently are ranked No. 18 in the IBCA all-class poll, No. 4 in the ICGSA Class 3A poll and No. 10 in the all-class Sagarin Ratings.
Under the guidance of fifth-year coach Kathie Layden – a Howard County Sports Hall of Fame inductee who led Tri-Central to three state championships – this team is clicking on all cylinders. The three seniors – Sophia Beachy, Brianna Hahn and Beza Townsend – mixed with a solid crop of juniors and underclassmen have turned more than one head this season. At 13-0, they have the best record in the state and are one of 15 unbeatens remaining.
Looking at the stat sheet, the Lady Tigers are not just beating teams, they are destroying them despite playing up to 15-deep during a game. The squads 74.62 points per game is third best in the state behind 1A Indianapolis Tindley (101.00) and 4A Zionsville (74.82). The defense is giving up 34.69 points per game – 21st best in the state – for an average margin of 36.92 (only Tindley is better at a whopping 76.29).
The well-balanced team is led statistically by 6-foot-1 freshman Kendall Bostic, who is averaging 14.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. Last weekend, she picked up an offer from NCAA Division I Xavier University. Fellow 6-foot-1 freshman Madison Layden is dropping in 13.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game. I have watched these two play for years at the middle school level, and they are the real deal – Layden has the best court vision I have seen in quite a while.
But those two are not alone – this squad is loaded. Hahn, a senior, is averaging 12.8 points and 2.3 assists per game. Taylor Boruff, a 5-foot-10 sophomore with an offer from Murray State, is averaging 9.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per outing. Beachy drops in 7.5 points and 4.2 assists per game from a guard slot. A trio of juniors – Kara Doer, Sarah Vas and Morgan Mercer – have been active and are averaging a combined 14.1 points per game. And 6-foot-1 sophomore Stephanie Burns has a knee injury and has not played yet after averaging nearly seven points and seven rebounds as a freshman.
On Thursday, the Lady Tigers travel to Indianapolis to battle a traditional state power – 3A No. 2 Heritage Christian (8-1). The three-time defending state champions – Class 3A last year and 2A the previous two – have won seven state championships. The Eagles only loss this season came on opening night, a 69-58 setback to 4A No. 3 Carmel (10-1). Since that loss, they have defeated 4A No. 9 Lawrence North (53-52) and 3A No. 5 Fort Wayne Concordia (50-39). The Northwestern vs. Heritage Christian battle has the potential to be epic – the state champs against the up-and-comers.
Coach Layden will know exactly where her squad stands after the game. But no matter the outcome Thursday night, this is a fun team to watch and teams will need to be ready come tournament time. The Lady Tigers have only won four sectional titles (2000, 2002, 2003 and 2008), and despite a tough 11-1 West Lafayette team in the bracket, they should capture a fifth in two months – and quite possibly end-up in a rematch with Heritage Christian down the road. If you haven’t already, I would highly suggest making your way out to Northwestern to catch this group in action.
Until next time, remember to keep the man and ship in sports – and I’ll see you at the game.
Dean Hockney is the publisher of the Sports Journal of Central Indiana, sports editor of the Kokomo Herald and the public address announcer for IU Kokomo athletics. You can follow him on Twitter (@Sports_Journal) for the latest in local sports news and game reports.