Archive for IHSAA

EVAN ELLIS CLAIMS 285-POUND STATE TITLE, A FIRST FOR THE EASTERN COMETS

In the opening round of the IHSAA Wrestling State Finals, Eastern's Evan Ellis defeats Brendan Sutton of Jennings County 9-3 despite a split lip. (SJ Photo/Dean Hockney)

In the opening round of the IHSAA Wrestling State Finals, Eastern’s Evan Ellis defeats Brendan Sutton of Jennings County 9-3 despite a split lip. (SJ Photo/Dean Hockney)

 

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

INDIANAPOLIS – It was a perfect ending to a perfect season for Eastern High School’s Evan Ellis. In front of nearly 12,500 wrestling fans at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Feb. 18, the senior soared to an altitude no other Comet had obtained – an IHSAA wrestling state championship.

“It is a blessing,” said Ellis after the championship match. “I have been training for this for 14 years. It is not just a season, it is a lifetime.”

The grappler nearly missed getting out of the opening round the night before. In what may have been the gutsiest performance of his career, Ellis battled back from a split lip that the medical staff could not get to stop bleeding. In a last-ditch effort and up against the injury clock, the medical team wrapped Ellis’ lower mouth shut around the back of the head, resulting in Ellis finishing the match with an open mouth packed with gauze. Back on the mat, Ellis finished his first round with a 9-3 decision over Brendan Sutton of Jennings County to advance to day two and the medal round.

In the quarterfinals, Ellis knocked off Brandon Streck of Merrillville 1-0 before defeating Robert Samuels of Lawrence North 3-2 in the semifinals.

That set up a state championship match at 285-pounds between a pair of undefeated wrestlers – No. 2 Ellis and No. 1 Isaiah Williams of South Bend Washington. With three pins in the state finals, Williams was heavily favored over Ellis, but a first minute takedown put the Greentown native up 2-0. He was in the down position to start the second period but quickly escaped for a 3-0 advantage. Ellis (46-0) then sealed the perfect season with a third period takedown for an insurmountable 5-0 lead.

“It has been a really good senior season,” said Ellis. “But I had so many emotions this week.”

Those emotions had nothing to do with wrestling – on Tuesday of state championship week, his grandmother, Ginny Ellis, passed away. The night before he had promised her he would win the state title – a promise that came true.

Ellis is the first wrestling state champion from Eastern and the 15th in Howard County history. Ellis ended a 25-year draught for a Howard County wrestler standing on the top of the podium at the IHSAA state finals – the last Howard County state champion was Western’s Chad Shepherd at 135-pounds in 1991.

Ellis is the first individual state champion from Howard County since Bethany Neeley crossed the finish line in first place in the 1,600-meter run in 2013. He is the fifth Comet to win an individual state championship, joining Jeremy Ashcraft (1994 pole vault), Grant Cole (2013 long jump), Bethany Neeley (also won the 2012 1,600-meter run) and Brittany Neeley (2013 800-meter run).

With a career record of 160-18, Ellis has three IHSAA state finals medals – this year’s state title, a 220-pound third-place medal from 2016 and an eighth-place 220-pound medal from his sophomore year. He will next take his skills from the Hoosier Heartland Conference to the Ivy League’s Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

“It is going to be a challenge,” he said. “It is an awesome atmosphere out there and will be a great four years.”

Three other Howard County wrestlers participated in the state finals, with all three bowing out in the opening round. Kokomo senior Jabin Wright lost 12-6 to Colin Poynter of Portage at 120-pounds, Western freshman Hunter Cottingham dropped a 4-1 decision to 126-pound state runner-up Blake Mulkey of Brownsburg and Kokomo senior Gavin Herrera fell to 195-pound state champ Andrew Davison of Chesterton.

NORTHWESTERN LADY TIGERS END BASKETBALL SEASON IN ELITE EIGHT

Northwestern seniors Sophia Beachy, Brianna Hahn and Beza Townsend accept the regional runners-up game ball. (SJ photo/William Gibson)

Northwestern seniors Sophia Beachy, Brianna Hahn and Beza Townsend accept the regional runners-up game ball. (SJ photo/William Gibson)

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

RENSSELAER, Ind. – A year before many envisioned, a young corps of Northwestern Lady Tigers swept through a talented field, won its first game of the Rensselaer Central Regional and found itself in the Elite Eight. With two senior starters and a crop of up-and-comers, No. 5 Northwestern mounted a furious fourth quarter rally before coming one-step short of the Final Four in a 57-49 loss to No. 2 South Bend St. Joseph in the regional title game.

“We are a young team, and obviously, this is the regional for all of them,” said Northwestern head coach Kathie Layden. “And I thought we started out that way; we got off to a slow start.”

After a relatively easy 67-41 opening game win over Gary Lighthouse CPA, the Tigers regrouped to battle a seasoned St. Joe squad in the championship game. But the Indians came out of the gate hot, hitting four 3-pointers to grab a 14-6 lead after the first eight minutes. Defense ruled the second quarter with the Tigers finding themselves in a 22-14 deficit at the break.

“Defense is what got us here,” said Layden. “I told them to focus on the defense, and I thought they did a good job.”

St. Joe owned the third quarter, and many thought the game was over when the Indians led 42-26 early in the final stanza. Despite being young – four freshmen and sophomores see significant action – Northwestern roared to life, scoring 17 of the games next 20 points to trip the lead to 45-43 with three minutes left. The defense forced six Indians turnovers while sophomore Taylor Boruff dropped in 12 points on offense. Freshman Madison Layden chipped in 11 fourth quarter points.

The Tigers (24-4) scheme took a blow when 6-foot-1 freshman center Kendall Bostic, who scored 12 in the game, fouled out with 2:46 remaining. The rally then ended when St. Joe’s Nicole Konieczny hit the Indians 10th 3-pointer of the game with 2:15 left. St. Joe (24-2) then hit 9 of 10 free throws down the stretch to seal the victory and a trip to the Class 3A Final Four.

Boruff led the Tigers with 16 points while Layden added 15.

While the loss was the end of the road for seniors Sophia Beachy, Brianna Hahn and Beza Townsend, the path is just starting for the rest of the young Tigers. After playing in the programs fifth regional, they now know what it will take to make it all the way to Indianapolis.

Tigers win game one

In the opener against Lighthouse CPA, the Tigers hit 3 of its first 20 shots and trailed 10-9 after one quarter. The rims warmed up for Northwestern, and 16 minutes later they were up 49-29 while cruising to the win.

Bostic had a monster game with 22 points and 15 rebounds. Layden added 11 points while Boruff dropped in eight.

Douglas Hockney contributed to this story

NORTHWESTERN DOMINATES THE FIELD TO WIN LADY TIGERS FIFTH GIRLS BASKETBALL SECTIONAL TITLE

NW Sectional Champs

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

OXFORD, Ind. – Expectations were high heading into the IHSAA Class 3A Girls Basketball Sectional 20 at Benton Central High School for a trio of teams. With a pair of top 10 squads and a third that was playing on its home turf which it dominated, hoops experts agreed that this was one of the better sectionals in the state.

At the same time, Northwestern fans had been talking about 2017 for years – this was the tournament that a talented crop of sophomores and freshmen would join seasoned players for a potential launch of a dynasty.

Consider the dynasty launched.

The No. 5-ranked Lady Tigers steamrolled the field by a combined score of 230-90 – including a 59-29 championship game victory to end Benton Central’s 41-game home court win streak – to claim its fifth overall sectional title and first since 2008. The title sends Northwestern to the Rensselaer Central Regional on Feb. 11.

“We knew they were a tough team; we knew about the home win streak,” said Northwestern head coach Kathie Layden. “We knew what we were coming into; we watched them play (Friday night) and we’ve been watching them on film. I just think the girls came in and executed exactly what we needed to do.”

The Tigers got off to a quick start in the championship game and never looked back. Freshman center Kendall Bostic scored two quick baskets in the paint and fellow frosh Madison Layden scored two of her own to give the Tigers an 8-2 lead. Senior Sophia Beachy forced the Bison to call its first timeout after a fast break basket to increase the lead to 12-5. Layden added two more baskets and Northwestern led 19-5 after the first eight minutes.

“We wanted to come out quick,” said Bostic. “We played well as a team and worked the ball around. We knew this was the last go-round for our seniors and they are my motivation.”

The Tigers took a 34-17 lead into halftime as sophomore Taylor Boruff took charge with eight second quarter points. The Tigers shot 57-percent in the first half and committed just four turnovers – two of those were due to a player control foul. Boruff and Bostic led the third, and despite a pair of 3-pointers from BC’s Taylor Tucker, Northwestern had increased its lead to 19 midway through the stanza and cruised to its fifth overall sectional title (2000, 2002, 2003, 2008 and 2017).

“We talked about that at halftime, that the first three minutes of the third quarter could be the difference in the game,” said Layden. “We knew they were going to come out and really get after it defensively, and we felt if we made the extra pass we could come up with some easy shots.”

The red-hot trio of Bostic, Boruff and Layden led the squad with a combined 53 points on a sizzling 24 for 33 shooting (73-percent): Bostic finished with 20 points (9 for 14), Boruff dropped in 18 (9 for 11) and Layden added 15 (6 for 8). Beachy scored four and Morgan Mercer added two points to round out the scoring. Layden led the team with eight steals, five fouls drawn, four assists and five rebounds.

“This is exciting – we have been working hard to work past sectional,” said Boruff. “I was excited coming in, but we moved the ball and they found me. We are always looking for the open teammate who has the open shot, and we did that with Kendall inside and then we were out.”

The win was also the 250th of Layden’s stellar coaching career. After winning three state championships at Tri-Central, the Howard County Sports Hall of Fame member is 68-43 in five seasons at Northwestern. She is also a member of the Taylor 1,000 Point Club.

The loss by Benton Central was its first home court defeat since Jan. 15, 2013, against the Western Lady Panthers (43-41). How rare was Northwestern’s win in the beautiful domed gym of Benton Central? Since the 2005-2006 season, the Lady Bison have dominated on its own floor with a record 113-5. The Bison reached the title game after a 47-46 win over No. 10 West Lafayette. Northwestern defeated Maconaquah (90-19) and Peru (81-42).

The Lady Tigers (21-3) will look for its first-ever regional title on Feb. 11 when they battle Gary Lighthouse College Preparatory Academy (18-6) in the opening game of the Rensselaer Central Regional at 11 a.m. Kokomo time. Andrean (14-12) plays No. 2 South Bend St. Joseph (22-2) in game two with the championship set for the that evening at 8 p.m. Kokomo time.