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FAMILY TRADITION: NORTHWESTERN’S SOPHIA BEACHY SIGNS TO PLAY SOFTBALL AT HUNTINGTON UNIVERSITY

Sophia Beachy Signing 2

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. - If there is one thing the Beachy family is known for in Howard County, it is throwing a ball around the diamond. Led by Major League Baseball pitcher Brandon, the Beachy’s are well-known in the baseball world. But that is slightly changing as younger sister Sophia has made a name for herself on the Northwestern High School softball diamond, and her hard work paid off when she signed a letter of intent to continue her career at Huntington University.

For the Beachy family, playing a college sport has become a family tradition.

“I have six siblings and four have played college baseball. I am happy to carry on the (college) legacy,” said Beachy. “I am thankful for my family and their encouragement – I could not have done this without them.”

Beachy said she enjoyed the Huntington campus as soon as she set foot on it.

“Huntington is a great school and I like the campus” said Beachy, who is undecided on her college major. “Coach (Doug) Gower is a great guy and I am excited to play for him. I am really happy (to sign before the season) because it takes some weight off my shoulders – I can just play my game.”

The four-year varsity performer said she has enjoyed her Tiger career.

“I love being around the girls and the coaches,” said the multi-positional player. “I hit a home run last year, and that was a big highlight. I like third base the most, but I will play where they want me to play.”

Northwestern head softball coach Chris Walker said his squad will miss Beachy after she graduates.

“She means a lot to the program,” he said. “She is a good leader and I can put her anywhere on the field. You can count on her getting a hit and she knows how to get the girls fired up.”

For his part, Gower said he took Beachy sight-unseen – he has yet to see her play an actual game. But her personality, athleticism and family history played a huge part in his decision to sign the Lady Tiger standout prior to her senior season.

“I have not seen her play a lot in softball, but I did see her compete in basketball,” said Gower, who has coached the Foresters for 12 years. “I have only seen her play in a couple of camps. I like her spirit – I just knew I had to have her come to Huntington. And her family’s athletic pedigree helped.”

Gower said he first met Beachy at a camp in Indianapolis and had not previously been recruiting her.

“I first met her at a camp and just happened to see her. We made a connection and I felt comfortable with her right away,” he explained. “As I got to know the Sophia and her family, it was just one of those things that I knew would work. She is very athletic and a multiple-sport athlete. Once she concentrates on softball, her growth and ceiling will be pretty high. I am looking forward to seeing her playing.”

Interestingly, Beachy could have gone to college to play softball or basketball. She was an integral part of the 2017 sectional champion Lady Tigers that advanced to the Elite Eight. She said she loved playing basketball.

“I chose softball over basketball a while ago – I don’t know why; it just came to me. I like softball a lot,” she said. “I started varsity (basketball) as a freshman. It was a big change going from middle school to varsity, and now it is over. It went by so fast – but I had fun.”

Northwestern finished the basketball season 22-4, falling in the regional championship game to eventual Class 3A state champion South Bend St. Joseph.

“It was a fun season,” she said. “The freshmen really helped and were a big part of the team. I was excited (to win sectional) to go far, but I would have loved to have gone farther.”

But basketball is now in the rear-view mirror and it is softball full-time moving forward. And that suits Sophia Beachy just fine; after all, tossing a ball is a family tradition.

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.