INDIANAPOLIS – While the Northwestern Lady Tigers were celebrating its second consecutive IHSAA Class 3A state championship following a 61-39 win over Benton Central, two people were carefully missing the huge celebration on the court – Todd and Pam Miller. As the final seconds of the game were winding down, IHSAA and school officials quietly brought them down to the floor and hid them near the tunnel so they could be on the court when it was announced that their daughter, Lady Tigers senior Allison Miller, had been named the Patricia L. Roy Mental Attitude Award winner for Class 3A girls basketball.

The Award is named in honor of the former IHSAA assistant commissioner Patricia L. Roy, who oversaw the girls basketball state tournament from its inception in 1976 until her retirement in 1999. Last year, Northwestern’s Sarah Vas earned the Class 3A award.

Miller, a team captain and four-year letter-winner for Northwestern, helped lead the Lady Tigers to a four-year record of 92-17 while winning two conference, three sectionals, two regionals, two semi-states and a pair of state championships. She was also a member of the sectional championship girls tennis team last spring. During her career, she was named All-Hoosier Conference in tennis and golf while earning a starting position on the basketball team.

“This means a lot to me,” said Miller. “Our team has played together since the fourth or fifth grade, and we have created great memories. This award says a lot about our team and school, both athletically and academically. This is amazing, and this group of girls – it is something I will remember forever.”

Miller is ranked No. 4 in her class of 127 and plans to study landscape architecture at Purdue University. Academically, she has twice been named the Northwestern Student of the Month. Outside of athletics, Allison is an active member for her school and her community. She is a member of the Leadership Team for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the FCA Refuge. In her community she is a member of 4-H, as well as her Youth Group at Crossroads Church. Miller has volunteered at the Special Needs Prom, the Crossroads Church, the Kokomo Rescue Mission as well as helping with Fiesta Friday for Northwestern.

“I could not be happier or more proud of Allison,” said Northwestern head coach Kathie Layden. “She is a three-sport athlete and has the great success in other sports. She works hard in the classroom and is a great role model.”

The Indiana Fever and Indiana Pacers, the presenting sponsor of the IHSAA Girls Basketball State Tournament, presented a $1,000 scholarship to Northwestern High School in the name of Allison Miller. Since 1989, more than $840,000 in college scholarships have been presented to deserving high school athletes in Indiana.

Story by IHSAA and Sports Journal staff

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INDIANAPOLIS – One year after claiming the IHSAA Class 3A state championship, the Northwestern Lady Tigers returned to Bankers Life Fieldhouse and became just the second Howard County team to win back-to-back state titles in girls basketball. For the second consecutive year, they did it in convincing fashion as top-ranked Northwestern cruised to a 61-39 win over No. 7 Benton Central.

And the 22-point margin of victory could have been much worse.

“I am so happy for these girls and what they’ve been able to accomplish in the last two years and even just this season,” said Northwestern head coach Kathie Layden. “We were just talking about coming out this year and being the Hall of Fame Classic champs and then finishing off the season as state champs, being ranked No. 1 for two years in a row. That’s not easy to do. They’ve had a target on their back and they performed.”

The Lady Tigers utilized its familiar defensive pressure to jump to an early lead. Benton Central – a fellow Hoosier Conference member – won the opening tip but committed a player control foul five seconds into the game. Junior Kendall Bostic then scored on the other end in what would become the game of her life.

After a Lady Bison score to tie the game at two, Bostic blocked a shot and scored off the break. She then stole a pass that Allison Miller converted for a bucket. Then Madison Layden stole a pass and ran the break for a 10-3 lead, which forced a Lady Bison timeout midway through the first quarter.

“We have the personnel to be able to pressure the ball and we wanted to stop penetration from their guards,” said Layden of the Lady Tigers defense. “I thought the girls did a good job of that, and our communication was good.”

After a slew of missed shots on both ends, Bostic took a pass from Layden and scored in the paint for a 12-3 lead with 1:55 left in the first stanza. Eleven seconds later, Klair Merrell found Bostic open for two, then Neher zipped a pass to Bostic followed by a second Merrell to Bostic score – and just like that, the Lady Tigers led 18-9 after one quarter with Benton Central committing 10 turnovers. Bostic hit 6 of 9 shots for 12 points and had three steals in the first eight minutes.

“My teammates gave me great passes and that allowed me to score,” said Bostic, who tied Class 3A championship game records with 15 rebounds and seven steals. “Rebounds are important to our transition offense.”

From there, the Lady Tigers (27-3) put on a clinic of passing, rebounding, defense and shooting. After starting the game 4 for 15 shooting, Northwestern hit 15 of its final 28 shots and forced another 14 turnovers over the course of the final three stanzas. The Lady Tigers held Benton Central to four second quarter points and led 29-13 at the break – Bostic had 16 of those points, hitting 8 of 11 field goal attempts.

The second half was much like the first, and Bostic had a double-double of 20 points and 12 rebounds midway through the third quarter. The 6-foot-1 center seemed unstoppable – thanks in part to the floor leadership of Layden, the sharp passing of Merrell and stout defense from the rest of the team. And if Benton Central had any thoughts of figuring out a way to stop Bostic, it went out the window when she calmly canned a 3-pointer with nine seconds left in the third quarter to stretch the lead to 45-22.

“I didn’t realize that was a 3-pointer until everyone started laughing,” Bostic said of her third triple of the season. Her teammates then started laughing again as they sat at the press conference table.

“They just throw it over the top and she catches it,” said Benton Central head coach David Baxter of Bostic. “She does a great job of keeping the ball high. We can’t defend that any better. Kudo’s to them; there just wasn’t much more we could do.”

The lead went to 30 late in the game, thanks to Layden hitting seven fourth quarter free throws. That allowed an early bench celebration as the starting five left the floor to enjoy its second dominating state finals.

Despite hitting just one 3-pointer, Layden finished with 19 points and tied the Class 3A title game record with 10 made free throws. The 2020 Miss Basketball candidate also had five steals, three assists and two steals.

Bostic earned the Sports Journal/Coca-Cola Bottling of Kokomo Player of the Game honors for her spectacular numbers of 25 points, 15 rebounds, seven steals, six blocked shots and two assists. The following day, she was named the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association Player of the Week for District 2 for the second time this season.

“Kendall does exactly what is needed for us to win every game,” said Layden. “Tonight, she did a fantastic job on defense. Then on the offensive side, she had two or three girls on her every time and she shot under pressure without hesitation. She works hard whether she is scoring five or 25 points – she just wants to win.”

Merrell finished with five assists, Katie Neher – who graced the cover of the State Finals program – had five points and two steals, Miller added four points and a pair of assists and Ellie Boyer came off the bench to score three points.

“The staple of our team is we are constantly looking for the best shot. We talk a lot about the assist, but there is also the assist to the assist that happens a lot on our team,” said Layden, whose squad will move to Class 4A next season due to the IHSAA success factor formula. “We have players on our team who I know could score more points or take more shots. For us, it is all about winning and we absolutely would not be here without our entire team and the way they play together.”

Benton Central (26-5) was led by the 11 points and six rebounds from Audrey Strawsma.

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


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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