After one of the most competitive seasons in recent memory, the girls’ basketball postseason begins Tuesday night.
Barr-Reeve, North Daviess, Washington Catholic and Loogootee are all trying to dethrone defending sectional champion Vincennes Rivet at Loogootee, while Washington is attempting to win its first sectional since 2004 at Vincennes Lincoln.
Class 3A Sectional 31 Washington-Pike Central
No. 10 Washington (16-3) enter the final game of the regular season today against Evansville Harrison. The Hatchets have netted their most wins in a season since winning their last sectional championship in 2004, when they compiled an 18-6 record.
Ally Hunsinger has led the Washington offense all season and along with fellow senior Audra Stallman and Cheyenne Jones, the Hatchets have a formidale front line capable of competing with anyone.
“The kids have done a great job throughout the season, using each game as a building block to get ready for tournament play,” said Washington coach Gretchen Miles. “I think the tight game situations that we have been in throughout the year (against very good competition) will help us when it comes to tournament time. Every coach will tell you that every team is back at 0-0 and what you did during the season doesn’t matter. On each game night, you have to be the best team on the floor.”
In the first game of the Vincennes Lincoln sectional Tuesday, the host Alices’ will play Heritage Hills at 7 p.m. and the winner will play Mitchell, Friday at 6 p.m. in the semifinals. Wednesday at 6 p.m., Southridge (12-5) plays Jasper and the winner will face the victor of the Washington-Pike Central game. Washington has lost to Jasper (11-8) in three of the last four sectional’s, including in last year’s first round, 47-46. One advantage the Hatchets have this year is that they have beaten every team in the sectional field, except for Southridge, who they did not play.
Washington defeated Vincennes Lincoln, Nov. 26 (46-34), Jasper, Dec. 17 (50-45), Heritage Hills, Dec. 27 (61-47) and Pike Central, Jan. 9 (58-19).
“I think when you take a look at the field, it is very competitive,” Miles said. “I think as the first round goes, the toughest game would be Jasper and Southridge, because I think that was a two-point win for Southridge early in the year. The thing about Pike Central (3-18) is while their its record doesn’t show it, they play a tough schedule and when we played them early on in the year, we played them on a Thursday and they didn’t practice the entire week because of bad weather. No matter what the score was during the year, you have to prepare for every team the same way.”
Washington is hoping to have as close to a clean bill of health. Lupe Perez, Carrie Lane and Shawna Webb were out of the lineup Saturday on Senior Night in the Hatchets’ 40-34 loss to North Knox. Miles is hopeful two of the three will be back to face Pike Central.
“Carrie (Lane) has a contusion on her forearm, which is a deep bone bruise, but she will be out this week and hopefully get her back in the swing of things on Saturday,” Miles said. “Lupe (Perez) is doing a lot of strength training and therapy with her ankle this week. Hopefully she’ll be back in the swing of things again Saturday or Monday. Both are projected to be ready when it comes to sectional time. Shawna (Webb) has a concussion and of course, you have to go through the school protocol with the trainer, give her the impact test and go through different drills in different situations and there are so many other things to get off the checklist first. We want to make sure she is completely OK.”
Class A Sectional 63
Year in and year out, sectional 63 is one of the most talented and competitive in Southwestern Indiana, if not the entire state of Indiana. The action will tip off with Shoals-Washington Catholic on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Jack Butcher Arena. The first game matches up two teams that have had rough seasons, but with the postseason starting, optimism is renewed. Shoals (3-14) defeated Washington Catholic (2-16) Jan. 11, 57-41. The winner faces Vincennes Rivet.
“We have learned a couple of things since the first game,” said Washington Catholic coach Michael Hopkins. “We have to get back on defense. They have a lot of early shots and leaked out on us in transition. We have to do a better job of everyone knowing their roles. Our second quarter, we got in some serious foul trouble and (Elizabeth) Perkins had to come out. We had people trying to break the press in the wrong positions. A lot of that is my fault for not putting people in the right position. We have tweaked our press breaker and that’s the biggest issue right there, because that’s where the game got away from us.”
Hopkins said his team needs to focus on doing what they need to know how to control Tuesday night. Keeping their confidence is paramount to success in the second game against Shoals, according to Hopkins. The Cardinals will greatly depend on their two primary scorers in seniors Elizabeth Perkins and Mary Anne Wichman to keep WC in the game.
“That is huge for a lot of teams like use that don’t have a lot of experience,” Hopkins said. “We talk about that quite a bit — I try to tell them to not let one mistake become two, become four, become eight. We have had that several times this year where things are fine and then one mistake, and is our implosion. I think we are getting better and we are very young in this regard, we’re getting better at trying to shake it off.”
In the second game Tuesday night, host Loogootee (3-18) will play rival Barr-Reeve (15-3) for the opportunity to face North Daviess (16-3) in the semifinals. The two teams met Dec. 27 and the Vikings came away with a 57-27 victory in front of their home fans at Kavanaugh Kourt.
The Lions will be playing a tough team in the No. 6 Vikings, but Barr-Reeve is coming off two straight losses to stiff competition in North Knox (48-29) and Vincennes Rivet (50-43).
“Our record isn’t really indicative of the growth that we have made in some areas that we want to improve on,” said Loogootee coach Chad Wade. “There have been a few games that the score indicated that we may not have finished the way we would have liked, but for the most part our kids are still playing hard and trying to come together to do the right things to have some success.”
The Lions are led by senior forward Christina Ziegler, but she will have her hands full against a front line for Barr-Reeve that includes senior Tracy Graber. Wade said that the first game was difficult, but his team has grown a lot since their late December game.
“If you look back at the first game, we were tied I believe after the first quarter and in the second quarter we had some turnover issues that ultimately hurt ourselves,” Wade said. “We got a little down on ourselves and stopped competing a little bit. We have been trying to get our girls that understand that the game is 32-minutes long and that’s what we need to understand if we’re going to be successful with as young as we are.”
Barr-Reeve didn’t get the most favorable match up possible as it faces the host school Tuesday night and if it wants to get through Saturday night and win a sectional championship, it will have to defeat the other two sectional favorites in North Daviess and Vincennes Rivet.
“It’s a tough draw, but I think we’ll have some pretty good momentum by Saturday night if we can get there,” said Barr-Reeve coach Mark Holt.
The nature of the sectional is that one team will be more comfortable on the floor than the others and the Vikings did not play at Jack Butcher Arena this year. Holt said in terms of game planning, his team has to focus on the task at hand and not worry about a sectional rematch from last year’s two-point win over the Cougars.
“Getting to play there Tuesday night and get our feet wet and if we play well and are fortunate enough to advance, you have a game on that floor and you already have those sectional jitters out when you head into Friday night,” Holt said. “North Daviess has to sit around and wait a week, but if North Daviess wants to they can sit around and just prepare for Barr-Reeve, while we have to worry about Loogootee before we can even think about North Daviess.”
As usual, Barr-Reeve’s offensive production starts at the top with Jenna Knepp. The senior guard can score rebound and find her teammates for easy baskets as well as any guard in the area. Teaming Knepp in the back court with Hannah Bullock and Olivia Carroll and Graber and Tiara Kenney on the front line has made the Vikings a fearful match up for any coach.
The Cougars (16-3) experience in last year’s sectional tournament was short and bittersweet. North Daviess played about as well as it possibly could offensively, but the Cougars weren’t able to pull out a victory against Barr-Reeve at Kavanaugh Kourt in the first round game. Then juniors Meghan Knepp and Sabra Smith combined to hit 10 3-pointers and 46 points in the 52-50 loss. North Daviess coach Ron Knepp said his team is looking forward to a possible rematch Friday night with Barr-Reeve.
“Barr-Reeve is a quality team, they play well no matter whether they are home or away,” Knepp said. “If you can’t get up to play Barr-Reeve, you don’t have a pulse. It is a huge rivalry for Barr-Reeve and for us. I don’t care if we would be playing checkers with Barr-Reeve, it would be a battle to see who would win. Our kids remember last year and they refer to it as a burning fury in their stomach. They are very vocal with the younger kids and that game is still on their minds and they still feel they could have had a possession or two go differently and won that game.”
North Daviess has won eight of its last nine games and have allowed just 29.8 points per game, which is second in the state. The Cougars depend on Knepp and Smith for scoring, but also on forwards Taylor Mallett and Brooke Moore. Abby Cecil replaced Makayla Spears as the starting point guard and seniors Abby Hollis and Maggie Swartzentruber come off the bench to give the Cougars a formidable attack.
“We are improving from game to game,” Knepp said. “I think we have a lot of kids that are gaining a lot of confidence at the right time. We have really tried to emphasize that we are not a two person team. We have to be a full unit, we have to be five strong. Those five players on the court need to be able to score the basketball at any given time. We have had players step up and prove that they are capable of making shots. Sabra (Smith) and Meghan (Knepp) don’t have to carry the full load. They have a lot of help with them.”