RPI: Special Girls Sectional Preview Edition
With the playoffs kicking off, it seemed fitting to release a special sectional edition of the RPI for girls basketball. Here are the five most intriguing sectional matchups with local interest.
4A Terre Haute South, Sectional 12
Terre Haute South hosts Sectional 12 this year, and the Braves look to be one of the major contenders. The Braves are 14-7 on the year, and coach Cara Stuckey has her team playing well at the right time. South has won four of their last five including a 30-point blowout of Carmel and an overtime win over cross-town rival Terre Haute North. The only loss in that time-frame came to fellow sectional contender Mooresville: a game in which the Braves turned it over entirely too much and still only lost by two. With Tasia Brewer and Emily Bell, along with the scoring spark Labrea Joyner has brought to the table: lookout. Brewer is shooting better than 60% from inside the arc. She’s incredibly athletic and getting better every day. With the draw they got, I can’t see the Braves bowing out before Saturday night.
The other side of the bracket is more interesting as 16-4 Mooresville awaits the winner between Terre Haute North and Martinsville. I like the Patriots to win their first game. Nicole Anderson is a tough player. She is headed to Miami of Ohio to play at the next level and can do it all. She averages more than 14 points and six rebounds per game. Defenses will key on Anderson, but the Patriots have more talent with Adrienne Pritchard on the interior and guard Layne Curley. Pritchard averages nearly ten points and nine rebounds per game while Curley also scores nearly ten per contest. Curley has the ability to take over a game before you realize it if people are paying too much attention to Anderson. Senior Lindsay Clark only averages four points per game, but shows ability to score with a nice mid-range jumper. If the Patriots make a deep run, I’m guessing Clark out-produces her average.
I like North to upset Mooresville in the semis and give Terre Haute a North-South Sectional Championship at THS. That’s when the tough draw catches up to the Patriots; they run out of gas in the fourth quarter and once again Brewer proves to be the X-factor. The Braves win the sectional on their home court.
Pick: Terre Haute South
3A Brown County, Sectional 28
At 15-6, Owen Valley seems to be the darlings of the Brown County Sectional with a record that seems surprising, considering they only managed nine wins last season. The Patriots have a rivalry game Tuesday night in the opening round against Edgewood. The Mustangs are led by Vanessa Brown, a 5’10” scorer than can do it all. Brown can light you up from outside and is one of the best players in the sectional.
Awaiting the winner of that one is Evansville commit Sasha Robinson and Brown County. The six-foot-tall post player has been on a tear lately and clearly creates matchup problems for other teams in the sectional. Five-foot four-inch point guard Alicia Wilson leads Owen Valley. She dictates an offense that features many high screens, pick and rolls, back doors, and weave action sets. Just a junior, Wilson is averaging 18 points per game to go along with more than five assists and six steals per contest. The pesky guard is getting looks from several Division II schools.
For the Patriots to win the sectional, six-foot-tall center Megan Eldridge needs to play well. The schools career leader in blocked shots could go a long way to neutralize Robinson in a potential matchup with Brown County. Shelden Williams averages nine points per game and is the team’s best three-point shooter. If she’s making shots, that gives Wilson even more room to maneuver and makes the Patriots really tough to beat.
It will be interesting to see how much the Patriots can get out of a third scoring threat, Hannah Corder, who’s coming back from a broken nose the last game of the season. She’ll be in a mask Tuesday night, but she’ll be suited up.
Owen Valley beat every team in the sectional during the regular season, though most of those games were very tight. They have a tough road to go with Edgewood and Brown County out of the gate, but I like the best point guard in the sectional to prevail in tight ball games. The Patriots dream season continues at least another week.
Pick: Owen Valley
2A Sullivan, Sectional 47
The unique seven-team sectional at Sullivan features all seven teams from the Wabash Valley. North Central gets the ticket to the semis with a bye, while the other six schools have to play their way there.
At 19-2, the Sullivan Lady Arrows come in as the heavy favorite, but North Knox looms on the other side of the bracket with upset plans of their own. They return all five starters that lost to Sullivan in the sectional finals last season. Junior Maria Gugliotta leads the way for Steve Meurer’s squad. Gugliotta is averaging more than 15 points and ten rebounds per game. She’s turned it up a notch since Christmas averaging more than 20 points per game since the holiday. Sullivan is ranked 3rd in the state in Class 2A. The Arrows have their eyes on a trip to the Hulman Center and have good reason to be optimistic. Indiana State recruit Rhagen Smith is one of the most dominant players in the area. With opposing defenses keying on her all season, Smith still has managed 22 points and ten rebounds per game in her senior season. She’s tough as nails on the block, and makes nearly 80% of her free throws when teams send her to the line.
Four other senior contributors, including point guard Caelen Jones, flank Smith. Jones has a tremendous basketball IQ, and Julie Meeks offense runs through Jones at the point. She scores 12 points per game along with more than four assists and four steals per contest. Cobie Harrison, Jaleigh Gilham, and Sydney Chapman all play their roles to perfection making the Arrows look like an unstoppable force. This team scores more than 60 points per game, but hang their hat on defense. The Lady Arrows are giving up only 32 points per game.
Any team with this much talent, that plays defense like the Lady Arrows are going to get my pick not only to win the sectional, but also to advance deep in the tournament. I think Sports 10 could have Rhagen Smith highlights from the Hulman Center before she ever puts on an Indiana State uniform.
1A North Vermillion, Sectional 53
Aside from a hospitality room stocked with some of the best pulled pork you’ll ever run across, the basketball at Sectional 53 this year should be outstanding. Two of the top seven teams in Class A start their tournament runs at North Vermillion High School. Sixth-ranked Riverton Parke and 7th ranked North Vermillion are on opposite sides of the bracket so we should have a showdown for the championship on Saturday night.
The draw really intrigues me in this one. Riverton Parke will have to play twice to make the finals, but probably has an easier road to the championship, opening with 2-14 Turkey Run then playing 8-12 Rockville. On the other hand, the Falcons get a bye, but will likely play a tough 14-6 Attica squad in the semis. I like North Vermillion to win that one setting up another re-match with Riverton Parke in the finals. These teams are quite familiar with one another, splitting two games already this season. The Falcons are 21-2, while the Panthers are 17-3.
The best player in this sectional leads Riverton Parke, and depending on who you’re asking, she could be the best player in the Wabash Valley. Evansville bound Sarah Dickey averages 24 points per game and does it in every way you could imagine. She’s great from beyond the arc, she converts layups off turnovers, and she can beat you off the dribble and drop buckets in traffic. Dickey is truly exceptional, but she’s not a one trick act. Paige Yando scores 17 a game while pulling down 8 boards, and consistent point guard Makenzie Pollard leads the team in assists and steals per game while running the crisp, aggressive Panthers attack.
If this game turns into a track meet, it certainly favors Riverton Parke. North Vermillion counters with a combination of balance, size, and terrific defensive presence. Coach Naylor’s Falcons didn’t win 21 games this season by accident. For the Falcons to win, Darby Martin has to have a big game on the interior. She’s averaged double figures in the rebounding column the past two seasons and provides a mismatch inside against the Panthers. Taylor Turchi is kind of a do it all point guard who can get in the lane and make open shots from the outside. Seniors Kylee Karr and Mikayla Kinneer are also versatile scorers who knock down open looks, but can also be effective in the post depending on the look the defense gives them.
To beat a team like Riverton Parke who brings back most of their team that went to semi-state last year, an unsung hero has to show up. This year that unsung hero might be freshman Rhiannon Grubbs. Grubbs can flat out shoot it from three. If she’s left open, she’ll bury it. If Grubbs gets a couple to go early, that might put some pressure on Riverton Parke.
At the end of the day North Vermillion is too good not to win a sectional, but I’m afraid with the draw they got, it might not happen. This Riverton Parke team has been playing together for a long time. They have postseason experience from last year’s deep run, and they’re playing for something bigger. Assistant Coach Sarah Norton continues to battle breast cancer, and scheduled surgery so she wouldn’t have to miss sectional games. That is a perfect representation of the heart and dedication of this Panthers team. North Vermillion is really, really good; but stars win championships and Sarah Dickey is a flat out star. This is the first of many trophies the Panthers chalk up for Norton.
Pick: Riverton Parke
1A Barr-Reeve, Sectional 63
The Barr-Reeve sectional features three of the top 15 teams in the state in Class A. Vincennes Rivet leads the charge ranked 4th in the state. The Lady Patriots also got a fantastic draw receiving a bye, and sitting on the opposite side of the bracket from the Vikings and Cougars. Tim Young is no stranger to success, bringing home a state championship in 2011 with a 28-0 squad.
This year’s team hasn’t been quite that dominant. At 17-4 they have been beatable at times. Young plays ten players and has four that average double figures. Allyson Wehrheim can fill it up and Bailey Dreiman is a fantastic point guard who played a significant role on that championship team as a freshman. Junior Lauren Herman and Freshman Kelsey Ivers also average double figures for Rivet.
North Daviess squares off with the hosts on Tuesday night. Both teams come in at 16-4 and this is truly anyone’s ball game. North Daviess can dominate you on the defensive end. They are second in the state in defensive average, giving up just 29.4 points per game. Sometimes the Cougars have a little bit of trouble on the offensive end. They only average 40 points per-game; so tremendous defense is the key to success.
The Cougars have capable scorers. Sabra Smith and Meghan Knepp both average 12 points per game, while Larynda Keith averages six assists per game. This team has tremendous heart and truly believes they can beat anyone. It’s worked so far this season for the Cougars seeing they’ve won 80% of the games they’ve played.
North Daviess opens against a Barr-Reeve team that has battled injury woes all season and still managed to go 16-4. They have been missing at least one starter in 11 games this season. They have one of the best players in the sectional with Junior guard Jenna Knepp. She can be a game changer averaging 15 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists per game. You won’t find a player that fills up the box score much more than Knepp.
Head Coach Mark Holt said, “If we can finally get healthy, and that is still a big if, we feel we can still contend for the sectional championship.” With the typical home court atmosphere that Barr-Reeve provides, I tend to agree with Coach Holt. Knepp leads the Vikings to a sectional title over two very tough teams.
Good Luck to all of the teams playing to continue their season starting Tuesday night. Hopefully we’ll see some of these teams playing for all the marbles at the Hulman Center on March 2nd. Until then, I’ll see you at the game.