Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for with the two 4A sectionals relevant to the 260! With these two sectionals, it’s anyone’s guess to how things will turn out. But there’s one thing that we can all agree: these two sectionals will be extremely entertaining.
Last week saw Columbia City, Northrop, Snider, Carroll, and Homestead getting an early taste of postseason basketball. Now it’s time to play the games that matter the most: postseason basketball.
Again, to have dreams of state, you first have to win sectionals. These two sectionals consist of top-heavy talent and elite basketball IQ! Let’s discuss the DeKalb and Huntington North Sectionals!
4A 6 @ Huntington North
#6 21-1 Columbia City
18-4 Huntington North
#12 16-5 Homestead
2-17 South Side
2-18 New Haven
Columbia City 65.5
Huntington North 48.8
New Haven 32.3
South Side 32.3
Huntington North 31
Columbia City 42
New Haven 55.8
South Side 63.5
Players to Watch
- Molly Baker Junior Power Forward/Center Columbia City
- Addison Baxter Sophomore Combo Guard Columbia City
- Justice Billingsley Senior Shooting Guard South Side
- Emilia Diaz Senior Combo Guard Wayne
- Taylor Double Senior Combo Guard Huntington North
- Myah Epps Freshman Combo Guard Homestead
- Grace Fields Junior Combo Guard Huntington North
- Faith Frey Junior Shooting Guard Columbia City
- Sydney Gorman Junior Combo Guard Wayne
- Gabby Helsom Freshman Shooting Guard Homestead
- Aniah Hill Senior Combo Guard Wayne
- Janiya Johnson Junior Combo Guard New Haven
- Shabrea O’Quinn Senior Power Forward Wayne
- Kyndra Sheets Junior Combo Guard Columbia City
- Ali Stephens Senior Combo Forward Homestead
- Molly Stock Senior Combo Guard Homestead
- Marissa Trout Sophomore Guard/Forward Huntington North
- Tessa Tonkel Junior Combo Guard Columbia City
Tonight, we will see easily the most anticipated first round game of the entire state tournament between Columbia City and Homestead….we’ve waited a full year to see this rematch play out once again!
Columbia City enters this sectional at 21-1, winning their first outright conference title in 27 years, and knocking off Northrop last week 73-69. Now, can the Eagles rise to the occasion and overcome their postseason demons? Columbia City enters this year’s sectional with postseason losses in 6 of their last 8 games, and haven’t won a sectional title since going to the 3A state finals in 2000. It’s been 23 years.
The talent at Columbia City is unreal with at least 3 kids averaging more than 13 points per game led by Addison Baxter’s 18.9 points per game. Addison Baxter is clearly seen as one of the best players in the state in her class as a playmaking, dual-threat player. Kyndra Sheets is one of the best pure shooters in the area, Molly Baker plays so hard and physical in the paint, Faith Frey is starting to get hot from 3, and the Tonkel Girls make high-level IQ plays.
But Homestead has been a team that has owned the Eagles over the last 3 years, and haven’t lost to Columbia City in postseason play since way back in 1991. The last time these two met, Tessa Tonkel dropped 15 points in that game, and she’s coming off a 7-assist game against New Haven.
Homestead has a tremendous mix of size and talent. Molly Stock is a very strong shooter that understands her role and always calm in the moments. Myah Epps is an emerging superstar as a playmaking machine that has the wingspan to play in many situations. Ali Stephens is as strong as an ox..If you’re not mentally tough enough, she’s going to make your life miserable. That’s why Omaha loves Ali Stephens’ game…it’s more than the shooting. It’s the heart she brings
Gabby Helsom’s length and shooting touch can give some problems for opposing defenses, and these depth pieces that don’t get a lot of attention, it makes for a very nice all-around Homestead team. Yes, they’re not the usual super-dominant state title contending Spartans, but they’re definitely not a pushover…not at the slightest.
Even if you have this game, Huntington North and Wayne are no pushovers. Wayne is having their most successful season in over a quarter of a century led by a special senior class. The Vikings are always right there for the taking led by Marian University signee and recent 1,000 point scorer Taylor Double who’s a stat-filling superstar that thrives as a player that shares the basketball to her teammates. Teams better find a way to slow down Marissa Trout this playoffs because she can do some damage!
New Haven-South Side isn’t the most exciting game on paper, but Justice Billingsley did drop 44 points the last time these two met.
This could be a hot take for some, and not so for others. Either way this is a lose-lose because this sectional is so awesome on paper with a bunch of talent. I’m going to take Columbia City in a dog fight.
South Side over New Haven
Columbia City over Homestead
Huntington North over South Side
Columbia City over Wayne
Columbia City over Huntington North
4A 5 @ DeKalb
#8 Northrop 19-3
#10 Snider 18-4
North Side 7-15
East Noble 5-17
North Side 37
East Noble 36.3
North Side 51.8
East Noble 54.9
Players to Watch
- Lexi Castator Junior Point Guard Northrop
- Lillie Cone Senior Shooting Guard DeKalb
- Ashley Cox Sophomore Combo Guard
- Delaney Cox Senior Guard/Forward DeKalb
- Nae Nae Donahue Junior Shooting Guard Snider
- Taylor Fordyce Senior Combo Guard Carroll
- Lilly George Freshman Center Carroll
- Kayla Gibbs Senior Combo Guard Carroll
- Neveah Jackson Senior Combo Guard Northrop
- Saniya Jackson Senior Combo Forward Northrop
- Brooklyn McLemore Senior Center Northrop
- Jersey Paul Sophomore Combo Guard Carroll
- Riley Pepple Junior Shooting Guard Northrop
- Tia Phinezy Junior Guard Snider
- Jordyn Poole Junior Combo Guard Snider
- Swynn Jackson Freshman Combo Guard Northrop
- Payton Quake Junior Combo Forward East Noble
- Bree Walmsley Senior Combo Guard East Noble
- Kaleah Williams Sophomore Combo Guard North Side
This is a sectional that’s top-heavy, but those 3 elite teams are so, so good on paper. It’s a sectional filled with big-time studs making big-time plays.
Starting off with Northrop, and when these Bruins play basketball, the Jackson 4 are ready to put on a show. Neveah and Saniya Jackson, the Valparaiso signees, combine for 29.2 points, 12 boards, 3.5 assists, 3.5 steals, and 1.8 blocks per game as position less players with tremendous poise and college ready skill. McLemore is averaging 11.1 points and 7.9 boards, and that has stepped up in recent weeks.
This is a team that plays 8-9 players deep this season, and what’s remarkable is they’ve spent the entire second half of the season without their 3rd best player in Destiny Craig, who I know is devastated she’s not playing right now. Seriously, the 260 is rooting for Craig to have a strong, speedy recovery so she can have a great senior season next year.
When Northrop is on fire, their length and athleticism is impeccable, and hopefully their first SAC championship since 1986 is the confidence they need for postseason basketball. Two other SAC teams will be right there to try to knock off Northrop.
One of them is Carroll, their first round opponent. The Chargers have had an up-and down regular season (please note they were originally 14-7). That being said, this is a team capable of beating anyone in the playoffs because they have amazing guard play, they attack the basket hard with pace and persistence, and they have the right mix of talent, skill, and size to compete with Northrop.
With Carroll, it starts and ends with their guards: Kayla Gibbs, Taylor Fordyce, and Jersey Paul. The future Saint Francis Cougar, Taylor Fordyce is averaging 14.9 points, 4.8 boards, and 2.9 assists per game on 47% shooting and 38% from 3! She’s a sniper that can facilitate and have the awareness to go the net when needed. Fordyce recently eclipsed the 1,000apoint mark. Kayla Gibbs is averaging 14.5 points, 5 boards, 2.3 assists, and 2.7 steals per game on 46% shooting and 39% from 3. While Gibbs is an emerging shooter that’ll only get better with age, she’s an absolute bulldog on defense and an incredibly smart basketball player.
Jersey Paul aka JP3 averages 10 points, 2.7 assists, and 1.7 steals per game on 35% shooting from 3. The x-factor here, especially with Northrop is their freshmen led by Lilly George. George averages 8.5 points and 5.6 boards per game on 54% shooting.
But one team that many should take noticed is the red-hot Snider Panthers, who are the defending sectional champions. Since November 19, Snider is 16-1 with their lone loss coming in a 79-70 loss at Northrop. Jordyn Poole is seen as one of the most talented guards in the entire nation averaging 15.8 points, 4.1 assists, and 3.1 steals on 49% shooting and 43% from 3! Nae Nae Donahue is having a great season for the ages averaging 12.4 points, 4.3 assists, 4.6 boards, and a whopping 5.8 steals per game on 50% shooting and 31% from 3. Don’t forget Tia Phinezy averages 6.8 boards and 3.8 blocks for the athletically gifted Panthers.
If Snider and Northrop were to meet for a sectional title Saturday, keep in mind that in their first meeting, Snider shot 71% from the floor and 62% from 3! Is that sustainable again against Northrop?? That is up to you to decided. But where Northrop won that game was their +12 in assists (19-7) and +8 in rebounds (33-25) which included 16 offensive boards.
Keep an eye on DeKalb with the likes of Ashley Cox, Lillie Cone, and Delaney Cox. While Snider is clearly the superior team if these two do manage to meet Friday, DeKalb’s a very underrated perimeter shooting team. The issue is if they can’t make their shots, Snider is so athletically stronger inside that DeKalb will get overwhelmed with their intensity and speed.
I’m so torn on this one because this can absolutely go in either direction. If Northrop is going to win this sectional, their defense must crank up the heat this week like it did against Homestead, and they have to take better care of the basketball. If Northrop can maintain their identity of being ferocious in the paint and play stronger defense, Northrop has a chance….it’s so hard picking against Snider though because they’ve been looking very strong lately.
That being said…I’ll take Northrop to win their first sectional since 2009.
DeKalb over North Side
Northrop over Carroll
Snider over DeKalb
Northrop over East Noble
Northrop over Snider