Regionals have a different look to them this year compared to what we have seen in years past. The same 4 sectionals are all heading to Marion this weekend just like last year but this season there are two different regional championships going on the same day at Marion. This is happening because the IHSAA now has made regionals just one game and semi-state two games. Meaning that two local area teams are heading down to Marion on Saturday to play for a regional title. The Homestead Spartans and Snider Panthers.
Homestead vs Fishers
Fishers Season Overview: The Tigers have had a fantastic season this year as they have not lost since November. In fact, their last loss which was on November 26th is a team the Spartans are very familiar with, the Snider Panthers. The Tigers were also able to win a conference championship this season in the Hoosier Crossroads Conference. They also played in and won the undoubtedly best sectional in the state that featured four of the eight highest-rated teams in Indiana according to Sagarin Ratings. In that sectional, they were truly put to the test beating Noblesville in double overtime which they followed up with a sectional title the next day as they controlled Hamilton Southeastern.
Homestead Season Overview: The Spartans have also had a great season just not quite as dominant as the Tigers. They sit at 19-5 and they have already avenged one of those losses as they beat Huntington North in their sectional title game. Noblesville is the only opponent that was truly able to pull away from the Spartans this season as the Millers won that game by 12 points. In their other losses, Homestead fell in overtime twice, to Northrop by three, and to George Rogers Clark from Kentucky by six. The Spartan’s biggest challenge in sectionals was put on them right away as they faced Columbia City in the Tuesday night game in which they narrowly snuck out with a 46-45 win.
Key Tigers: Fishers is one of the more balanced teams in the state with five players scoring at least 7 points and no one averaging more than 12 a game so it makes it difficult to pick out a certain key player with so many options that have shown their capabilities to step up in big moments. But overall you have to figure out the Smith twins, Hailey and Olivia are going to be big in this one. Hailey averages 11.6 points a game along with 6.8 rebounds. She has scored 15 points or more 9 times this season including one 25-point performance. She had also gotten to double-digit rebounds 4 times this year. As for Olivia, she averages 10.9 points, 4 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.8 steals a game. She had reached double-digit points in 17 games this year. In fact, there has not been a single game all year where either Hailey or Olivia scored at least 9 points. So production can be expected from at least one of them but in order to knock off Homestead they both will have to have big nights.
Key Spartans: Obviously for Homestead, their two leading scorers Ali Stephens and Myah Epps will need to play at the level they have all year to be able to try and get a regional title but with the consistency, they have shown all year and the performances they have put on when it has mattered most creates the expectation that their production will be there. The bigger question for the Spartans is truly the entire supporting cast and what they are able to do. For example, in the sectional championship game, the Spartans were able to just bury a very solid Huntington North team because it seemed everyone was playing at a high level with 7 different scorers getting at least 5 points. When the threes are falling for Molly Stock and Evie Bottoms like they were against the Vikings as they combined for five triples this team becomes so dangerous offensively. There have also been some games where the supporting cast has struggled a little bit for example when they faced Columbia City, Stephens and Epps combined for 29 of the team’s 46 points and they were never able to fully pull away from the Eagles. Although even with it not being the best game from the supporting cast Whitney Ankenbruck did come off the bench and knock down two big triples.
Matchup to watch: Emma Reust versus whoever Coach Rod Parker decides to put her on. As I have said earlier the Tigers have so many different options offensively so it will be interesting to see who Emma Ruest ends up matched up with. Ruest has been one of the best defenders in the 260 this season and has shown she is capable of locking down some of the best scorers in the state. She also does a great job forcing turnovers with 2.9 steals a game. Most likely we will see her defending either Hailey or Olivia Smith and if she is able to shut down either of those girls it could have a big impact on the outcome of this one.
What to expect: A fast-paced game is very likely in this matchup as these are two of the top 25 scoring offenses in the state. It’s also very likely the Spartans will live and die by the three-ball as they knocked down 12 triples in their sectional title game. The Tigers also like outside shots as they attempt 15.6 threes a game. Overall this game will most likely be decided by who is hotter from the outside.
Snider vs Harrison
Snider’s Season Overview: After a 2-3 start to the year the Panthers have played some great basketball going 18-1 in their last 19 games. The only loss in that stretch came to Northrop who is considered to be a top-10 team in the state. Over this dominant stretch, the Panthers have picked up some big wins including Fishers, North Central, Fairfield, Homestead, and Carroll twice. In their sectional, they dominated DeKalb in their first game and then controlled a very talented Carroll squad in the sectional championship.
Harrison’s Season Overview: The Raiders have had some ups and downs this season including a 4 game losing streak in the middle of the season. Some of their best wins this season were against Danville and being able to be Benton Central twice this year. To get to this regional game the Raiders knocked off both Kokomo and Logansport in dominant showcases.
Key Panthers: Jordyn Poole is an absolute difference-maker for this squad. She is an electric scorer and an elite facilitator that has shown she can step up big down the stretch. She leads the team with 15.8 points a game while also dishing out 4 assists a game plus 3.4 steals a game. She has had 13 games this year where she scored 15 points or more, she has also eclipsed 20 points three times this year including one 30-point performance. Poole very clearly is a key piece for the Panthers and will be the difference-maker in regionals.
Key Raiders: Riley Flinn is a player that gets it done in so many different ways for the Raiders. She leads the team in points(14.8), rebounds(8.2), assists(7.0) and steals(5.0) a game. She has had 9 games with a double-double this year, six of which were points and rebounds, two were points and assists, and one was even points and steals. In many different areas, she impacts the game and her performance will be crucial for the Raiders’ success to continue.
Matchup to watch: Campbell Moore and whoever is trying to score in the paint for Snider. Moore is an incredible post presence that plays phenomenal defense averaging 4.2 blocks a game this season. With her great defense down low, it certainly will force the Panthers to switch up their offensive attack. This also goes both ways though as Tia Phinezy averages 3.8 blocks a game for Snider making it interesting to see which team will win the battle in the paint.
What to expect: The Panthers are a very talented team that has shown they can turn teams over averaging 14.3 steals a game while also being very explosive offensively. Snider will be looking to turn over Harrison in the regional and getting running out in transition. For Harrison, it will be crucial to avoid those turnovers and play at their own pace to stay in contention against the Panthers.