By RICHIE HALL
Reporter Sports Editor
Any coach will tell you that it’s not easy to beat the same team three times in a season.
In order to advance to the championship game of the Kokomo Class 4A girls basketball regional on Saturday, Carmel will have to do just that.
The No. 2-ranked Greyhounds will play No. 10 Zionsville in the second semi-final of the regional, which will tip off around noon. The first semi-final begins at 10 a.m. and features Fort Wayne Carroll playing Fort Wayne South. The championship game is set for 8 p.m.
Carmel did beat the Eagles easily in the first two games they played. The ‘Hounds were 66-48 winners back on Nov. 14, the defeated Zionsville 75-51 in the championship of the Hall of Fame Classic on Dec. 29.
The Eagles breezed through the Logansport Sectional last week, taking care of McCutcheon 71-32, Logansport 74-32 and Lafayette Jefferson 73-46 in the final.
“Zionsville is a very good team and always well prepared,” said Greyhounds coach Tod Windlan. “We will tweak a few things we have seen from watching film. It’s basically a game that we need to just play Carmel Basketball and continue where we left off from Saturday night’s dominant performance.
The ‘Hounds beat Hamilton Southeastern 68-48 in the final at the Fishers Sectional, this after getting past Noblesville 50-45 in the semi-finals.
“We want to give great effort and bring a lot of energy. We have a veteran team and I expect them to play well. Our seniors must lead us this Saturday.”
The vast majority of Zionsville’s team are juniors, including three of their five probable starters. That includes Maddie Nolan, who is the Eagles’ leading scorer with 21.9 points per game. Junior Delaney Richason adds 11.0 points per game, while freshman Katey Richason is averaging 9.4 points. All three are dominant on the boards, with Katey Richason grabbing 6.4 rebounds per game, Delaney Richason 6.2 rebounds and Nolan 6.0.
Carmel’s scoring leaders are seniors Amy Dilk, who is scoring at a 17.5 points-per-game clip, and Tomi Taiwo who is scoring 16.9 points per game and has made 63 3-pointers. Sophomore Jasmine McWilliams leads the rebounding with 6.8 per game, with Dilk grabbing 5.8 per contest and senior Blake Smith collecting 4.7. Dilk is also averaging 6.9 assists and 3.7 steals per game.
HUSKIES TAKE ON TALL GIANTS
Hamilton Heights will travel to Columbia City early Saturday morning to play in their first regional since 2013. The Huskies will take on Marion in the first semi-final at 10 a.m., followed by a noon game between No. 3 Fairfield and No. 9 Concordia Lutheran. The championship is also set for 8 p.m.
The Giants are 21-4 this season and won the Bellmont sectional, defeating Mississinewa 60-23, Bellmont 45-34 and Bishop Luers 56-53. Marion has a pair of towering players as their scoring leaders: Junior Jazmyn Turner stands 6-foot-1, while sophomore RaShaya Kyle is 6-foot-6.
Turner is scoring 15.9 points per game, with Kyle just behind her at 15.3. Not surprisingly, both players are the leading rebounders: Kyle is grabbing 8.8 boards per game, with Turner corralling 6.5 per game. Kyle is also blocking 4.5 shots per contest.
“They definitely have tremendous length,” said Heights coach Keegan Cheery during a Tuesday interview on Hamilton County Television. “They’re much like Lafayette Jeff, who we played towards the end of the season.
“We have to be great in our technique, great in our position,” said Cherry. “We’re not going to block anybody’s shot, but we’re going to have to be really strong on the backboard, physical in our blockouts. They do have some girls who can shoot it, so we’re going to have to recognize personnel, try to keep them out of the lane.”
Cherry also said that he wants the team to “play at our pace.”
“That’s one thing that we try to do in all our games,” said the coach. “We want to dictate tempo. They want to get up and down, press, turn you over, shoot layups. If we get them in the halfcourt, I feel good about being able to get quality shots and just hopefully we can score one more point than they do.”
The Huskies won the Blackford sectional, beating the host Bruins 65-26, Jay County 57-45, and Yorktown in overtime 41-36. Senior Kayla Kirtley is Heights’ leading scorer at 12.7 points per game, with sophomore Bayleigh Runner adding 10.7 points. Senior Ana Collar has been dominating the boards with 7.3 rebounds per game.
PRESTIGIOUS OPPONENT FOR ‘BLAZERS
University is back in the regional for the first time since 2012. The Trailblazers have a tough opponent for their noon semi-final in No. 4-ranked Jac-Cen-Del. That game follows a 10 a.m. semi-final between No. 3 Tindley and Bloomfield. The championship is set for 7:30 p.m.
“Jac-Cen-Del is a very prestigious program and we are honored for the opportunity to compete against them,” said UHS coach Justin Blanding. “Coach Smith is doing an amazing job there and his kids are well coached. We respect the heck out of that program and are looking forward to the opportunity to play.”
The Eagles have a history of championship basketball, with 23 sectional and eight regional titles to their credit. Jac-Cen-Del made it to state in 1978, back in the one-class era, then won a Class 1A title in 2016.
The 2018 Eagles won the Waldron Sectional by trouncing Oldenburg Academy 74-30, then beating the hosts 50-35.
“I have not seen much film as many coaches would not send me film on them,” said Blanding. “It’s a tight group up there so I was expecting that to happen. In the film I see a physical team that is going to attack us. They are very disciplined and methodical so we have to stay focused on the long possessions.”
Senior Lilly Simon is the leading scorer for Jac-Cen-Del at 17.2 points per game, followed by junior Mariah Day at 15.9 points and senior Morgen Carroll at 11.7 points. Carroll is also the leading rebounder at 9.2 boards per contest.
Freshman Paige Ledford collects 7.6 rebounds per game, followed by Simon at 5.6 and Day at 4.6. Simon dishes out 6.2 assists per game.
“They are balanced at every position and are very long,” said Blanding. “They score in waves so we have to be ready and mentally tough enough to handle it. They are used to being on this stage so they have a ton of experience. The senior leadership they have you can really see it when you see them play. We are excited to play them.”
University easily won its own sectional last week, defeating Metropolitan 90-23, Indiana Deaf 63-50 and Bethesda Christian 74-55.
Sophomore Lindsey Syrek is averaging a double-double for the Trailblazers, with 18.8 points and 14.3 rebounds per game. Syrek is also blocking 4.0 per shots per game. Senior Natalie Nickless is scoring 13.5 points per contest, with junior Brooke Andrus averaging 9.6 points and 4.9 assists.
By RICHIE HALL