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No clear favorite at Columbia City regional

The New Castle High School girls basketball team on the Fieldhouse floor after winning the championship of Class 3A Sectional 24 Monday over Hamilton Heights 39-31. The Trojan girls play Angola in Saturday’s first semifinal game of Regional 6 at Columbia City.

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

With no Top 10 teams competing at Saturday’s girls basketball Class 3A Regional 6 at Columbia City, there appears no clear-cut favorite to win the title and advance to the semi-state at either LaPorte or Logansport.

Fans of Class 3A No. 11 Marion, who owns the best record and has the longest current winning streak of any team in the field, may disagree with that assessment, but the games are played on the hardwood and who will advance is determined that way.

Previews of both semifinal games are below. The championship game is set for 8 p.m. Saturday.

Game 1: New Castle (16-9) vs. Angola (20-6) 10 a.m.

Most readers are familiar with the local Trojan girls. New Castle enters the regional having won nine of its last 10 games, with the only slip-up a loss at Class 3A No. 1 and defending state champion Northwestern to end the regular season. The Tigers won the Raymond James Hall of Fame Classic at New Castle Fieldhouse last Dec. 28.

After one of the sectional victories, Trojan Coach Molly Swift indicated that the turning point of the season for her team was the overtime loss to Shenandoah after having held a 25-7 lead in the second quarter.

Swift stated her girls were very disappointed at losing to a county school and that they realized they needed to come prepared to play every game, especially on the defensive end.

New Castle enters the regional averaging 51.1 ppg and giving up 47.8 ppg. In three sectional victories, the Trojans held their opponents to a combined 98 points, or 32.7 ppg.

On offense, New Castle shoots an average of 35 percent from the field, 29 percent from three-point range, and 74 percent from the free throw line.

The Trojans are led by All-State candidate Cameron Tabor, a senior who is the career scoring leader for girls basketball at the school and is No. 2 all-time behind the legendary Steve Alford on the career scoring list when boys basketball also is included.

Tabor owns the best scoring average of all girls in this regional at 24.1 ppg, and also leads the team with 8.7 rpg, 4.3 apg, 2.2 spg, and 35 blocked shots. Sophomore Laila Smith is the tallest girl on the team at 6-1, averages 3.4 ppg and 7.2 rpg, and has come on strongly as of late with 30 blocked shots.

The other starters are sophomore Macayla McGowan (3.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg), junior Cloie York ( 7.6 ppg, 1.4 apg, 1.2 spg), and senior Alyssa “Peanut” Semler (5.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.4 spg). Freshman Karsen Morgan is the three-point specialist off the bench at 4.6 ppg.

Angola swept through its sectional pretty handily, winning 66-27, 51-27, and 58-43 over host Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran in the final. The Hornets also bring an impressive resume to the table, as they have won 15 of their last 16 games with their only stumble against Class 2A No. 1 and defending state champion Central Noble in a tournament.

Angola averages 49.7 ppg and yields 36.0 ppg to its opponents. On offense, the Hornets as a team average 38 percent shooting from the field, 24 percent from three-point land, and 60 percent on free throws.

Angola has two players averaging double digits in scoring. Sophomore Hanna Knoll contributes 12.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.7 apg, and 4.5 spg, and senior Reace Peppier produces 10.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg, and 2.2 spg.

The Hornets’ leading rebounder is senior Sarah Duvendack (4.9 rpg, 6.8 ppg, 1.7 apg), and junior Kayla Fenstermaker averages 4.7 rpg, 5.3 ppg, 1.6 apg, and 2.4 spg. Freshman Lauren Leach averages 2.2 apg, 4.1 ppg, and 3.5 rpg.

Because of the distance between the two schools, they share no common opponents this season. The New Castle boys played Angola in last year’s regional semifinals at Marion and won by 14 points.

Game 2: West Noble (18-5) vs. Marion (21-4) noon

West Noble opened the season with nine straight wins before losing 41-34 at Class 2A No. 1 Central Noble. The Chargers are on a six-game winning streak and defeated their three sectional opponents by a total of 18 points.

For the season, West Noble averages 49.1 ppg and gives up 36.9 ppg. On offense, the Chargers shoot 35 percent from the field, 24 percent from behind the arc, and 58 percent on free throws.

The New Castle volleyball team played West Noble for the Class 3A regional championship at Norwell last October, and several Charger girls on that volleyball team also play basketball. Among them are senior Madison Schermerhorn (6.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 4.4 apg, 4.8 spg), senior Tori Miller (3.5 ppg), and senior Tara Miller (3.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.5 apg, 2.5 spg).

Sophomore Lillian Mast leads West Noble in scoring with 10.7 ppg, and also provides 2.9 rpg, 1.8 apg, and 3.2 spg. Senior Megan Godfrey contributes 8.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg, and 2.2 spg, senior Lauren Burns provides 7.7 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.6 apg, and 2.6 spg, and senior Angela Gross contributes 6.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg, and 1.9 spg.

If there is a favorite in this regional, Marion might be it. The Giants have won 12 games in a row and 15 of their last 16. Marion edged Class 3A No. 3 Bellmont 46-44 for the sectional title at Norwell, and beat its other two sectional opponents by nine and four points.

The Giants average 55.4 ppg and give up 39.1 ppg. On offense, Marion shoots 44 percent from the field, 28 percent behind the three-point line, and 62 percent on charity tosses.

The Giants are tall and athletic, and are led by 6-1 senior Jazmyn Turner ( 17.4 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 2.9 apg, 2.8 spg) and 6-6 junior Rashaya Kyle (16.0 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.2 spg, and 2.4 bpg).

Other Marion players of note are junior Ellie Vermilion (9.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.5 apg, 2.q spg) and senior Ayanna Harvey (6.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.2 spg).

Other than New Castle, Marion played the toughest schedule of the teams in the field and went 8-1 in the North Central Conference.