In this post, I’ll discuss these 10 girls teams from the 260 area (counties that surround or are in Fort Wayne) Hoosiers need to have their eyes on this season. To start, I’ll mention one team per conference that needs to be on your radar. After that, I’ll have the remaining teams under the other category.
I love this basketball team. They are a fan’s dream in Northeast Indiana. A team that returns all 5 starters and all 5 can score and defend at a elite level coached by an extremely competitive coach in Bob Lapadot. Three of these starters have already announced their verbal commitments to play college sports: Seniors Faith Owen, Morgan Ostrowski, and Nataley Armstrong with the possibility of all 5 players being future college commits. You gotta be Slam Dunking Me! How’s come the Garrett Railroaders aren’t on everyone’s radar is beyond my comprehension.
Nataley Armstrong is what I call the wizard of this offense. She’s an incredible playmaker that plays underrated defense and is so comfortable running this Garrett offense. Shooting guard Faith Owen is a player not everyone recognizes right away. Faith is their best shooter (especially from downtown) that has a strong basketball IQ, extremely quick, and is capable to roll ankles this winter.
Taylor Gerke (whose in her 2nd full season at Garrett after transferring from Lakewood Park before her junior season) exemplifies a combination of skill, toughness, and versatility much like her days as a volleyball player. Gerke provides strength and skill in the post, a reliable passer, and can shoot from range if needed.
Morgan Ostrowski plays prominently in the paint, but she does way more than that. Morgan has developed into a very difficult center to defend in the post, a player that’s incredibly powerful and motivated to score at will. Morgan is an excellent rebounder, but she turns those second chance opportunities into valuable points, and she does have a good jump shot from the midrange and from deep. That’s not to mention she’s an elite defender, making her by far the most talented and most complete center in the NECC, and certainly one of the best players in the area. And it’s not even her number one sport as she’s committed to play division 1 volleyball at IUPUI.
The only player that is not a senior in this starting five is their best player in junior Bailey Kelham. MaxPreps will tell you Kelham plays as a shooting guard and small forward, but if you watch her play, you couldn’t tell that she’s playing two positions. She’s one of those position-less players. Kelham can run an offense, shoot the basketball, rebound, defend, draw contact, and do just about everything Coach Lapadot wants around her. Having a player that is as lethal of a scorer and versatile Bailey brings shows why Garrett is the NECC’s heavy favorites to sweep their conference championships with the goal of making a deep playoff run in 3A.
They’re a special team with the opportunity of a special season led by a deep senior class that goes beyond the starters.
While Norwell lost several key players to graduation (including Maiah Shelton, Lauren Bales, and Kaylee Fuelling), Norwell has plenty of experience and talent back to prove doubters wrong. I mean come on this is Norwell Girls’ basketball we’re talking here under Coach Thornton. They’re always ready to compete, and they’re just coming off a trip to semi-state. They’re more than capable to come close to that this season.
Players to watch for this season
Sophomore Kennedy Fuelling
Having that experience to be mentored by her sister Kaylee and her class is only going to make her a better player. Kennedy is straight up a lights out shooter and a competitor that does whatever she needs to do for her team.
Senior Emily Tood has shown interest from small colleges about her next step to being a collegiate basketball player, and this season will show why coaches are seeing that potential. Because the team has been so good for this long shows how deep the Norwell talent pool truly is, and Todd provides that much needed shooting and talent to fill the void missing from rhat 2021 class. Senior Mackenzie Tolliver provides senior leadership and will be a scrappy team-oriented player that provides some depth to this roster.
Junior Skya Tomasek is extremely athletic and dominant in the post as a 6’1 center. With many players graduated including Grace Bradtmueller, her role is skyrocketing on this Norwell team, and she will be more important than ever to bring great 2-way presence in Norwell’s frontcourt. Other pieces like Makenzie Fuess are going to add toughness and skill that makes Norwell a respected opponent for everyone to take notice.
Jay County Patriots
When we think about small-town Portland, IN in Jay County, we think about basketball. They eat and breathe their basketball and it’s no different this season. Jay County doesn’t always get the respect they deserve stateside, but they are always respected here in the Fort Wayne area because of how well they’re coached there, and how committed the community is to develop very good basketball players.
Jay County isn’t going to be the biggest team out there, but they’re going to shoot the lights out on Broadway for Kirk Comer’s team. Junior Renna Schwieterman is the most recognizable from JC, and she is a special player on and off the court. She fills the stat sheet consistently but she’s motivated to bring Jay County some championships to Portland, IN.
Once you read my preview on the Columbia City-Carroll game, I give a decent breakdown on the team as a whole. But anytime we mention the SAC, Carroll has to be on top of everyone’s radar. With the amount of high quality, depth, shooting, and talent, this Carroll team has what it takes to be a 4A juggernaut.
While the Black Swish won’t be in the same conversation as many of these teams right now, Northwood needs to be on everyone’s radar. Warsaw and Northridge are going to be major contenders from that conference, but never ever count out the girls from Nappanee. This is a team that last year went wire to wire with a 21-win Lakeland team that played in the regional finals.
There’s not a lot of seniors on this team, but there’s a lot of upside on how good this team can be. I have them as a dark horse to being the most improved team from Northern Indiana.
Northwood will be counted upon some unproven underclassmen that have some upside such as sophomores Olivia Oman, Hannah Chupp, and Joselyn Edwards. Junior Riley Kitson and freshman Claire Payne have potential to be breakout players for this season.
If the team can gel well and get the most out of their talented roster on both sides of the ball, they should have a good season.
Their early starts have been mixed in the past, but Angola fans are familiar with their second half outbursts. Sophomores Riley Pepple, Leah Snyder, and Kylie Caswell will need to take that next step in their development (especially if Macy Oberlin already done for the season with a torn meniscus), but their talent speaks for itself. Senior Lauren Leach (who is recently committed to Hope College) is going to be a huge leader on this team on and off the court as an elite defender and a strong all around offensive player as a wing and D player.
Defensively, they have what it takes to cause a lot of problems. It’s just a matter of if they can improve on their shooting.
Homestead is always going to be the mix as long as Rod Parker is in charge at Homestead. UCONN commit Ayanna Patterson is a beast from the Northeast as an incredible two way player at the center slot.
But it’s the depth around her such as Ali Stephens and Molly Stock that makes the Spartans a tough out.
Northridge Raiders/Warsaw Tigers
The NLC is always brutal in hoops and that’s no exception with Northridge and Warsaw being among several contenders.
Northridge is always known for being a very talented shooting team in past years, and they have that potential again this season. The offense will be centered around junior Eva Fisher who is coming off a 12ppg season as a sophomore.
Warsaw has a little more size to their roster led by seniors Kacilyn Krebs and Bailie Stephens. This is a team that should have immediate frontcourt presence
With Katie Jackson taking over as head coach, her kids have transferred over to Northrop (son Jalen and daughters Saniya and Neveah). But you don’t need to keep up with the Jackson’s to know just how much upside this Northrop team truly has to be a true SAC and sectional contender after years of Carroll and Homestead dominance. Seniors Amanda Thatcher and J’Asia Scott lead this offense in the backcourt and will be good mentors to Saniya and Neveah. Kamiyah Jackson is another name to watch.
This team gets ridiculously overlooked and I like everything this program has done to get them to this point. It’s not the flashiest of teams nor are they a team that consistently reach the headlines, but this team consistently competes every night and are always a relevant opponent come postseason time. Senior Rochester University commit Dakotah Krohn and junior Evah Smith are going to be the two key players to guide Woodlan into the contention of both the ACAC and sectionals. While sectionals might be more difficult to contend, the ACAC is fairly wide open to contend with the mighty Jay County Patriots. Woodlan does have some size that makes them harder to score on led by Kaitlyn Crosby and Taylor Knuebuhler.
But for this team to do great things this year, it’s going to come through their defense and depth.