Columbia City left Saturday’s game with good first impressions on how good they can be as they beat Carroll 59-49 at Columbia City. It was the first time in nearly 7 years that Columbia City defeated their old NHC rivals from Huntertown in girls basketball. 

One of the things that impressed me right away was how stingy Columbia City’s man-to-man defense was on Carroll’s talented big girls. Kyndra Sheets and Addison Baxter were flying to loose balls and that was crucial in their transition game. 

After a slow 1st quarter on offense, both teams eventually settled in and looked more like themselves. But the theme throughout this game was Carroll not making their shots and Columbia City turning their defensive stops into points the other way. 

Even when Columbia City struggled to maintain a rhythm at times, their depth was a huge part of this game. Sheets led everyone with 18 points showing that excellent two way game that makes her a must watch guard in Northeast Indiana. Right behind her was Molly Baker with a well earned 16 points. Baker was huge in providing that size in the frontcourt to contain Castator and Anderson throughout the night, while still getting those gritty buckets down low. The Sheets-Baker connection is going to be one we will be hearing all winter long as you can see the amount of hard work starting to pay off for the talented duo. 

Senior Grace College commit, Bekah Marshall, had a pretty rough time consistently getting looks to the bucket due to the size and talent Carroll’s frontcourt presents, yet she still dropped 10 points and her defense was noticed tonight. 

Freshman Addison Baxter was held to 6 points, but that only tells part of the story. You watch her play, look at how strong her IQ is. You would have thought she already had a year of varsity basketball already because she plays amazing defense and has an extremely gifted talent with her court vision as she dropped double digits in assists. Once she cuts down on the turnovers and executes her shooting better, more and more people are going to realize how bright of a future this kid has with the Lady Eagles. 

And then there’s the depth that makes Columbia City such a tough team to stop every night. The Anna Schrader’s and Danielle Dunham’s provide that much needed leadership on both sides of the court, thus establishing a relentless attack across the paint and a stout defensive game. 

That’s without mentioning Tessa Tonkel who scored 5 points in limited action for her season debut. So the Lady Eagles have a lot of good things coming for them, even though they know they’ll need to cut down the turnovers and execute better with their open shots from the perimeter. But you can see a tough nosed, speedy team that makes their games more of a sprint than a marathon. Opposing teams better be physically and mentally ready to run with Columbia City this season. 

That being said, Carroll didn’t play that bad of a basketball game. There were plenty of moments tonight where their frontcourt was really messing up the Eagles’ offensive tempo, and you can see why their size and athleticism makes them a force to be reckoned with. I really liked how Taylor Fordyce has elevated her role as the floor general of this offense that’s not afraid to take the big shots when needed as she scored 12 hard earned points in that game. Brooke Pocock brought some much needed energy and spark as a pure perimeter threat adding 11 points. 

Jasmine Anderson, while being congested by a fury of Columbia City defenders, showed a lot of growth in the post and is a solid ball handler adding 10 points. 

Lexi Castator, the best player on this Carroll team, did everything she had to do to generate any kind of momentum for Carroll. But time and time again, Columbia City’s man-to-man defense kept putting so much pressure on Castator and that limited her ability to be the dominant Lexi Castator fans are use to seeing. To hold her to just 7 points really shows the growth and maturity this Columbia City defense has from a year ago. 

That’s without mentioning Kayla Gibbs and freshman Jersey Paul. But it was clear that they are still adjusting to life without Emily Parrett (who graduated) and Neveah Jackson (now a Northrop Bruin) on that court for Carroll. It’s probably going to take some time before the Chargers are able to fire at all cylinders in typical Carroll fashion. But there’s no need to panic for the Chargers because the talent and toughness Carroll has will eventually gel to the contender they usually are. 

As for Columbia City, it’s hard telling whether they’re the NE8 favorites one game into the season. But it’s increasingly evident they’re for real. There’s no pretending at Columbia City, and this NE8 race is going to be much more of a fight for the reigning champion Norwell Knights. Columbia City won a share of a conference championship back in 2019-20, so this is still fresh in the back of their minds. Nevertheless, I don’t think many of the players on this team realize they’re just scratching the surface of what they can truly be. 

Next game 

Carroll: 11/09 @ Angola 

Columbia City: 11/09 @ West Noble