The start of the NECC season has been an interesting one to say the least. While the Garrett Railroaders got their first taste of a in-season challenge with Noblesvile, it feels like Garrett is just warming up as they start the season 4-1. Obviously in the competition they’ve faced, they’re leaps and bounds one of the state’s most talented teams out there with an elite starting 5 and some gritty bench role players. Morgan Ostrowski, Bailey Kelham, Nataley Armstrong, Faith Owen, and Taylor Gerke are all very good athletes on this team that can have a big game on any given night. Tuesday’s game against Angola will tell us more on where Garrett is at going into the month of December.
Speaking of Angola, it’s been a up-and-down start to the season for them. But maybe they might have turned a corner with two defensive gems at Eastside and West Noble. Now, granted these aren’t the same kind of opponents they were facing with Carroll and Norwell, but it’s a step in the right direction. Kylie Caswell and Tyrah Stillman have really come into their own on both sides of the court for the Hornets, while Lauren Leach continues to be Lauren Leach. Now, I am curious to see if they can put that performance against a very good Garrett team. Yes, they’ve beaten the last couple meetings, but this year’s team is different for Angola. So, we will find out just how good they actually are this coming week.
Fairfield is off to a 6-0 start on the season, and you can’t help but realize just how underrated Brea Garber is. Because she plays for her father’s the Fairfield Falcons, she gets severely overlooked in both the State and Fort Wayne area radars. At 6’1, she’s essentially a point guard. Like think about it. That changes the entire conversation on how we should view this Fairfield team. She’s a triple-double threat every night because no one can guard or out work her. Plus, they have some nice complimentary pieces like Brooke Sanchez to support her. Will that be enough to win some conference and postseason championships? You have to consider them as a contender at this point if you haven’t already.
And then there are the fringe contenders, Central Noble, Eastside, and Prairie Heights. Central Noble has two fantastic players in Madison Vice at point guard and Meghan Kiebel at forward (both juniors). However, while Kyleigh Egolf has stepped up on the offense and defensive side of the ball, the rest of the team is still trying to figure out their place on the varsity spotlight, mainly on offenses. For the Cougars to play up to their potential, that supporting cast that doesn’t get a lot of attention needs to show growth as the season goes along. Realistically, conference championships might be difficult, but winning sectionals is not improbable for them with the talent and culture they have in Albion.
The Eastside Blazers are a good team. I think everyone knows that. But can they become a great team? Right now, they have a lot of depth with good seniors and talented underclassmen. But the inconsistency with their offensive efficiency does cause for some concern, especially since most of these girls do not reach 5’8. While the defensive side of the ball is still impressive, can the other side of the court take them to a whole another level? Skye Kessler has been good at point guard, Mataya Bireley has been strong in the post, and Paige Traxler has shown signs of offensively breaking out as a freshman.
It’s still early to say Prairie Heights is a true contender, but after their 52-40 win over Lakeland, fans may need to start keeping a close eye on them. Yes, everyone knows the Trio of Trevyn Terry, Kennedy Kugler, and Alayna Boots. But Alex German and Caylee Bachelor have stepped up on both sides of the ball. Give me a month with Prairie Heights. It’s still early for me to say this is going to be a big year, but it’s starting to get to that point where people have to start respecting Prairie Heights girls basketball.
Don’t overthink this. It’s Norwell and Columbia City, and it’s probably not even close other than Maybe Huntington North.
Despite losing a lot of talent from last year, Kennedy Fuelling, Makenzie Fuess, and Emily Todd have led the way for the new core of Norwell (5-1) girls basketball. Plus, they’re still a tough nosed team on defense. Don’t sleep on Coach Thornton’s Knights.
For Columbia City, their 5-0 start shows they’re still finding ways to win basketball games, even without Kyndra Sheets. Yes, there’s Molly Baker in the post, but Addison Baxter is a new triple-double threat for C. City and Bekah Marshall is still dropping buckets at the forward slot. The depth and speed Columbia City plays makes them a must-watch every single night.
Huntington North is one to keep an eye on though as their physical style of basketball creates havoc on opponents everywhere. Plus, they have a nice trio of their own in Taylor Double, Katie Sell, and Emma Daugherty. They’re always battle-tested at Huntington North.
I guess Bellmont can still sneak up on someone because of their intense man-to-man defense, but graduation has definitely taken a hit on some of their offensive depth. There’s still talent at Bellmont, but their offense is off to a pretty slow start. Sydney Keane has probably been their most consistent scorer, sometimes Kenzie Fuelling, but the rest are still figuring things out on that side of the court.
What did I tell you about Woodlan?? I said they’re going to be a really good team. Look what’s happening? Dakotah Krohn? Automatic bucket. Avah Smith? Automatic bucket. And when they go off and play good defense, this team can go places. Are they quite ready to play for a sectional? No, but they’re playing some good basketball right now.
That ACAC is going to be tight with them, Jay County, and Adams Central in the fold. The SAC remains somewhat of a mystery, but it’s pretty clear Homestead, Carroll, Snider, and Northrop are the clear contenders at this point. Speaking of Carroll, how about their impressive 60-54 win over Northrop. Kayla Gibbs had a game high 19 that night and Taylor Fordyce adding 12.
To hold Neveah and Saniya to just 30 combined points, that shows the toughness Carroll has. On a side note for Northrop, it’s nice to see Riley Pepple getting some shots to fall in that game. As someone that covered her entire freshman season at Angola, she has a lot of talent as a shooter and playmaker. Yes, Riley will shoot her perimeter shots from her office, but she’s getting some great experience against the city’s best. When the rest of the players such as Amanda Thatcher get going, they have something special. For Carroll, it’s a confidence booster for them to get back on the right track in the SAC. As for Northrop, it’s a great loss to learn from, and I expect them to use this as motivation to get better throughout the season.
When it’s all said and done, don’t be surprised if Carroll and Northrop are the two teams fighting for a sectional championship. But let’s also not forget Homestead. They’re the still the beasts of the SAC. While they have lost some depth to graduation, they have still UCONN commit Ayanna Patterson in the post, and they still have shooters like Ali Stephens and Molly Stock.
Snider is another entertaining team to watch led by Jyah Lovett and Jordyn Poole. These two girls are exceptionally special players, and they play a nice, smooth style of basketball. But they also have some toughness and character on the team, including Destini Craig and Johnea Donahue. While their record says 1-2, Snider lost two really close games to Huntington North and Columbia City. They’re going to be fine. These kids are having fun out there, and the numbers will back them up.
So that does it for my analysis on the current state of Girls Basketball in the 260 area. Next time, I’ll be looking at how the boys are starting off their season as they begin this week. Now, I need to get ready for Thanksgiving. I have so much to be thankful for other than food.