It’s that time of year again.
Tonight, girls basketball players all across Indiana will be taking the court for sectional games with dreams of state championships dancing in their heads.
Some of those dreams, of course, are more realistic than others. But they’re still alive this morning for all 398 IHSAA teams. By the end of the week, only 64 of those teams — 16 in each of the four classes — will remain.
One of the most competitive of the state’s 64 sectionals will be the one in Martinsville, where four county teams will be part of a highly competitive seven-team bracket. Here’s a look at what to watch for there:
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Center Grove Trojans
Coach: Shawn Sanders
Record: 14-8 (3-4 Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference)
Sagarin rating: 90.32 (17th in Indiana, 13th in Class 4A)
A year ago: Won Center Grove Sectional, lost in overtime to Columbus North 69-58 in regional semifinal
Players to watch: Madelyn Bitterling, Sr. (8.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 24 steals); Cassidy Hardin, Jr. (13.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 42 assists, 37 steals, 23 blocks); Allison Utterback, Sr. (8.7 ppg, 47 assists, 29 steals)
Against the field: 5-0 (beat Franklin 63-47 and 58-50; beat Martinsville 56-55; won at Whiteland 55-43; won at Greenwood 81-27)
Outlook: A couple of weeks ago, the Trojans were 13-3, ranked in the state’s top 20 and arguably the clear favorite to repeat as sectional champion. Now, the picture is muddled a bit. Center Grove has stumbled a bit down the stretch, losing five of its last six games, and it opens the sectional Wednesday against a hot Martinsville team eager to avenge a bitter regular-season defeat. The Trojans could make a deep postseason run if they find their stride again, but they need to do so right away.
Franklin Grizzly Cubs
Coach: Josh Sabol
Record: 10-13 (2-4 Mid-State Conference)
Sagarin rating: 73.42 (91st in Indiana, 59th in Class 4A)
A year ago: Lost to Center Grove, 63-54, in sectional semifinal
Players to watch: Allison Barnard, Sr. (9 ppg, 6 rpg); Makenna Bertsch, Sr. (7 ppg); Delanie Hill, Sr. (12 ppg)
Against the field: 3-5 (lost to Franklin Central 60-42; beat Greenwood, 60-49 and 50-47; lost to Center Grove, 63-47 and 58-50; beat Whiteland, 44-37; lost at Whiteland, 77-36; lost to Martinsville, 66-37)
Outlook: The Grizzly Cubs come into the postseason cold, having lost six in a row. Toward the back end of that skid were blowout losses against sectional foes Whiteland and Martinsville by a combined 70 points. Which Franklin will we see Wednesday — the version that beat Whiteland in November, or the one that was blown out by the Warriors a little over a week ago? If it’s the former, the Grizzly Cubs could make this an interesting week.
Franklin Central Flashes
Coach: Brian Hacker
Record: 10-11 (3-4 Conference Indiana)
Sagarin rating: 83.64 (39th in Indiana, 32nd in Class 4A)
A year ago: Lost to Greenwood 59-56 in first round
Players to watch: Keyla Hines, Sr. (13.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 42 assists, 35 steals); Rachel Loobie, Fr. (13.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 35 assists, 27 steals, 23 blocks); Alexus Mobley, Fr. (4.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 23 steals)
Against the field: 3-1 (won at Franklin, 60-42; won at Whiteland, 61-57; beat New Palestine, 51-50; lost to Martinsville in overtime, 77-74)
Outlook: This could be the wild card in the bracket. Since jumping out to a 5-2 start that included three consecutive wins over sectional opponents, the Flashes have struggled against a tough schedule, dropping nine of their last 14 games. An inconsistent offense gets more than half of its scoring from Hines and Loobie, both of whom are capable of big nights. Franklin Central already has proven it can beat just about anyone in the field, but its inability to consistently close out games recently raises questions.
Coach: Lee Taft
Record: 4-18 (1-5 Mid-State Conference)
Sagarin rating: 63.25 (168th in Indiana, 79th in Class 4A)
A year ago: Lost to Center Grove in overtime, 90-85, in Center Grove Sectional final
Players to watch: Ryan Bauer, Sr. (5.2 ppg, 25 steals); Alex Kincaid, So. (8.1 ppg, 4.2 ppg, 39 assists, 56 steals); Leah Moore, Jr. (11.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 35 steals)
Against the field: 1-5 (won at New Palestine 57-51; lost to Franklin 46-39 and 50-47; lost at Martinsville 75-55; lost to Whiteland 49-31; lost to Center Grove 81-27)
Outlook: It’s been a rough ride this winter for the young Woodmen, who lost 13 straight before beating Decatur Central in their conference finale. Scoring has been a big problem — Greenwood averages just 39.9 points a night and has topped the 40-point mark just once in its last seven games. The Woodmen won at at first-round foe New Palestine early in the season, but a repeat of that tonight would be considered a surprise.
Coach: Vince Cerbone
Record: 18-4 (6-0 Mid-State Conference)
Sagarin rating: 92.33 (13th in Indiana, 11th in Class 4A)
A year ago: Lost to Franklin 70-66 in first round
Players to watch: Merideth Deckard, Jr. (12.4 ppg, 33 assists); Jessica Nix, Jr. (8.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 43 assists, 49 steals); Kayana Traylor, Jr. (23.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 90 assists, 34 steals, 18 blocks)
Against the field: 4-1 (beat Greenwood 75-55; beat Whiteland 57-39; lost at Center Grove 56-55; won at Franklin Central in overtime 77-74; won at Franklin 66-37)
Outlook: Any talk about the Artesians begins with Traylor, a Purdue commit who will be among the favorites to win Miss Basketball next year. The Mid-State Conference champs will have plenty of motivation — in addition to being knocked off early last year, they lost a Dec. 13 game at Center Grove by one point on a last-second basket that Martinsville did not believe should have counted. Wednesday’s rematch with the Trojans promises to be a heated one.
New Palestine Dragons
Coach: Brian Kehrt
Record: 16-6 (6-1 Hoosier Heritage Conference)
Sagarin rating: 82.44 (46th in Indiana, 38th in Class 4A)
A year ago: Lost to Whiteland, 47-37, in first round
Players to watch: Haley Harrison, So. (8.2 ppg, 46 assists, 47 steals); Raegan McMurray, Sr. (18.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 43 assists, 44 steals, 81% FT); Leah Seib, So. (8.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg)
Against the field: 1-2 (lost to Greenwood, 57-51; lost at Franklin Central, 51-50; beat Whiteland, 52-51)
Outlook: The Dragons are among the state’s leaders in getting to the free throw line, with the aggressive McMurray leading the charge in that department. New Pal has picked up some big wins of late after it started the season 1-3 — with one of those early losses coming to Greenwood on Nov. 8. It’ll have a chance at redemption tonight.
Coach: Kyle Shipp
Record: 10-13 (3-3 Mid-State Conference)
Sagarin rating: 79.71 (59th in Indiana, 45th in Class 4A)
A year ago: Lost to Greenwood, 79-66, in sectional semifinal
Players to watch: Mackenzie Blazek, Jr. (18.8 ppg, 14.3 rpg, 40 assists, 70 blocks); Sidney Crowe, Sr. (14.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 65 assists, 32 steals); Jessyca Napier, Sr. (7.1 ppg, 42% 3-point FG)
Against the field: 2-5 (lost to Franklin Central, 61-57; lost to Franklin, 44-37; lost at Martinsville, 57-39; lost to Center Grove, 55-43; won at Greenwood, 49-31; lost at New Palestine, 52-51; beat Franklin, 77-36)
Outlook: The Warriors have been a team stuck in the middle for most of the season, good enough to hang with some of the best teams in the state but not quite able to get over the hump and beat them. Overlook Whiteland at your peril, however — Blazek is one of Indiana’s top post players, and teams doubling down on her risk leaving shooters such as Crowe and Napier open on the perimeter. Could this be the week when the Warriors put it all together?
This week’s girls basketball sectional schedule:
Class 4A Martinsville Sectional
Greenwood vs. New Palestine, 7 p.m.
Franklin vs. Whiteland, 6 p.m.
Center Grove vs. Martinsville, 7:30 p.m.
Greenwood-New Palestine winner vs. Franklin Central, 6 p.m.
Wednesday’s winners, 7:30 p.m.
Championship, 7:30 p.m.
Class 4A Ben Davis Sectional
Perry Meridian vs. Roncalli, 6 p.m.
Southport vs. Ben Davis, 7:30 p.m.
Perry Meridian-Roncalli winner vs. Pike, 6 p.m.
Southport-Ben Davis winner vs. Decatur Central, 7:30 p.m.
Championship, 7:30 p.m.
Class 3A Indianapolis Northwest Sectional
Beech Grove vs. Danville, 6 p.m.
Indianapolis Washington vs. Indian Creek, 7:30 p.m.
Beech Grove-Danville winner vs. Indianapolis Northwest, 6 p.m.
Indianapolis Washington-Indian Creek winner vs. Cardinal Ritter, 7:30 p.m.
Championship, 7:30 p.m.
Class A Morristown Sectional
Indianapolis Lutheran vs. Indianapolis Arlington, 6 p.m.
Greenwood Christian vs. Morristown, 7:30 p.m.
Indianapolis Lutheran-Indianapolis Arlington winner vs. Central Christian, 6 p.m.
GCA-Morristown winner vs. Edinburgh, 7:30 p.m.
Championship, 7:30 p.m.