Center Grove’s last trip to a girls basketball regional ended with the Trojans dropping an overtime thriller against top-ranked Columbus North on the Bull Dogs’ home floor two years ago.
On Saturday, Kevin Stuckmeyer’s club is back in the same gym hoping for a different end result when it takes on unbeaten Castle in the semifinal round of the Class 4A Columbus North Regional.
The four-team field is a balanced one, featuring three of the top 11 teams in the Sagarin computer rankings. Could the Trojans earn two wins in one day to reach their first semistate since 2007?
Here’s a look at how the four teams stack up heading into the regional:
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Columbus East Olympians
Coach: Danny Brown
Sagarin rating: 85.11 (30th in Class 4A, 33rd overall)
Against the field: Lost at Bedford North Lawrence, 70-50, on Jan. 9
Players to watch: Britney Ballard, Claire Cunningham, Addy Galarno, Kristen Lyons, Whitley Rankin
The bottom line: The Olympians broke through this year with a lineup dominated by seniors who have been starting since their sophomore season. They hit a late-season tailspin and lost six of seven before regrouping to claim the sectional crown with a two-point win at East Central. Columbus East is the underdog in this group, but it’s also playing on a familiar floor and has nothing to lose.
Bedford North Lawrence Stars
Coach: Jeff Allen
Sagarin rating: 95.71 (ninth in Class 4A, 10th overall)
Against the field: Lost at Castle, 62-50, on Jan. 6; beat Columbus East, 70-50, on Jan. 9
Players to watch: Jorie Allen, Jacy Hughes, Chloe McKnight, McKenzie Messmore, Madison Webb
The bottom line: Allen (17.1 ppg, 8.0 rpg) draws the lion’s share of the attention, and for good reason — the Indiana University commit figures to be among the 2019 Miss Basketball front-runners, and she’d be a matchup problem for a Center Grove team without any size to speak of in its rotation. But the Stars also put a balanced lineup around Allen featuring four other players averaging 7.4 points or more.
Coach: Bob Meier
Sagarin rating: 97.48 (seventh in Class 4A, eighth overall)
Against the field: Beat Bedford North Lawrence, 62-50, on Jan. 6
Players to watch: Jalaya Dowell, Chloe Mills, Jessica Nunge, Julia Pate
The bottom line: First-year coach Meier has yet to lose a game, thanks largely to an experienced lineup with four players scoring between 9.2 and 12.8 points a game. The Knights’ size should pose a problem for the undersized Trojans; the unanswered question is whether they’ll be able to handle Center Grove’s talented backcourt. Castle is expected to emerge from this regional, but it also has the weakest strength of schedule in the group. How will it handle the tougher competition?
Center Grove Trojans
Coach: Kevin Stuckmeyer
Sagarin rating: 95.59 (10th in Class 4A, 11th overall)
Against the field: N/A
Players to watch: Amy Davis, Cassidy Hardin, Karinna Frankel, Ella Thompson, Emma Utterback
The bottom line: Center Grove has been unconventionally successful all year long, beating bigger teams despite not having any players in the regular lineup taller than 5-foot-10. What the Trojans have is a team full of girls who can play multiple positions, handle the ball and hit 3-point shots. They’ve played the toughest schedule of the four teams in the regional and won’t be intimidated by anyone — but the large frontcourts of Castle and Bedford North Lawrence could present difficult matchups.
Class 4A Columbus North Regional
Columbus East vs. Bedford North Lawrence, 10 a.m.
Castle vs. Center Grove, noon
Championship, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $7 per session, $10 for full day