LAFAYETTE — Victory No. 300 in Kathie Layden’s high school girls basketball coaching career came Friday night as many expected, but probably not in the way Northwestern fans imagined.
Held to their lowest scoring output of the season, the all-class No. 1-ranked and Class 3A No. 1 Tigers turned to their defense to capture the Hoosier Conference championship with a 38-21 victory at Class 2A No. 9 Central Catholic.
Layden was carried off the floor following the trophy presentation, but she was quick to give the credit to all the players she’s coached during the past 19 seasons.
“What the number 300 shows is that I’ve coached a lot of great, great kids,” Layden said. “I know starting back with the kids I coached at Tri-Central I’ve been so fortunate to have so many great kids who have worked hard for me to have this great honor.”
The Tigers' second straight Hoosier Conference championship really wasn’t in doubt after a first half that saw Northwestern (20-2) hold Central Catholic to 1-of-17 shooting from the field while building an 18-6 lead.
“Our length around the perimeter I think makes girls play hesitant at times,” Layden said. “When you think maybe you are open and with our length — Madison [Layden], Klair [Merrell] and Kendall [Bostic], the way they cover the court, it takes away opportunities maybe you felt were there.”
As that score indicates, the Tigers weren’t firing on all cylinders offensively either. Early foul trouble sent Madison Layden to the bench with no points. Bostic had six points and Merrell had five but Northwestern was a pedestrian 7 of 20 from the field.
Central Catholic coach Craig Devault gave credit to his team for holding Northwestern 30 points below its season average.
“I never thought we’d hold them to 38, but I didn’t think they would get their average,” Devault said. “Our girls executed the game plan defensively.
“We just played really good defense on Layden and Bostic.”
Bostic finished with 10 points to go with a game-high 13 rebounds. Layden had six points on 4 of 4 free throw shooting and 1 of 4 from the field.
Merrell led all scorers with 11 points.
Lexi Thompson had six points for Central Catholic (16-5), which shot 18.9 percent from the field (7 of 37).
“Our offense is fun to watch but even in practice our girls would tell you we spend a lot more time working on defense than we do anything else,” Kathie Layden said. “We knew they were going to be a handful [Friday] with the number of shooters they have. We knew we were going to have to buckle down defensively. The first half we held them to one field goal and I was super proud of the girls' effort.”
The Tigers have little time to celebrate the Hoosier Conference championship thanks to a noon date with Indianapolis North Central on Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.