The teams are the same, but the matchups and location are different.
That's the case for Northwestern's girls basketball team today in the Class 3A Rensselaer Regional.
The semifinal games show No. 5-ranked Mishawaka Marian (21-3) vs. Knox (21-4) at 11 a.m. EST followed by No. 1 Northwestern (23-3) vs. Gary West (20-7) at approximately 1 p.m. The championship is at 8 p.m.
Last year, those same four teams gathered for a regional, but it was at Twin Lakes. In the semifinals, Northwestern blasted Marian 69-35 and Gary West beat Knox 55-45. In the championship, the Tigers rolled to a 61-23 win. They went on to win the 3A state title.
Northwestern coach Kathie Layden is happy to see familiar opponents.
"It's nice to feel like the girls know what they're getting into as far as competition wise," she said. "Last year was kind of an unknown with a whole different look of teams from the year before."
The Tigers are making their third straight regional appearance. They are led by 6-foot-1 juniors Madison Layden and Kendall Bostic. The Big Ten recruits combine to average 40.4 points, 13.9 rebounds and 10 assists per game.
Gary West is making its second straight Class 3A regional appearance and fourth straight overall. Just like last season, the Cougars are led by Dash Shaw. The 5-foot-7 junior guard averages 24.3 ppg. She is backed by 5-7 freshman guard Trinity Barnes, who averages 13.9.
Last year, Shaw entered the regional averaging 23.2 ppg, but the Tigers held her to six points on 3-of-14 shooting.
In the other semifinal, Marian and Knox both feature balanced attacks.
Marian is led by 5-8 senior forward Makayla Weaver (13.9 ppg), 5-10 senior forward Anija Payne (12.3 ppg, 10.6 rpg) and 5-8 sophomore guard McKenzie Hudgen (12 ppg). Knox is led by 6-0 senior guard Lindsey Simpson (17.8 ppg, 4.3 apg), 6-0 sophomore post Remy Jordan (10.8 ppg) and 5-8 sophomore guard/forward Felicity Olejiniczak (9.3 ppg).
Tipton is part of the field at the Class 2A Eastern Regional.
Tipton, Oak Hill and Lafayette Central Catholic are all returning from last year's field. Monroe Central replaces defending regional champion Frankton. MC was undefeated last year before falling to Frankton in the Sectional 40 final.
The 10 a.m. opener today pits No. 9-ranked Tipton (20-5) vs. No. 12 MC (19-5). Like the Blue Devils, who are led by 6-0 senior guard/forward Cassidy Crawford (23 ppg, 8.9 rpg) and 5-7 senior guard Kelsey Mitchell (14.6 ppg), the Golden Bears feature a strong 1-2 punch in 6-0 senior forward Jordyn Barga (17.4 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 3.3 apg) and 5-4 junior guard Hannah Bolton (15.5 ppg, 3.6 apg).
The noon semifinal has No. 3 Oak Hill (21-3) vs. No. 11 LCC (20-6). It's the second straight year they've met in a regional semifinal — Oak Hill beat LCC 53-38 last year.