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February 5, 2013

PREP GIRLS HOOPS: It’s tourney time

Girls basketball sectionals begin play tonight

— Four weeks ago, Kokomo’s girls basketball team beat Lafayette Jeff 55-34 to ignite a five-game winning streak. Kokomo then closed the regular season with three straight losses.

The Lady Kats will look to regain their winning touch when they renew acquaintances with Lafayette Jeff tonight in the opening round of the Class 4A Logansport Sectional.

No. 4-ranked Logansport (21-1) faces McCutcheon (5-16) in the 6 p.m. opener at the Berry Bowl followed by Kokomo (12-8) vs. Jeff (3-18).

“It’s always an exciting time of the year, being able to take things we’ve learned throughout the regular season and form game plans to try to make a run in the tournament,” Kokomo coach Jason Snyder said.

“We have five outstanding senior leaders. We want to continue to extend their season. We’ve had great focus the last week in an attempt to get ready for a tournament run.”

Sectionals across the state begin tonight. Kokomo is the lone Howard County team in action tonight. No. 8-ranked Western and Northwestern meet Wednesday in the Class 3A Benton Central Sectional. And, Eastern and Taylor drew byes and will play in separate games Friday night in the Class 2A Madison-Grant Sectional.

The following are looks at the Kokomo-Jeff and Northwestern-Western matchups.

Kokomo vs. Jeff

Kokomo had its way against Jeff in the regular-season meeting, rolling to a 55-34 win on Jan. 8 at the Crawley Center. Alanis Jones led the Kats with 11 points and seven rebounds and Anastacia Kirby had 10 points and six boards.

Snyder noted the Bronchos played at less than full strength that night.

“Their leading scorer and point guard [Aliyia Kind] was out when we played them. She is back and playing again so it will be a little different team,” he said. “They have two quick guards who will push the ball and try to attack gaps, then they have two nice 3-point shooters. When everyone is healthy and able to play for them, they provide a big challenge defensively.

“Offensively, we need to attack the basket, and make sure we have great movement and great energy. It will be a hard-fought game. Guard play will be a key.”

Kokomo scores 43.1 points per game and allows the exact same amount. Jeff scores 34.5 and allows 48.8.

The Lady Kats’ top scorers are senior Kirby (10 ppg), juniors Jones (7.4) and Jasmine Love (6.9) and senior Brayana Fowler (5.7). Kirby leads the squad in rebounding with 8.1 per game and Love is tops in assists with 2.1.

The Logan-McCutcheon winner will face Harrison (8-13) in Friday’s semifinal round while the Kokomo-Jeff winner will face Marion (11-9). Kokomo beat Marion 48-45 in NCC play on Dec. 15.

Logansport is the heavy favorite in the field. The Berries score 67 ppg and their average margin is a gaudy plus-27.2 ppg. Logan beat Kokomo 62-34 in NCC play on Nov. 17.

The Berries are led by 2014 Miss Basketball candidate and Iowa recruit Whitney Jennings, who averages 25 points, 8.4 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 4.3 steals per game.

Northwestern vs. Western

The seven-team Benton Central Sectional kicks off tonight with one game, West Lafayette (16-5) vs. Peru (9-11). West Lafayette is riding a nine-game winning streak.

The opening round continues Wednesday with two games, Maconaquah (1-19) vs. Twin Lakes (11-10), and Northwestern (11-9) vs. No. 8-ranked Western (17-4). Host and No. 4-ranked BC (18-3) received the bye and will face the WL-Peru winner in the semifinal round.

With a pair of top-10 teams and three other teams also sporting winning records, the road to the title looks challenging.

“It’s going to be a knock-down, drag-out sectional, one in which you have to come every night ready to play,” said Western coach Chris Keisling, whose squad is the defending sectional champion. “You have to take it one game at a time — survive and advance.”

Western and Northwestern met twice during the regular season. The Panthers won both times — 53-26 in Mid-Indiana Conference play on Nov. 20, and 44-26 in the final of the Howard County Tournament on Jan. 5.

Keisling noted the Tigers have made nice progress over the course of the season under first-year coach Kathie Layden. He expects their best shot Wednesday.

“It’s a team we know well, they know us well, and it’s a county rivalry so both teams will be ready to play,” he said.

“I think at this time of year, you have to come out and play well. One bad shooting night can spell doom for you. You hope your defense is strong, too.”

Western had an off night in its regular-season finale and paid the price. Tipton upset Western 49-47, snapping the Panthers’ five-game happy streak. Keisling noted the loss provided a wake-up call and prompted a sharp week of practice.

Western is led in scoring by junior guards Carley O’Neal (11.7 ppg), Caitlyn O’Neal (9.9) and Jessica Givens (9.1) along with junior forward Raven Black (7.6) and senior guard Allison Lindley (6.9). Black leads the team in rebounding with 6.5 per game.

Northwestern is led by senior post Hannah Treadway (10.4 ppg), senior forward Erin Kesler (6.3) and senior guard Kaitlynd Lear (6.3).

The Panthers score 50.3 ppg and allow 37.2. The Tigers score 44 and allow 45.8.

Around the area

In addition to Peru, two other area teams also are in action tonight.

At the Class 2A Madison-Grant Sectional, Tipton (11-9) faces Alexandria (6-15) in the second game. And in the Class 2A Wabash Sectional, Cass (4-16) takes on Manchester (6-14) in the only game of the night.

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