Bostic and Layden.jpg

Kendall Bostic, left photo, and Madison Layden, right photo, are the co-Most Valuable Players on the 2020 KT All-Area Girls Basketball Team after leading the Tigers to a 29-1 record and a Class 4A state runner-up finish. The Big Ten recruits have been All-Area co-MVPs for four straight years.

Northwestern’s inside-outside combo of Kendall Bostic and Madison Layden have played together since elementary school. In that time they’ve linked up thousands of times on court. Outlets, kickouts, post feeds, inbounds plays, on and on. One kind is their favorite.

Asked what she thinks about first when casting her mind back to favorite plays between the two, Madison Layden went straight to a transition play.

“I think just her running the floor and me being able to make those long passes up the floor, those are my favorite,” Layden said.

So often on the same page on court, they were of the same mind when thinking of their favorite play as well.

“I think overall it’s our fastbreaks,” Bostic said when asked the same question. “She can get the rebound and I can run the floor and she makes a great pass to me. I think that’s a signature thing that people think about.”

A transition highlight for a pair of local stars in transition. Layden and Bostic led Northwestern’s girls basketball team to two Class 3A state titles, in back-to-back seasons over their sophomore and junior seasons, then finished their high school run as seniors this winter with an unbeaten romp all the way to the Class 4A state title game, where they fell by three points to Lawrence North.

For an unprecedented fourth time, Bostic and Layden have been named the co-MVPs of the Kokomo Tribune All-Area Girls Basketball team. They’ve been inseparably linked all this time, but next fall when the college basketball season begins, they’ll be signing that signature play with a new set of teammates. Bostic is headed to Michigan State and Laden to Purdue.

“Definitely it’ll be weird because we’ve been playing together for so long,” Layden said. “It’ll be different next year.”

And here’s where the paths diverge after that long standing partnership gives way to a Big Ten rivalry.

“I don’t think it’ll be weird for either of us, I think it’ll be kind of cool that we played together and we both get to go to different colleges and do our own thing,” Bostic said. “I think it’ll be cool for both of us.”

They’ve grown together and watched their games grow to the point where they’re in position to set out on their own. Layden, a 6-foot-1 point guard/wing, and Bostic, a 6-1 post, have been ideal complements throughout their time at Northwestern. Often operating on the same side of the floor — the left half — opponents had to deal with two threats operating in tandem. The base of Bostic’s game is in the post, but it’s expanded over time, and Layden’s game involves shooting and driving.

Northwestern coach Kathie Layden talked about how the Tigers used them together. The Tiger offense’s strength was “the style of play and running sets and really being able to exploit the other team’s defense, whether it’s feeling like we have a mismatch with a guard on Madison and taking her down [to the paint] … or Kendall stepping up to the high post or short corner and being able to knock down the shot or drive. I think they created such a mismatch for teams defensively.”

The cumulative effect of their abilities and how Northwestern used them was devastating.

Gatorade Indiana Player of the Year Layden led the area in scoring at 25.6 points per game and in assists at 6.4 per game, was second in steals at 5.1 per game, grabbed 4.2 rebounds per game, was second in field-goal percentage at 51.6, led the area in free throw percentae at 89.3, and was second in 3-point shooting percentage at 40.6. She canned an eye-popping 93 triples, more than double her nearest rival.

“I think her ability to drive [has improved],” Bostic said of Layden. “She started driving a lot more this year and it helped us. It helped us when [opposing defenses] are collapsing in or spreading out.”

Bostic was second in the area in scoring at 20.5 ppg, third in rebounding at 10.2, tied for sixth in assists at 3 apg, was the runaway leader in field-goal accuracy at 73.3%, was fifth in free throw percentage at 75.5, fourth in blocked shots at 1.9 per game, and added 2.2 steals per game. Her 73.3% accuracy from the field topped the state and is the second-best single-season mark in Indiana girls history.

“She’s definitely gotten stronger, so that’s helped on inside and post moves,” Layden said of Bostic. “I also think her outside shot [has improved]. You can tell by her percentages.”

Layden finished her career with 2,360 points, 713 assists and 539 steals. Bostic finished with 2,032 points to go with 1,040 rebounds. They stand 1-2 in Howard County’s career scoring ladder. Layden ranks 13th in state history in scoring and No. 2 in both assists and steals. Bostic holds the state record for career field goal percentage (68.2) and is only the eighth girl in the state to reach the 2,000-point, 1,000-rebound milestone.

Both have honed their games in AAU play against high-level competition, and Northwestern’s tough schedule added to that. They’re as ready as they can be for the next step. Kathie Layden said both often went up against older players in order to get used to the speed and strength required as they moved up in competition levels.

“They played that way during the summer so you could come into the season and feel like you’ve prepared yourself for the competition that you’re going to face in the [high school] tournament or college,” she said. “I think that’s a big factor for confidence to be honest.”

Bostic said Michigan State’s coaches envision her as a “stretch 4,” a forward who can also shoot and space the floor in addition to her inside game, and who can get outside shots in transition like a small forward when called upon.

Layden said Purdue is looking to use her for versatility, to exploit her combination of size with guard skills and quickness.

Now, the next challenge is college play. They’ve played their last basketball for Northwestern, but the memories remain.

Bostic said what she’ll miss most is the fan base.

“We have such a great community following, that was always cool to me to have that,” she said. As for a particular moment, “probably the semistate or state, just kind of looking out [at the fans] as the final few minutes tick down and you’re like ‘oh boy.’”

For Layden, it’s the shared experiences that stand out now.

“I’ll definitely miss them for sure. I’ve played with a lot of great players at Northwestern and especially all the seniors. I’ll miss them,” Layden said. “I’ll just miss playing at Northwestern.”

The following are capsules on the rest of the 40th KT All-Area Team. The players are listed in alphabetical order within their respective teams.

FIRST TEAM

McKENZIE COOPER, EASTERN

A senior guard who does damage inside and outside, Cooper was the cutting edge on offense for a 13-win Eastern team. She led the Comets with 15.2 ppg, good for sixth in the area. She hit 46 3-pointers, tying her for second in the area in made triples. She was fourth in the area in free throw accuracy at 76.6%

Cooper also took the lead role on finishing defensive stops with a team-high 6.9 rpg, 10th in the area. Cooper was also second on the squad and third in the area with 3.2 steals per game.

“Obviously outside shooting is probably her biggest strength,” Eastern coach Andy Steele said. “What I was more impressed with this year was her ability to play inside. She hit the weights really hard this summer. She developed an inside game which will help her at the next level. Her having to guard people 6-foot, 5-10, where she’s 5-7 — she took it to them a lot during the season. It was astonishing that she led our team in rebounding being only 5-7.”

Without a clear post presence for the Comets, Cooper expanded her range toward the inside while retaining her outside shooting.

“Usually she got 3s when Jeanie [Crabtree] or anther guard would attack the paint and it’d be a kickout 3 or a set play for a 3,” Steele said. “I think the majority of her points came right in the paint area this year just because of … her catching the ball and throwing a shot fake in and attacking the rim. What didn’t show up on paper … [was] her ability to do a pullup 15-footer. Offensively she’s very sound but defensively she really came into her stride this season as well.”

LILLY MAPLE, MAC

Is there anything Maple didn’t do for Maconaquah? The all-action sophomore point guard led the Braves in scoring at 17.3 ppg, fourth highest in the area. She was the leading rebounder at 8.1 per game, fifth in the area. She led the squad in assists at 3 per game, tied for fifth in the area. And she led Mac with 3.1 steals per game, tied for fourth in the area.

“She was vital to our team. The ball always went through her,” former Maconaquah coach P.J. Hatcher said. “She can do things on the offensive end and she had the most deflections, most steals on the defensive end. She can see things developing. We had enough threats on the team and Lilly loves getting the ball to other people, but we wanted to make sure she was attack-oriented and looking to score and then playing off of that. People had to stop her and that’s where the openings for other people developed.”

Maple had already established her offensive game by last season. Rebounding was where she made the biggest leap from her freshman season to her sophomore one.

“That was something she wanted to focus on,” Hatcher said. “Rebounding wasn’t something we were exactly looking for but she kind of took it upon herself. She could do just as well getting the [defensive] rebound and pushing the floor, going coast to coast because of her vision.”

KLAIR MERRELL, NW

In an offense geared toward getting dominant scorers Madison Layden and Bostic into scoring positions, senior guard Merrell had a dual role as a floor spacer, available for jumpers on the opposite side from Madison Layden, and as a passer getting the ball into scoring positions.

The Indiana Wesleyan recruit was third on the squad with an even 10 ppg, and made opportunities sting when defenses overloaded on Northwestern’s big two. Merrell canned shots at a 48.5% clip, fourth in the area, and led the area in 3-point accuracy at 40.9% while hitting a career-high 38 triples. She was seventh in the area in free throw accuracy at 72.2%.

“Klair made us such a difficult team to defend this year because obviously we had our two big scorers, but she was somebody that you could not leave open,” Kathie Layden said. “Obviously you can’t double team people and still guard everyone else on the court. For Klair, not only was she an outside threat but she also developed a drive to the basket.

“She had some really big scoring games for us this year but she was also one of those players that let the game come to her. She always made smart plays. She’d make the extra pass — sometimes too much — but constantly had her head up and looking to make that extra play.”

SECOND TEAM

JEANIE CRABTREE, EASTERN

If one word was needed to sum up Crabtree’s game it’s disruptive. Always alert, always ready to pounce, Crabtree was a menace in the passing lanes or on the ball defensively, snatching an area-best 5.3 steals per game whether Eastern was pressing or not.

“She can almost be a one-woman press,” Steele said. “If you’ve got a team that struggles handling ball pressure, she would routinely be on the ball pressuring it. I don’t care what offense you’re running, that really disrupts the flow of the offense because you’re so worried about what she’s going to do. Her timing on passes and taking the ball off the dribble is ridiculous.”

Steele said Crabtree remembers little bits from scouting reports about where opponents are weakest offensively, then attacks. On the other end, the senior guard-forward was just as disruptive to opposing defenses, getting inside defenders to dish 6.39 apg, second best in the area. Adding 8.6 ppg and 3.5 rpg gave her a well-rounded impact.

“She lives for assists and she’ll be the first one to tell you that,” Steele said. “Watching her when I’m on the sideline coaching, watching her make these passes I’m like ‘how did she even see that?’ Her ability to see the floor, it’s astonishing how well she does it.”

COURTLYNN CROWE, PERU

Crowe was the driving force behind Peru’s 13-win season. A senior guard, she was fifth in the area and led the Bengal Tigers in scoring at 15.5 ppg, was fourth in the area in assists and led Peru with 4.2 apg, was second on her squad in rebounding at 6.6 rpg, and tied for the team lead in steals at 3.1, which tied for fourth in the area. She hit shots at a 42.4% clip, 10th in the area.

“She was definitely a playmaker for us and had that ability to involve others with her passing game,” Peru coach David Weeks said. “I thought each year her passing got better, she got to read the floor better and help others and find them in their best spot to finish. She knew where people’s better shots came from. She led us in assists and she just had the eye to know how to find others in the right spots so they could score and help us be successful that way.”

Weeks noted that each of Crowe’s four seasons, the Bengals posted more wins than the previous season. He said the array of things she did on the floor helped Peru post its first winning season since the 2014-15 campaign.

“[Crowe] was always leading all these different categories, whether it be assists or rebounds or steals or scoring,” he said. “Those little things would add up to be huge things as we progressed through the season. If she wasn’t getting more points in a particular game she’d get more assists. She always found things to do that she needed to do to help us to win.”

KENADIE FERNUNG, TC

A microwave scorer, Fernung surged up the scoring charts as a junior, leading Tri-Central and taking the third spot in the area at 18.6 ppg. Operating as a combo guard in tandem with classmate Brittany Temple, Fernung added 2.7 rpg, 2 apg and 2.7 spg while always stressing defenses as the TC’s primary threat.

Her 43 3-pointers made ranked fourth in the area and she was 10th in free throw accuracy at 70.1%.

“Kenadie was probably one of the unique scorers I’ve had because she can do it in such a number of ways,” TC coach Jason Bales said. “She can get to the basket, she can pull up and hit the 3 in transition, and she’s developed a good mid-range game. For us her ability to get to the foul line was huge.

“She saw a lot of different types of defenses — box in one, we saw a triangle and two at the end of the year. Just her ability to impact a game even with those going on is pretty impressive. She’s a kid that can have two or three points or four points going into a certain quarter, maybe the last quarter, and she can put up eight, 10 in a hurry and that breaks the spirit a little bit. She developed the ability to pass and see the floor and does a lot more for us on the offensive end than just put the ball in the basket.”

KELSI LANGLEY, TAYLOR

Langley led a balanced Titan team in scoring at 12.4 ppg (ninth in the area), and in rebounding at 7.2 rpg (also ninth in the area) while adding 2 apg and tying for sixth in the area with 1.2 blocks per game. What the numbers don’t show is how much influence she wielded as a commanding, or sometimes calming, presence for Taylor on the floor.

“And that’s on both ends of the floor,” Taylor coach Tony Oliver said. “We get looks we normally wouldn’t get because of [opponents] paying attention to Kelsi. She’s extremely athletic and when she’s playing well she can dominate a game. She makes everyone better on the team because she does command so much attention. She’s just a real confident player for such a young kid.”

A sophomore guard/forward, she can attack like a combo forward from the baseline or post, or leave her attacking spot and head to the perimeter to take the lead guard role when the Titans a steady hand. Her growth this season as a floor controller led Taylor to not just a 16-8 record overall, but an 8-1 record against Tribune-area teams, with Taylor’s lone loss coming to Class 4A state runner-up Northwestern.

“She’s played enough ball to know what I want,” Oliver said. “She just makes things look easy. Sometimes people may not think she’s playing hard, including myself sometimes, then I go back and watch film.”

CHLOE McCLAIN, KOKOMO

The sophomore guard led Kokomo in minutes played, because she had to. If the Kats were to stay afloat in any given game, they needed everything McClain had to offer.

“She played a lot of minutes in a lot of games simply because we needed her ballhandling, needed her scoring, she led us in rebounding,” Kokomo coach Tod Windlan said. “She was essential for us to win a game, to stay in games and was a good defender as well. She had a phenomenal season for a sophomore.”

McClain responded with team highs in scoring, rebounding and steals. She averaged 14.7 ppg, seventh in the area, and took the team lead on the glass for 5.6 rpg. She added 2.4 steals per game.

“Chloe, I would call her a good scorer of the basketball,” Windlan said. “She can get to the rim with either hand and she can hit the 3-point shot and she’s a good free throw shooter.

“She wanted the basketball. There’s a lot of things that go into being a good rebounder, but to be honest with you it boils down to who wants the ball the most. She had, I call it a real good knack, nose for the ball. Whether she knew which way it was going off the rim or whatever, she went and got a lot of rebounds. It boils down to her aggression level in wanting the ball and wanting to win. She really wants to win and turn our program around.”

THIRD TEAM

EMMA GOOD, TAYLOR

Another scoring option for the Titans, the sophomore guard consistently hurt opponents from outside the arc. Good connected on 46 3-pointers, tying her for second in the area. She also showed good touch from the free throw line, where she was second in the area at 77.6%.

Good was Taylor’s second-leading scorer at 11 ppg, and added 3.1 rebounds and 2 assists.

“Probably out of all the players she thinks she’s going to make every shot, and that is a great thing,” Oliver said. “I think her shooting percentage from 3s is like 32% and we want it in the upper 30s, but I’d like to see what her percentage is in important shots because she hit them all season long.

“[She and Langley] complement each other. When she’s on fire, other kids get looks. We hit a game-tying shot against Maconaquah when we ran a certain set and everybody left Kelsi to run out to her, and she just dumped it in to Kelsi for a bucket. She likes to shoot it, but she knows when to give it up too.”

KELSEY HAMMOND, CARROLL

The center/forward made her senior year count with consistently strong performances inside. She averaged a double-double for the season and had seven double-double games. Carroll went 12-12 on the season, and 5-2 in games where she hit double figures in points and on the glass.

Hammond led the area in blocked shots at 3.4 per game, was fourth in the area in rebounding at 10 rpg, and added 10.3 ppg.

“Kelsey’s impact on the game I would say started on the defensive end,” Carroll coach Brady Wiles said. “If we were in man-to-man she was normally our rim protector. If we were in a zone she was the middle of that zone. Offensively, she was a presence inside — tons of offensive rebounds, but somebody that always had a knack for where the ball was going to go and quite a few offensive putbacks. We ran quite a few plays for our bigs in the post — we were taller than most teams — and she definitely took advantage of that.

“She was probably one of two players [along with Megan Wagner] where if they were playing well, we were playing well as a team.”

McKENNA LAYDEN, NW

Stats won’t tell the story for McKenna Layden because her role for powerhouse Northwestern was to make the offense move well, and be a safe option to score when needed. And the the freshman forward excelled at those facets. She averaged 6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, and 3 apg while sharing passing duties with the rest of the perimeter unit. She was the area’s third-most efficient shooter, hitting shots at a 49.6% clip.

She had a double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds in a sectional championship victory over McCutcheon, and just missed a double-double with 10 points and eight rebounds in the regional final win over Homestead.

“I think the most impressive thing for McKenna was to step in as a freshman into kind of an intimidating situation on a team that’s had a lot of success and obviously has great players, and for her to step in and start and contribute immediately on this team is really impressive,” Kathie Layden said.

“She did a great job this year letting the game come to her. She was not someone that other teams could just leave open. I want to say she shot over 40% from 3-point range this year [hitting 12 of 28, 43%]. She shot the ball really well from 3-point range, especially as a freshman, and just adding another 6-foot, 6-1 guard into our lineup with length that was able to play defense and rebound and play with confidence [helped us].”

ASHLEE SCHRAM, TIPTON

The freshman post made an instant impact in the paint, posting nine double-doubles for the 12-win Blue Devils. She was third on the squad in scoring at 10.5 ppg, led the team and was second in the area in rebounding at 10.4 rpg, was fifth in the area in field-goal percentage at 48.1, and fifth in the area in blocks at 1.8 per game.

“Ashlee had a very good welcome-to-high-school season,” Tipton coach Chad Wetz said. “I was super proud of how she acclimated to the pressures. A lot of freshmen can’t do that. She never backed down and really was a major part of our offensive and defensive philosophy.”

Wetz said that once Schram adjusted to high school game speed and realized she needed to play a lot of minutes, she worked on her conditioning to be available as much as possible. Because of that he said “by midseason she was really playing at a level you don’t see a lot of freshmen playing at.”

“The best thing that she was good at was having the ability to protect the rim, and we hadn’t had that in our program for a while,” Wetz said. “We could funnel drivers to her and she did a great job of blocking shots, contesting shots without getting in foul trouble. She was rarely in foul trouble, which allowed her to play a lot of minutes.”

HALEY SCOTT, WESTERN

The junior post player controlled action in the paint for the Panthers. She led the squad in scoring at 10.3 ppg and in rebounding at 6.9 rpg, 11th in the area. She also tied for sixth in the area in blocked shots at 1.2 per game.

“Her inside presence is something else, offensively and defensively,” Western coach Lisa Pflueger said. “Offensively it opens up other things for us because teams want to double on her and that creates things on the outside, and it makes us a little more multi-dimensional, and defensively we’ve worked hard on her defense beyond shot blocking and rebounding and she’s responded really well. She’s obviously a great rebounder.

“She’s really good at, I’d say, 15 feet in. She’s really expanded her shooting range. In the past it was more back to the basket as a true post player, but with our more open continuity offense she’s getting more confidence in being able to catch and attack off the dribble as well.”

ELLA WOLFE, TIPTON

A sophomore guard, Wolfe took on a big role despite getting very little prep time as a freshman. Her freshman season was cut to just six games due to injury but as a sophomore she proved she could take over the workload of being the on-floor leader, while also leading the Blue Devils in scoring at 12.8 ppg. She added 3.7 rpg, 2.2 apg and shared the team lead with 2.3 steals per game.

“Ella has an excellent inside-outside game,” Wetz said. “She sets up others with drives and kickouts for shots. She runs our point and calls our plays. She’s a multi-dimensional player. A lot of point guards aren’t scorers, our point guard was our leading scorer.

“Ella was what we expected last year — the leadership, the ballhandling — but really it came full circle as she stepped up as the floor general of the team.”

After the injury, Wolfe dispelled any worries about her ability to control the action.

“It was a pleasant surprise, “ Wetz said. “But she did everything we asked, and also scored a lot of points.”

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