LAFAYETTE — For one night anyway, Northwestern girls basketball’s transition to Class 4A looked a lot like its domination of 3A opponents the past two seasons.
Purdue-bound Madison Layden scored 28 points and Michigan State recruit Kendall Bostic added 22 on 11-of-11 shooting in the No. 2-ranked Tigers’ 70-15 demolition of Lafayette Jeff on Tuesday at Crawley Center.
While Northwestern’s past schedules have included the Bronchos and a handful of 4A schools, the victory was officially its first in Indiana’s highest basketball classification. After winning back-to-back 3A state championships, the Tigers were moved up a class due to the IHSAA’s “success factor” rule.
Layden outscored the Bronchos 9-5 in the first quarter, just a hint at what was to come. Northwestern made its first 12 free throws, forced 16 Jeff turnovers in the first half and took advantage of 10 Broncho fouls to lead 36-13 at halftime.
In all, Northwestern forced 31 turnovers and held Jeff to 15 percent shooting from the field (6 of 38). The Tigers shut out the Bronchos for nearly 13 minutes before Jeff’s Sanaa Cartledge scored the game’s final basket with 3:45 to play.
Despite holding Jeff to that lone basket in the second half, Northwestern coach Kathie Layden saw a lot of room for improvement defensively.
“We’re not looking at the 15 points. We’re looking at the shots they were able to get,” she said. “When we’re giving them, sometimes, an open look underneath because of miscommunication or a person popping free at the top when we should have been covering them but we’re not, that’s what we’re looking at. We’ve got a lot of weapons we can use defensively but we’ve got to get better.”
This victory was far more than the Layden-Bostic show. Klair Merrell put up 10 points to go with six assists and six steals. Freshman McKenna Layden had six points, three assists and a game-high seven rebounds in her varsity debut.
“Not bad for her freshman debut,” Kathie Layden said of her younger daughter. “If we could get that every night, we’d take it.”
There’s a saying that statistics lie. Northwestern’s stat sheet from this game told the truth and nothing but the truth about this blowout. The Tigers shot 65 percent (27 of 41) from the field, 75 percent at the free throw line (12 of 16) and outrebounded the Bronchos 25-16.
“I think we saw a lot of versatility out of our girls [Tuesday],” Kathie Layden said. “What really stands out for us is the 20 assists. That’s what’s made us unique. Not only do we have talent but we’re willing to share the ball and that makes us difficult to guard.”
A prime example of that unselfishness was the Tigers’ patience against a sagging Jeff interior defense determined to deny Bostic. Lob passes and hard work by Bostic to get open finally paid off in the second half, when she scored 14 points.
Cartledge led Lafayette Jeff with seven points before fouling out with 3:17 to play. The Bronchos are rebuilding after one starter moved to Louisiana, another transferred to McCutcheon and a third decided not to play this season after suffering a torn ACL last year.