Northwestern’s girls basketball team owns a 33-game overall winning streak and a 16-game postseason winning streak. The latter is anchored by back-to-back Class 3A state championships.
The Tigers will put their purple reign on the line Saturday in the home of the original purple reign, Marion’s Bill Green Arena. Green led Marion’s boys to three straight state titles in 1985-87.
Northwestern is part of a power-packed field in the Class 4A Marion Regional. The four-team field includes IBCA all-class No. 1-ranked Northwestern, No. 3 Homestead and No. 5 Fishers. (The Purple Tigers also are No. 1 in the ICGSA Top 10 and the Sagarin ratings. Homestead is Sagarin’s No. 2 team.)
Northwestern (26-0) faces Fishers (23-1) in the 10 a.m. opener, Homestead (25-1) takes on Carroll of Fort Wayne (17-6) in the second semifinal and the championship is at 8 p.m.
“The opportunity to play in the regional is always an exciting time,” Northwestern coach Kathie Layden said. “The competition looks to be fantastic and the girls are excited to play Fishers. I anticipate a great game and a huge crowd.
“Across the board these teams are tough. These will all be competitive games,” she added.
Northwestern and Fishers, which share a nickname, have not met before.
Fishers beat defending Class 4A state champion Hamilton Southeastern 50-42 to win its first sectional title since 2014.
“Fishers has many weapons and is a very athletic team. We will need to be able to defend the 3-point shot as well as contain them on the drive,” Layden said. “Defensively, they are aggressive and disciplined.”
The Hamilton County Tigers have a perimeter-oriented attack with a balanced array of options. Katie Burton, a 5-foot-9 point guard, scores a team-high 15.4 points per game and 5-8 wing Tamia Perryman, 5-8 guard Kaitlynn Feagan, 5-6 point guard Audra Emmerson and 5-9 guard Hailey Smith all average between 7-8 ppg.
“Burton is the leader of their offense. We will need to know where she is at all times,” Layden said.
In Fishers’ sectional victory over HSE, Perryman helped the Tigers roar back from a 19-5 hole by hitting four 3-pointers and scoring 18 points. She also had nine rebounds and four assists.
Northwestern, of course, is led by the senior trio of 6-1 point guard Madison Layden, 6-1 post Kendall Bostic and 5-9 guard Klair Merrell.
Purdue recruit Madison Layden averages 25.7 points, 6.5 assists and 5.5 steals per game and has made 88 3-pointers. Michigan State recruit Bostic averages 20.4 points and 10 rebounds per game and shoots 74.2% from the field. And Indiana Wesleyan-bound Merrell offers 10.2 ppg and 4.6 apg.
The Purple Tigers also have 6-1 freshman forward McKenna Layden, who drilled five 3-pointers and scored a season-high 20 points against McCutcheon in the sectional final. She averages 6.2 ppg.
The Purple Tigers score 73 ppg and shoot 53.9% from the field overall, 41.1% from 3-land and 76.2% from the foul line. Defensively? They hold opponents to a mere 33 ppg.
Fishers scores 53.9 ppg and holds opponents to 41.1.
Northwestern and Fishers had five common opponents during the regular season. Both teams beat Carmel, Hamilton Heights, Noblesville and Westfield with Fishers beating Westfield twice. The other common opponent was North Central: Northwestern beat NC 65-51 on Jan. 25, two weeks after NC beat Fishers 74-53.
Homestead is the clear favorite in the second semifinal. The Spartans beat Carroll 67-29 in a Summit Athletic Conference game on Dec. 6. The Spartans are undefeated against in-state teams; their only loss came against Ohio’s Notre Dame Academy.
The Spartans feature 6-2 wing Ayanna Patterson, who is considered one of the top sophomores in the country.