If the weather allows, the first local girls basketball teams to get a crack at sectional action take the floor today as play tips off at the Class 2A Oak Hill Sectional and the Class 3A Western Sectional.

At the seven-team Oak Hill Sectional, No. 8-ranked Taylor opens tonight against Tipton at 7 p.m., while Eastern plays Guerin Catholic in Wednesday’s opener at 6 p.m. The semifinals are Friday and the championship is Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Northwestern opens action at Western today with a date with West Lafayette in the second game at 7:30 p.m. Western plays in Friday’s first semifinal at 6 p.m. and the title game is Saturday at 7.

Below are capsule looks at Howard County’s squads involved in tonight’s games and Wednesday’s action.

OAK HILL SECTIONAL

Taylor


This sectional holds the promise of a potentially mouth-watering matchup in the championship, where Taylor (18-3) could meet No. 5 Oak Hill (17-3). The hosts have been in Taylor’s way for years, and on Nov. 17 of this season, the Titans beat the Golden Eagles in an epic triple-overtime affair. But both have a long way to go before a rematch happens, starting with Taylor’s meeting with Tipton tonight.

The Titans beat the Blue Devils 55-43 in the regular season. Taylor coach Dennis Bentzler is impressed with the Blue Devils, who are 12-7 under new coach Nick Comer.

“Nick has done a great job with those kids because coming in, you’ve got a brand new system and a new coach and they’ve battled some injuries and a lot of sickness,” Bentzler said. “I think they are a very good basketball team. They’re very dangerous. [Brooklyn] Juday hurt us terribly in that first game, just did what she wanted offensively and on the boards.”

The Tipton-Taylor winner faces Madison-Grant (7-12) in Friday’s semifinal. In the other side of the bracket, Eastern (13-7) meets Guerin Catholic (12-8) while Oak Hill meets Sheridan (9-10) Wednesday. Wednesday’s winners compose the other semifinal.

With five winning teams, the sectional should pack entertainment.

“I just think it’s going to be a good one,” Bentzler said. “Sheridan and Guerin Catholic aren’t real strong but you’ve got Eastern in the opposite bracket over there. What a great job Jeremy Dexter’s done with that group. They could be just as dangerous as Tipton, which could beat us in our bracket. Everybody wants to see that rematch on Saturday night, but there won’t be a rematch if both [Taylor and Oak Hill] don’t take care of business.”

That’s where Taylor’s veterans come in. The Titans are led by four-year standout guard Shelby Wall, who is averaging 24.1 points per game. Sophomore Mone’y Black also averages double figures inside.

“Our kids are fired up to play,” Bentzler said of the anticipation of a possible Oak Hill rematch. “As a coach, you’ve got to do your best to keep them focused. You hope you’ve got enough experienced players to keep focused. If you don’t win [today] and Friday, you can’t play Saturday.

“For all the great athletes and outstanding teams we’ve had the last few years, this probably is the funnest group I’ve had to coach. The chemistry is outstanding. These kids, they’re on a mission. They want to get that 20-win season. That’d be our fifth in seven years.”

Eastern

The Comets are more than a darkhorse in the sectional. Eastern split a pair of games with Taylor in a solid campaign but now faces a sectional with five winning squads.

“It does seem like as far as 2A sectionals go, it’s a good sectional,” Eastern skipper Dexter said. “Every team except [two] has a winning record. A lot of people talk about Oak Hill and Taylor. There’s a lot of depth. There’s not going to be an easy game in it. There’s some great players, great coaches, great teams. We’re going to take it one game at a time.”

The Comets open with a Guerin Catholic squad they didn’t face in the regular season.

“From what we’ve seen, they play hard,” Dexter said. “They’ve shown different defensive looks, a lot of zone looks. They’ve got a pretty athletic center, a 6-foot-1 girl. She can play on the outside and inside. We’re going to have to play focused and well to compete and have an opportunity to beat them.”

Eastern turned heads with a victory over Taylor early in the season. The Comets also beat fellow sectional squads Sheridan and Madison-Grant, but lost the rematch with Taylor in the Howard County Tournament and were beaten by Oak Hill during a difficult four-game stretch late in the season that resulted in four losses. The Comets bounced back with a win over Tri-Central to close a season that Dexter is upbeat about.

“I believe we’ve improved every day and that’s the goal,” Dexter said. “You can look at Taylor and they have some great players. When you look at Oak Hill you think [Ashley] Pickering and [Courtney] Moses. When you look at Eastern, we’ve been led in scoring by six different kids this year, led in steals by five, and led in assists by four. We’re very balanced and that’s something going into the year we didn’t know.

“We have two freshmen [Brittany and Bethany Neeley] and they’ve shown no fear. We have two sophomores [Amanda Alexander and Colby Marner], they’ve grown a lot. Everybody has a role and everybody has led us. They seem to know where they fit on the team.”

Guard Bethany Neeley leads Eastern in scoring at 9.6 per game while inside player Kristen Dean is one of the area’s top rebounders at 9.6 per game.

WESTERN SECTIONAL

Northwestern


The Purple Tigers are glad to be playing this sectional close to home at Western after previous treks to Twin Lakes and Benton Central. Better yet, the Tigers are excited to be riding into the sectional on a seven-game happy streak which included wins over sectional teams Western and Twin Lakes.

Northwestern coach Todd Miller said that the Tigers hit the postseason with “a lot of confidence.”

“They feel good about lots of kids contributing, practices have been good, spirits are good and attitudes are really positive,” he said. “They’re a great group to work with. I think maybe at this time of year, some teams are looking forward to the season to end, and they’re not. They’re ready to keep playing.”

First order of business for the 14-6 Tigers is a 10-11 West Lafayette squad. The teams didn’t meet in the regular season.

“They’re a really athletic team, very scrappy, put a lot of pressure on you, full-court press you, a little bit of balance,” Miller said. “They play a lot of players, they’ve got freshmen all the way to seniors that help out. Probably their best player is [Mackenzie] Staton.”

Miller’s description of the scrappy, pressuring Red Devils sounds like he’s talking about his own squad.

“I’ve told a couple people that they’re a lot like us,” he said. “We probably have a little bit more size, not real big, but we’ve got probably a little bit more size in the post. They don’t go to the inside as much as we do, but yeah, they are a lot like us. They score out of their defense, they force a lot of turnovers. That’s probably their best way of scoring is out of their defense.”

Northwestern’s inside strength comes from the all-around play of Kylie Ballard, and the work of Rachel Lowden in the lane. Guard Sarah Lubben leads the area in assists and steals.

Also today, Twin Lakes (12-9) plays Frankfort (9-11) in the first game. Western (7-14) plays that winner in Friday’s first semifinal while sectional heavyweight Benton Central (17-4) plays the NW-WL winner in the second semifinal. No. 10-ranked BC is 5-0 against the sectional field, but has not faced Western or Northwestern.

Tonight’s games:

Sectional games involving Kokomo-area teams.

At Oak Hill

7 p.m. Taylor vs. Tipton

At Western

7:45 p.m. — Northwestern vs. West Lafayette

At North Miami

6 p.m. — Cass vs. Southwood

At Fountain Central

7 p.m. — Seeger vs. Clinton Central

At Fort Wayne Wayne

7:45 p.m. — Peru vs. Norwell

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