The Northwestern girls basketball team achieved a measure of perfection Thursday night.

The Class 3A No. 4-ranked Purple Tigers beat the visiting North Miami Warriors 45-36 to put the wraps on a perfect 20-0 regular season.

“I am extremely proud of the girls,” first-year coach Todd Miller said, noting the Tigers came into the season with three new starters and a new second unit. “We had multiple kids who hadn’t played a whole lot of varsity basketball. They came in this season and did tremendous jobs.

“We tried not to talk much about going perfect once it started getting kind of close, but the girls kept it as a focus and just continued to play well and now we’re the first girls team ever at Northwestern to go undefeated.”

Northwestern became just the fourth boys or girls team in Howard County history to record a perfect regular season.

“It feels great,” sophomore guard Sarah Lubben said. “It’s really crazy to think we could go 20-0, especially since it’s really rare for any team to go 20-0. It’s amazing.”

Becki Lowden, one of six seniors on the squad, said the Tigers knew they had the chance for a special season.

“Losing all of our seniors from last season, we were a little worried, but we knew we had a great group of girls and we knew if we worked really hard in practice every day, that we could really pull off a great season,” she said. “At the beginning of the season, we were hoping for maybe 18 or 19 wins. Pulling off a 20-win season is just unbelievable.”

Northwestern led pretty much all the way against North Miami including 11-7 after the opening quarter, 19-13 at halftime and 30-26 after three quarters.

“North Miami hit about a 30-foot 3-point shot at the end of the third quarter. They had a lots of momentum and the crowd was into it for them,” Miller noted. “Our girls did a good job answering. We ended up outscoring them 15-10 in the fourth quarter. We hit some big shots.”

Natalie Appelhans led the Tigers in the decisive quarter. The senior forward hit two 3-pointers and scored eight of her game-high 16 points in the quarter.

“Nat had a great fourth quarter. She really answered a couple of their runs — big shots by a senior,” Miller said.

Also for Northwestern, Lowden had 14 points and eight rebounds, Lindsey Sewell scored six points, Sarah Lubben had four points and Annie Tarkington and Rachael Galbraith combined for the other five points.

“I definitely think our practices paid off,” Lowden said. “We had a lot of time to prepare. They did take us out of some of our offense, but I definitely think all the girls just stepped up really well under the pressure.”

Lowden credited Miller for his role in the perfect season too.

“We all get along with him so well,” she said. “He was our coach in middle school, so we had some experiences with him before. He was just a great fit for us.”

Next up — the Twin Lakes Sectional. Northwestern will face Benton Central in the bye game next Friday.

“We’re really looking forward to it,” Lubben said. “We’re really pumped about going into the sectional, especially with a record of 20-0, but you can’t think too highly of that because it’s basically something all new.”


Northwestern’s girls basketball team entered rarefied air Thursday night with their season-ending victory over North Miami.

The Tigers became just the fourth boys or girls varsity basketball team in Howard County history to finish the regular season at 20-0.

Here are the other teams who accomplished the feat:

1974-75 Northwestern boys

Under coach Steve David, the Tigers closed at 20-0, but saw the state’s longest winning streak end at 21 in the championship of the Kokomo Sectional. There, Kokomo raced out to a huge early lead and held on for a 68-56 victory. A key member of the Tigers’ squad was Steve Sewell, whose daughter Lindsey Sewell, is a senior on the girls squad.

2000-01 Kokomo girls

Coach Charlie Hall’s Lady Kats stormed through the regular season at 20-0 with a 28-point average winning margin. Kokomo extended its record to 24-0 before losing to Fort Wayne Snider in the championship of the Class 4A Warsaw Semistate.

2002-03 Kokomo girls

Hall and seven members of the 2001 squad came back two years later to finish the job. The Lady Kats rolled through the regular season, then used a fourth quarter rally to beat Perry Meridian 44-42 in the Class 4A state championship. In becoming the school’s fourth state basketball champion, the squad was the first and only one of those to finish the season and tournament unbeaten — 26-0.

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