INDIANAPOLIS – The Pike girls basketball team was forced to sit out last season’s IHSAA state tournament, the result of a nasty on-court fight between rival Ben Davis.
If there were any questions about how the Red Devils would respond this season, they were answered on Saturday night. A year later — with many of the same players on the court — Pike won, perhaps, its biggest game in program history and found itself just two wins away from a state title.
Fourth-ranked Pike (23-3) used a second-half comeback — with the game-winner coming on a layup by junior guard Angel Baker in the final seconds — to stun top-ranked and undefeated North Central, 61-59, in overtime of the Class 4A Decatur Central regional final.
It’s the first regional title in school history for the Red Devils, who advance to semistate to play Columbus North at either Richmond or Jeffersonville.
North Central, which beat Pike twice in the regular season, finishes 27-1.
“We talked about last season,” Pike coach Bob Anglea said. “We want to build a program, and (last year) was not who we were. These players needed love. It’s about family. I’m so proud of them. In my 12 years of coaching, this has been the most fun year.”
Pike led 59-54 with 2:18 to play in regulation. But the Panthers scored five-straight points in the final two minutes to tie the score. Pike had a chance for the win, but missed a pair of shots in the waning seconds.
In overtime, North Central held on to the ball for most of the four-minute session. But with 15 seconds to play, Baker stole the ball near midcourt and laid it in for a two-point lead. She iced the game with another steal with less than five seconds remaining.
It was the only points scored by either team in overtime.
“Coach said we needed one, and I told him that I had it,” Baker said. “It’s a relief. A lot of people didn’t give us a shot because of last year.”
Baker finished with 24 points, including 17 in the second half on 7-of-11 shooting.
“She’s been unbelievable for us all year,” said Anglea, whose team beat Brownsburg 58-48 in the regional semifinal earlier in the day. “She had a little trouble scoring in the first half. But she came up big for us when we needed her.”
North Central appeared to have the game in hand in the opening minute of third quarter, leading 41-30. But the Red Devils used a 10-0 run to pull within one point, 41-40, with 4:24 left in the third.
It was close the rest of the way, with the Red Devils taking a 59-54 lead on a layup from sophomore forward Kinnidy Garrard with 2:18 to play in regulation.
But a layup from North Central’s Rikki Harris and a 3-pointer from Taylor Ramey tied it with 58 seconds to play to force overtime.
The Panthers, who shot well in the first half and led 39-30 at halftime, struggled in the second half. They scored just eight points in the third quarter on 2-of-14 shooting to give the Red Devils life.
“It was physical,” North Central coach DeeAnn Ramey said. “It was unbelievable to me how it was allowed to get that physical in a game of that magnitude. I’m so proud of this team. But it hurts. It really hurts.”
Junior forward Michaela White and Garrard, a sophomore forward, scored 12 and 11 points, respectively, for the Red Devils.
“Our last five games were all close,” Anglea said. “They believed and stayed true to what we’re doing.”
Harris started the game on fire for North Central. She was 4-of-4 from 3-point range in the first quarter and finished the half with 16 points. She finished with 24 points.
PIKE 61, NORTH CENTRAL 59, OT
North Central 20 19 8 12 0 — 59
Pike 14 16 17 12 2 — 61
North Central (27-1) — Harris 7 5-8 24, Ramey 5 0-0 13, Stallings 0 2-2 2, Robertson 2 2-2 7, Thomas 2 2-2 7, Brockington 1 2-2 4, Davis 0 2-2 2. Totals: 17 15-18 59.
Pike (23-3) — Roberson 3 1-3 7, Rascoe 2 0-0 5, Baker 10 0-2 24, McKenzie 5 2-5 12, Bedrick 5 1-3 11, Brown 1 0-0 2. Totals: 26 4-13 61.
3-Point Goals – North Central 10 (Harris 5, Ramey 3, Robertson 1, Thomas 1). Pike 0.