The Pioneers won the first sectional crown in program history, powering through two games to win the 2-A championship at Paoli, and they will return there — fearless and favored — on Saturday for the two-game regional.
No.11 Providence (20-5) will face North Knox (18-8) in the second game, following the morning opener between North Posey (12-15) and No.12 Switzerland County (20-5). The championship game is set for 8 p.m., with the winner advancing to the one-game semistate on Feb. 28.
Providence coach Brad Burden called the field “wide open,” which means the door is ajar for the Pioneers, who own the best record, the highest ranking and the highest Sagarin computer power rating among the foursome. Providence also holds a regular-season win over Swizterland County. Thus, the Pioneers get tagged as the “top seed.”
“They had pressure on them in the sectional and performed beautifully,” Burden said. “I think they’ll have less pressure in the regional, but we’ll have expectations that we’re going up there to try to win it. We’ve accomplished what every school in the state sets out to do, that’s winning a sectional. Then you readdress your goals.
“We’ve accomplished the dream of the program. Now we think we have a good chance. I think they’ll be comfortable and relaxed.”
Providence caught some by surprise by winning 20 games, especially when considering the roster is stocked with 10 freshmen and sophomores, including the top four scorers. But this group has been groomed since the fifth grade for this moment. Winning a sectional was always on the agenda.
Sophomore Claire Rauck leads the team in scoring (19.6), freshman Hannah Wolford contributes 15.6 points and 3.9 steals, freshman Marissa Hornung adds 8.9 points and a team-high 6.8 rebounds, and sophomore Cheyenne Brooks adds 8.6 points. They’ve all battled through injuries this season, which makes Providence’s emergence even more impressive.
“We haven’t lost when we’ve been healthy,” Burden said.
The Warriors are the defending regional champions, featuring scoring leader Lexi Vieck, and that experience could be a factor.
“We’re not satisfied,” North Knox coach Steve Meurer said. “I think we’ll be very competitive. We have nothing to lose now.”
“North Knox is the most tradition-rich team in the regional,” Burden said. “We have the least amount of experience. But our kids have played so much basketball in their lives, I don’t think that will be a major issue.”
Providence’s key is simple. Rauck has hit 63 3-pointers this season and Wolford has connected on 33. The Pioneers hit 10 treys in the sectional final against Crawford County.
“When we have played well, we made shots,” Burden said. “We’re capable of hitting from the outside. If we can do that, we’ll be really tough to beat.”
In the Class A regional at West Washington, Borden will seek revenge for a regular-season blowout when the Braves (16-7) face No.14 Springs Valley (20-5) in the opening game. The winner will meet either Wood Memorial (18-8) or No.1 Barr-Reeve (25-0) in the final.
The Blackhawks slammed the Braves 68-36 on Feb. 5.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Borden coach Terry Rademacher said. “They played an outstanding game against us the first time and shot extremely well the whole game.”
Hannah Pendley and Kayla DeWeese had 16 points each that night while Natalie Ruedinger had 18 for Borden. DeWeese leads the Blackhawks in scoring at 13.2 while Kiana Wininger adds 11.2. Ruedinger, the team scoring and rebounding leader, had 26 points to pace Borden to the sectional title against Christian Academy. She also had a double-double in the semifinal victory over South Central.
“Valley is solid, and so are we,” Rademacher said. “Sometimes you have games where things don’t go well. We just need to play the way we’re capable of playing.”
The regional winners will advance to the semistate at either Jeffersonville or Richmond. The Indiana High School Athletic Association will announce the sites for all for classes on Sunday.