Recently, the Class 4A girls basketball title games have been relatively low-scoring. You have to go back to the 2009-10 season, when Ben Davis beat Merrillville 99-52, to find a team that scored more than 68 points.
Defense wins championships, right? While that might be true, don’t expect a defensive struggle Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse between No. 2 Homestead and No. 4 Pike.
“I’m not sure what the highest scoring girls basketball game is, but we could hit that if we try to play fast,” Pike coach Bob Anglea said. And he was only half joking.
Homestead, led by Florida recruit Karissa McLaughlin (25.8 ppg) and Madisen Parker (16.8 ppg), rank second in the state and first in the class in scoring with 71.8 points per game. Pike ranks 13th in the state and eighth in the class in scoring with 63.4 points per game. The Red Devils are led by Angel Baker (19.4 ppg) and Michaela White (11.3 ppg).
Anglea says Pike is going to have to make Homestead “uncomfortable.”
“We need an extra player on the floor at times,” Anglea joked about his team’s defensive strategy. “McLaughlin and Parker play off each other so well and shoot the ball lights out. You’re going to have to run them off the spots and make them uncomfortable. Trying to figure out how to do that is going to be a real task for us.”
Pike’s offensive strategy strays from the norm. Most offensive-minded teams use 3-pointers to put up points in a hurry. The Red Devils have averaged eight outside attempts in five tournament games. Instead, they attack the glass relentlessly.
“We’re going to have to do a very good job protecting the paint the best that we can and rebound,” Homestead coach Rod Parker said. “We’re going to have to do everything we can to limit them to one shot offensively per possession.”
Pike has outrebounded every single one of its opponents this season. The team averages 38 rebounds per game, third most in the state, and 14 offensive boards per contest. That leads to plenty of second-chance points and free-throw attempts.
Making the free throws has sometimes been a problem — the team is shooting 60 percent from the line on the season — but it isn’t for a lack of practice.
“The other day before the regional, we had to make 50 free throws before we left,” Anglea said.
Pike’s athleticism and tough style of play wears teams down. Parker said it will be key for Homestead to maintain its discipline down the stretch.
“We’re going to have to stay focused for 32 minutes, and have the same energy in the fourth quarter as we do in the first quarter and the same attention to detail,” he said. “To win a state title, you’ve got to do the little things well.”
Class 3A: South Bend St. Joseph vs. North Harrison (27-2)
The 3A title game pits the state’s top two teams against each other, with No. 1 North Harrison looking to win a title after finishing as runners-up last season.
The top-ranked Lady Cats are undefeated (15-0) against 3A opponents this season. They have the second-best defense in the class, allowing just 35.9 points per game. Offensively, they are led by Lilly Hatton (20.4 ppg) and Cali Nolot (13.4 ppg).
No. 2 South Bend St. Joseph has won 10 straight games and averages 64 points per game. Daly Sullivan (16.6 ppg) and Nicole Konieczny (14.6 ppg) lead the Indians.
The Lady Cats have won games by 27.9 points this season. South Bend St. Joseph has won its games by 27.4 points.
First-year Indians coach Sydney Smallbone won the team’s only state title as a player in 2005. Two of her assistant coaches also were on that team.
“(North Harrison has) been here last year and that’s going to help from an experience standpoint for their players, but our coaching staff has been here as players not too long ago as well,” Smallbone said.
Class 2A: Oak Hill vs. Eastern (Pekin)
No. 5 Oak Hill has ridden its defense to the state championship, allowing the fourth-fewest points in Class 2A (35.5 ppg). Meanwhile, Eastern is riding a 14-game winning streak after starting the season 8-7.
Oak Hill is led offensively by Taylor Westgate (12.5 ppg) and Jenessa Hasty (9.8 ppg). Eastern is led by Rachel Stewart (19.1 ppg) and Taylor Drury (15.5 ppg).
Stewart scored a career-high 34 points in the team’s 65-59 win over Covenant Christian in the semistate round.
“It didn’t even cross my mind during the game that she had 34. It was a quiet 34, if you can imagine that, from a coach’s perspective,” Eastern coach Mike McBride said.
Oak Hill’s defense is going to face a big challenge.
“We’re not an explosive offensive team,” said Golden Eagles coach Todd Law. “For us to be successful, we’re going to have to keep it in the 30s or low 40s.”
Class A: Union City vs. Wood Memorial
No. 1 Wood Memorial has the fourth best offense in Class A, scoring 60.1 points per game. The Trojans are led by Brenna Maikranz (15 ppg), Sydney Day (11.7 ppg) and Chloe Bartley (10.4 ppg). The team has won 11 straight games since a four-point loss to Class 3A Princeton in early January.
“We learned that we’re not invincible,” coach Johnnie Bartley said of the loss. “That No. 1 at the end of our record was to remind them that we can be beat. It was a good wake-up call for us that we’ve got to be ready to play every night.”
Union City has won nine straight games since consecutive losses to Monroe Central in January. The Indians are led by Courtney Wise (15.1 ppg) and Justiss Cantu (11 ppg).
Union City coach Sarah Blackwell was a player on the 2001 team, which won the school’s first regional title.
“I was able to be a part of this as a player, and now the opportunity to do this as a coach and give back to my community and program is something I always wanted to do,” she said.
Follow IndyStar high school sports reporter Matthew VanTryon on Twitter: @MVanTryon.
Class A: Union City (24-4) vs. Wood Memorial (27-1), 10:30 a.m.
Class 2A: Oak Hill (27-1) vs. Eastern-Pekin (22-7), approximately 12:45 p.m.
Class 3A: South Bend St. Joseph (25-2) vs. North Harrison (27-2), 6 p.m.
Class 4A: Homestead (27-2) vs. Pike (24-3), approximately 8:15 p.m.