Eight girls basketball teams will vie for a state championship on Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, and there’s no shortage of local flair amongst the field.
Behind a pair of deep postseason runs – expected or not – Class 3A North Harrison and Class 2A Eastern have solidified a spot in their respective state final and a shot at school history. Both have yet to win a state title in any sport.
The story lines go on. The Cats and Musketeers are both members of the Mid-Southern Conference, marking just the fourth time since classes were implemented in 1997 that two teams from the same league advanced to a final.
Last season’s state runner-up, North Harrison’s postseason success is no surprise. The Cats (27-2) are the only returnees in this season’s state title field. North Harrison came up just short last year before returning a bulk of its production.
Missy Voyles’ team ranks fifth in margin of victory (27.4 points per game), 15th in scoring (63.3) and 17th in per-game defense (35.7) this season. North Harrison is 55-5 the past two years. Still, a win Saturday would mark the program’s first state crown.
“I never thought I’d be old enough to be walking history of girls basketball, but here we are,” Voyles said.
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The Musketeers, meanwhile, are a bit of a Cinderella. Eastern (22-7), which finished second (8-1) in Mid-Southern play behind unbeaten North Harrison, has rattled off 14 consecutive wins after losing three straight at a holiday tournament in late December. The regional and semi-state titles were firsts for the Musketeers.
In fact, Saturday’s state-final appearance isn’t only the program’s first – it’s the school’s first in any sport.
“It shows the competitiveness of our conference,” McBride said. “North Harrison is obviously a repeat finalist, but the key thing for us is we set a goal for ourselves over the summer, talking about wanting more than just a sectional. … We wanted something bigger, and we’re fortunate that things have kind of fallen our way so far.
“Once we got on that streak toward the end of the year, we started really believing in what we can do. … Once they had that belief and that confidence, it really took off from there.”
Class 2A championship at a glance
Eastern (22-7) vs. Oak Hill (27-1), 12:45 p.m., Fox Sports Indiana
►Oak Hill finished the season ranked No. 5 in the Class 2A coaches poll. Eastern received votes.
►Oak Hill, also looking for its first girls basketball state title, ranks 12th in per-game defense (35.5 points per game) and 18th in average margin of victory (20.32) entering Saturday’s matchup. Eastern’s margin of victory is 12.4.
►The Musketeers enter averaging 56.2 points per game on 45-percent shooting. Oak Hill averages 55.8 points per game and shoots a shade above 45 percent from the floor.
Class 3A championship at a glance
North Harrison (27-2) vs. South Bend St. Joseph (25-2), 6 p.m., Fox Sports Indiana
►North Harrison, the top-ranked team in Class 3A, will meet No. 2 South Bend St. Joseph. The Cats finished No. 9 in the single-class poll, with the Indians coming in at No. 12.
►South Bend St. Joseph is the only team in the field with a past girls basketball state-championship win. With a win, coach Sydney Smallbone would become the first to win an Indiana girls state title as a player and a coach.
►The Indians are third in average margin of victory (27.9 points per game), 12th in scoring (63.9) and 19th in per-game defense (35.9). North Harrison tops the state-final field shooting 54 percent per game, and South Bend St. Joseph is second at 50 percent.