Columbus North should have an experience advantage when it takes the court for today’s semistate.
While the Bull Dogs have been to the state finals the past two years, Pike is seven days removed from its first girls basketball regional title in school history. That may or may not be a factor when the teams meet at around 3 p.m.
“We can’t play scared and tentative,” North coach Pat McKee said. “Several have been at this stage before. I’m not saying they won’t be nervous, but hopefully, they’re not horribly nervous.”
Seniors Maliah Howard-Bass and Imani Guy will be playing in their third semistate, all at Richmond. Several other Bull Dogs played there last year.
Howard-Bass thinks they have a lot of confidence in their abilities as a team, and thinks if they continue to work together and make smart plays and take care of the ball, then they’ll be fine.
“I feel like with that experience and with our confidence and our execution with our game plan, we should be in good shape for a good game,” she said.
The Red Devils (23-3), ranked No. 4 in Class 4A, have won 13 in a row. They are coming off a 61-59 overtime upset of 4A No. 1 North Central, which had handed them two of their three losses this season.
Columbus North (21-7), which upset Evansville Central and Bedford North Lawrence to win the Bedford Regional, has not played Pike since early in the 2013-14 season, the year after the Red Devils left Conference Indiana for the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference. The Bull Dogs beat Pike seven of the past eight times they faced each other.
North senior point guard Ashlyn Huffman, who tore a meniscus in last year’s regional, will be playing in her first semistate. She said the keys to today’s game are to not be scared of the Red Devils and to control the tempo.
“They’re very fast paced,” Huffman said. “We have to run our pace. They want to be fast. They want to get steals. We want to push the ball when we have it, but we really want to slow down and make them play defense.”
McKee added that another key is limiting Pike to one shot per possession. The Red Devils, as evidenced by their 38 rebounds a game, are good at attacking the offensive boards, so it’s critical that the Bull Dogs block out.
Junior Angel Baker leads Pike with 19.5 points a game. After that, the Red Devils have four other girls averaging between 8.4 and 11.1 points.
“They’re a well-balanced team, and you can’t dismiss anybody,” McKee said. “At the same time, we have to do what we do. We have to handle the ball clean. If we turn it over, it’s going to be a layup.”
Howard-Bass, who has played with Baker on the Indy Gym Rats travel team, leads North with 16.9 points and 3.4 steals a game. Guy averages 9.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.3 blocked shots; while Huffman adds 9.0 points.
Pike coach Bob Anglea said in the years he’s gone against the Bull Dogs, they’ve always been a smart, well-coached basketball team.
“It seems like they do a great job at handling the ball,” Anglea said. “They don’t turn the ball over a lot. Pat is always trying to take away something you do well, so you have to have different things you can do. They have some size, good shooting from the outside and they just continue to do a great job.”
Don’t miss a beat when Columbus North and Pike square off around 3 p.m. today in the Class 4A semistate girls basketball game from Richmond.
Follow Republic sports editor Ted Schultz this afternoon at twitter.com/TheRepublicNews.
At Facebook.com/TheRepublicNews, watch for pregame, game action and postgame photos from Republic photo editor Mike Wolanin.
Watch for game updates at therepublic.com and in Sunday’s print edition of The Republic.
Leading scorer;M. Howard-Bass 16.9;Angel Baker 19.5
Leading rebounder;Imani Guy 6.9;Michaela White 8.9
Leading assists;Kenzie Patberg 3.4;Angel Baker 4.0
Leading steals;M. Howard-Bass 3.4;Angel Baker 3.6
Leading blocks;Imani Guy 3.3;Kinnidy Garrard 1.5
What: Richmond Semistate
When: 3 p.m. today
Where: Richmond High School
Who: Columbus North (21-7) vs. Pike (23-3)
Advancement: Winner moves on to the Class 4A state finals at around 8:15 p.m. Feb. 25 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse