Promise fulfilled: North standout repeats as The Republic Player of Year

Maliah Howard-Bass came to Columbus North as a freshman filled with promise.

Howard-Bass lived up to that promise throughout her four years with the Bull Dogs. She helped lead them to four conference, four sectional, three regional, two semistate and one state title and a 99-14 record.

Earlier this month, Howard-Bass was named to the Indiana All-Star team. Now, she is The Republic Girls Basketball Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.

“Maliah does a lot of things really well,” North coach Pat McKee said. “She had some really good games. She was a marked player. She was a Junior All-Star. She was being guarded by the other team’s best defender every night out.”

Still, the 5-foot-9 guard managed to lead the Bull Dogs with 16.9 points and 3.3 steals a game. She added 4.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists for a team that went 21-8 and came within three points of a third consecutive trip to the state finals.

Howard-Bass did all that despite having to take on a bigger ballhandling role the first five games of the season while point guard Ashlyn Huffman was sidelined while recovering from a torn ACL.

“I think at the beginning of the year, it was like every three weeks, we had a different team,” Howard-Bass said. “We had people in different roles, and we got used to that. It was all good in the end. We didn’t get all the way to state, but we got close, and that was more than a lot of people thought.”

Howard-Bass had a couple mini-hurdles that she had to get over with her own injuries. She sprained an MCL early in the season, but put a brace on and played through the pain.

Although her numbers were down a little from her junior year, Howard-Bass still was a major threat to score anytime she had the ball.

“Our team evolved in a way that this was harder year for her,” McKee said. “She didn’t have the scoring threats around her like Paige Littrell, and Elle Williams got us a lot of extra shots with her rebounding. Plus, with Ashlyn being injured early, the first few games, it was Imani (Guy) and Maliah with the only experience on the floor.”

Howard-Bass finished as North’s second all-time leading scorer with 1,409 points, and her 491 points this year ranks third on the single-season list, right behind the second-place 540 she scored last year. She is tied second on the all-time steals list with 272 and third in single-season steals with 96.

Howard-Bass also tied for second on the school’s single-season 3-point list with 54 and finished third on the career 3-point list with 140. Her six 3-pointers in a game tied the single-game record. She is second all-time with 15 career charges taken.

This year’s Indiana-Kentucky All-Star Games will be June 10 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis and June 11 at Central Hardin High School in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. The Indiana All-Stars also will play the Indiana Junior All-Stars on June 6 and 8 at sites to be determined.

Then it’s on to Ball State for Howard-Bass, who will major in exercise science and play basketball for the Cardinals.

“I just want to get a good start on college life and getting classes under control and win against Kentucky in the All-Star Games,” Howard-Bass said. “I’m hoping for a great start at Ball State.”

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The Republic All-Area Girls Basketball team:

Maliah Howard-Bass, Columbus North: The senior led the Bull Dogs with 16.9 points and 3.3 steals and added 4.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists.

Imani Guy, Columbus North: The senior averaged 9.5 points and 1.7 steals and led the Bull Dogs with 6.8 rebounds and 3.3 blocks.

Ashlyn Huffman, Columbus North: The senior averaged 9.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.2 steals.

Kenzie Patberg, Columbus North: The junior averaged 4.8 points and 3.2 rebounds and led the Bull Dogs with 3.4 assists.

Britney Ballard, Columbus East: The junior led the Olympians with 10.3 points, and 2.5 assists and added 2.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals.

Kristen Lyons, Columbus East: The junior averaged 8.6 points and 1.2 assists and led the Olympians with 8.2 rebounds and 2.1 steals.

Addy Galarno, Columbus East: The junior averaged 9.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.1 steals.

Sidney Gerkin, Jennings County: The senior led the Panthers with 13.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.5 steals.

Tori Chandler, Hauser: The exchange student led the Jets with 15.3 points, 1.5 assists and 3.7 steals and added 4.3 rebounds.

Maddy Edds, Brown County: The senior led the Eagles with 12.7 points and 9.1 rebounds.

Allie Schooler, Edinburgh: The senior led the Lancers with 12.5 points and 1.9 assists and added 6.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists.

Abby Hackman, Trinity Lutheran: The junior led the Cougars with 13.3 points and 12.2 rebounds and added 1.3 steals.

Stacy Fox, South Decatur: The senior led the Cougars with 12.2 points, 1.6 assists and 2.0 steals and added 4.8 rebounds.

Honorable mention

Brown County: Aubrey Hollander. Columbus Christian: Lauren Barker. Columbus East: Claire Cunningham, Whitley Rankin. Columbus North: Jenna Borger, Tessa Lomax. Edinburgh: Destiney Ramey. Hauser: Taylor Henderson, Sarah Tedder. Jennings County: Callie Wilder. South Decatur: Taylor Best. Trinity Lutheran: Morgan Gabbard.