South Putnam girls ready for regional battle Saturday

Friday, February 10, 2017

Some prognosticators may have predicted that top-ranked Triton Central would meet No. 7 Cascade in the second game of Saturday’s Speedway Regional girls’ high school basketball tournament.

Such a forecast would be logical, considering their impressive records.

Anyone making such an assumption didn’t factor in Eastern Hancock and South Putnam, however. The Royals disposed of Triton Central in the Knightstown Sectional and South Putnam beat Cascade on its homecourt before winning the title over Cloverdale the next night.

South Putnam coach Brian Gardner said that Eastern Hancock’s upset win over Triton Central was a product of the Royals getting an early lead and keeping the pressure going.

“It was really a lot like our Cascade game,” he said. “They had some costly turnovers at times, but also caused them some pressure with their press. They got up by 10 or 12 before Triton Central made a run.”

Gardner’s team is playing its best basketball of the season right now, which is pretty good timing.

“Practice has gone really well this week,” he said. “We had some early distractions, coming off the high of the weekend. We went to practice at Speedway on Tuesday, which is also not a normal thing.

“They’re on cloud nine,” he added. “That’s where you want them to be. You want them to enjoy this, but they are realistic that it’s time to getting prepared to win some more games.”

Eastern Hancock’s leading scorer is senior Emiley Carlton, a 1,000-point career scorer who averages 16.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.

“She’s a smaller Tori Combs [of Cloverdale] with some of the ‘driveability’ of Tayler Vauters of Riverton Parke,” he said. “She’s a really good player. She’s savvy, and she’s what makes them go.”

Gardner said Haley Best, a 5-2 sophomore point guard, is a good outside shooter.

“They drive a lot to the basket and kick it back outside,” he said. “They pass the ball well and are good fundamentally.”

Gardner said that containing the driving ability of the Royal guards and rebounding will be two keys to the game.

“We have to keep the ball out of the paint,” he said. “They go to the boards relentlessly, so we’re going to have to really box them out.”

Gardner noted that Eastern Hancock plays eight or nine players interchangeably, and his team staying out of foul trouble will also be a key.

“I think they’re going to try to get us in foul trouble,” he said. “They play a lot of man-to-man defense, but they also play a lot of different zones and presses.

“They’re a good basketball team,” Gardner added. “If we play well we can be right there with them.”

Gardner hopes his team’s pressure defense will be able to cause the Royals some problems.

The first regional semifinal game is between defending state runnerup Covenant Christian (14-9) and Winchester (20-5).

Gardner has obviously been most concerned with Eastern Hancock, but has had his assistants to do some preliminary work on those two teams should the Eagles meet one of them in the championship.

“I know Covenant Christian doesn’t have as good of a record as last year, but they have played a really good schedule,” Gardner said.”

South Putnam’s season has been full of peaks and valleys. The Eagles started the season at 7-1, with five road victories during that stretch.

The Eagles then lost consecutive games to Greencastle and Owen Valley, and did not have more than a two-game winning streak or losing streak until winning three straight games in the sectional.

Junior guards Miranda Bieghler and Lillie Stein have led the Eagles in scoring, and sophomore Aubrey Barker had a breakout performance in the sectional with back-to-back 15-point games in the semifinals and finals.

Forward Caitlin Capps provided the winning points in the first-round win over Southmont for the second time this season, and also scored the winning basket in the 45-43 victory over Cloverdale in the sectional championship game.

Jess Vensko, the team’s only senior, provided good play in the post during the sectional and freshman forward Lexi Vanihel moved into the starting lineup at midseason and has also contributed well.

Ally Nichols was injured and missed the last two games of the sectional, with sophomore Whitney Boswell stepping up to fill in for her.

Other teams still alive — Northview (19-7) is the only other Western Indiana Conference team to win a sectional, and will battle Indianapolis Crispus Attucks (19-5) in the second game of the Danville 3A Regional.

Danville and Lebanon meet in the other semifinal. The only other team still alive which played Putnam County teams is 22-4 Riverton Parke which meets Southern Wells (7-18) at Tri-Central.

South Putnam (15-10) vs. Eastern Hancock (14-10)

Game time: Noon at Speedway High School

Media: WREB-FM 94.3 will broadcast the game.

The path here: Both teams upset ranked teams to win sectional titles. Eastern Hancock defeated No. 1 Triton Central 57-50 to win the Knightstown Sectional, while South Putnam defeated No. 7 Cascade 63-52 to win the Cascade Sectional.

Previous sectional titles: South Putnam (3) in 1982, 2004 and 2005; Eastern Hancock (1) in 2001.

Scouting report: South Putnam is led in scoring by juniors Miranda Bieghler and Lillie Stein. Sophomore Aubrey Barker averaged 15.0 points over the final two sectional games.

Emiley Carlton, a 5-10 senior guard, leads Eastern Hancock in scoring (16.6) and rebounding (7.1) per game. Sophomore guard Haley Best averages 9.7 points per game.

By the numbers: South Putnam averages 49.8 points per game and allows 44.7. Eastern Hancock scores 56 points per game and allows 48.4.

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