News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Sports

February 10, 2014

Unbeaten Marshall likely to face top Illinois scorer

TERRE HAUTE — Sectional snow is not expected to affect the schedule, although perhaps a knock on wood would be a good idea when considering that possibility, and the schools in Vigo and Clay County don’t have to drive very far anyway.

Marshall’s Lions are in a position to become villains throughout the state of Illinois, although the Lions seem willing to live with that.

And by the end of this week, very few girls high school basketball teams in the Wabash Valley will still be playing.

Postseason regional games began Monday in Illinois and Indiana sectionals start today. Two tournaments are scheduled in Vigo County — the Class 4A sectional at Terre Haute North and the Class 3A sectional at West Vigo — while Clay City is hosting a Class A sectional, as is North Vermillion. Class 2A sectionals are at North Knox and Southmont.

Illinois fans have a little farther to drive — to Cumberland for a Class A regional and to Mt. Carmel or Arthur-Lovington for Class 2A action.

Mt. Carmel is where Marshall will do its best to be a spoiler — that is, if a top-seeded, unbeaten team with an all-state-caliber player like Kaydie Grooms can be considered a spoiler.

One of the Lions’ victories earlier this season was a 57-53 decision over the host Golden Aces; if Marshall repeats that feat, on the Mt. Carmel court, they’ll end the career of the most prolific scorer in Illinois history.

The Lions held Tyra Buss to 33 points in that earlier meeting, and held is the operative word. Buss, an Indiana University recruit and the nation’s No. 2 scorer for her career, is averaging 47 points per game and very rarely plays the entire 32 minutes.

“Our main goal is to stop Tyra from driving,” coach Kathy Miller of the Lions said. “You can’t foul her … and she’ll pick your pocket [defensively] if you’re not paying attention.”

Those two teams will meet in Friday’s championship game unless an upset of epic proportions occurs in Wednesday’s semifinals.

Things are by no means as clear-cut in the two sectionals in Vigo County this week, with the Patriots and Terre Haute South both competing at North and Northview joining the host Vikings at West Vigo.

North has the lone game in its gym tonight, playing Martinsville, with the winner of that game advancing to Friday’s semifinal against eighth-ranked Mooresville, the five-time defending sectional champion.

Coach Mike Allen’s Patriots may have leading scorer Layne Curley back in the lineup after a broken hand caused her to miss more than a month, which could give a boost to a team that maintained a successful season regardless.

“We have a couple kids step up in [Layne Curley’s] absence,” Allen noted, “and we won a couple of games we might not have won [if those players hadn’t stepped up].

“It’ll be a tough road,” the Patriot coach predicted. “We have the potential to win [North’s eight-point loss to Mooresville was as close as any of the Pioneers’ potential sectional foes has come], it’s just a matter of putting it together at the right time. Get on a hot streak and anything can happen.”

North’s key is simple, Allen added.

“We can’t turn the ball over,” he said. “Take care of the basketball and value every possession.”

Terre Haute South meets Plainfield on Wednesday, the rematch of a recent game in which the Braves led by 13 points after a quarter but went on to lose by 18.

“We can learn from our mistakes [in that game] and remember what we did well,” coach Cara Stuckey said in looking forward to seeing the Quakers again, “and after playing against [Plainfield’s] pressure, we can get better shots than we got [the first time].”

The young Braves have shown flashes if what Stuckey thinks they can be — if games were eight minutes long, they’d have a very good record — and are a dangerous team to overlook. Their coach has no trouble picking a sectional favorite, however.

“Mooresville,” Stuckey said. “Their defense is really good, and they know how to get it done.”

Picking a favorite at West Vigo would appear to be easy, since Edgewood was undefeated in Western Indiana Conference play this year and all five teams in the sectional are from the WIC. It’s not that simple, however — many of the conference games were nail-biters — and that gives the host Vikings hope, even after going 0-4 against sectional foes.

“Our sectional is not the best in the state, but it’s the closest from top to bottom,” coach Ryan Easton of West Vigo said. “Everybody is pretty competitive [with one another] … and being 0-4 [against the field] hasn’t hurt our mindset.”

West Vigo has already clinched its first winning season in 13 years, and Easton hopes that momentum, plus the home court, will make the Vikings a factor.

“The maturity and development of this team has been pretty good,” the coach said. “We’re looking at this as a second opportunity to avenge some losses.”

Even though Northview is the only team in the field with a record below .500, the Knights also expect to be a factor in their first basketball sectional at the Class 3A level.

“It’s a big change,” coach Scott Buell said. “We’re still going up against well-coached teams with outstanding players, but we feel we have a better chance to win a sectional now … anyone could win it.”

The key for Northview? “Just playing four quarters,” Buell said. “In a lot of games we’ll play really well, then have a bad stretch.”

The two Class 2A sectionals would appear to have definite favorites, with Seeger and host North Knox ranked 17th and 11th respectively.

The two highest-ranked teams involved in any of the Wabash Valley tournaments are playing each other tonight at North Vermillion — third-ranked, unbeaten Attica playing sectional newcomer Lafayette Central Catholic. The Knights are ranked seventh and haven’t lost a sectional game since 2005.

Another key Class A game tonight is at Clay City, where defending champion Shakamak plays a Bloomfield team returning from Class 2A; the Lakers won a one-point game during the regular season. White River Valley has beaten everyone in the sectional field, but might get a challenge in the other bracket from a Union team that has a shot at winning the school’s last sectional championship trophy.

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