GREENFIELD — Although the Greenfield-Central Cougars made history last weekend with its first sectional title in 12 years, head coach Doug Laker’s squad has no intentions of pumping the breaks now.
And with their ticket punched for a loaded Decatur Central Regional, which features four teams ranked in the top 10, according to the Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association poll, Class 4A No. 10 Greenfield-Central is in for its biggest challenge yet.
The Cougars (22-4) first test will be a familiar one, as the team battles No. 9 Plainfield (24-2) at approximately noon Saturday. No. 5 Roncalli (22-4) will face No. 3 Lawrence North (20-3) in the first semifinal beginning at 10 a.m.
The championship game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday night.
Greenfield-Central used a big second half to defeat the Quakers 40-36 on Jan. 12 after trailing by 10 points at the break. Madison Wise scored a game-high 19 points while teammate Savannah Girolami added seven in the come-from-behind win.
For Plainfield, junior Kayla Casteel (13.2 points per game), who has verbally committed to Evansville, scored right at her average with 13 points in the loss.
Oddly enough, however, Cougars point guard Katie Helgason said despite playing them just once before, her and Wise know the Quakers quite well.
“It was a tough game,” Helgason said of the previous win against Plainfield. “Before playing us, they had only lost one game. Both teams know each other pretty well because of AAU ball. Maddie (Wise) and I have played against five girls from the team.
“We know how to guard them better because we know their go-to moves.”
It worked well in the first contest, but Helgason expects Plainfield will be out for revenge. Since the loss to Greenfield-Central, the Quakers have rattled off six-straight wins including a 63-47 rout of Terre Haute South for a sectional title.
Plainfield also features five players averaging more than 6.0 ppg with 12 girls hitting at least one 3-point field goal this season. Junior Riley Blackwell has been a steady force in the paint, averaging 12.3 ppg and a team-high 6.9 rebounds per game. She scored a season-high 21 points in a win against Class 3A No. 10 Lebanon earlier this year.
Senior guard Kyndall Spears in a scoring threat, as well, and chips in 8.8 ppg and 4.4 rpg for Plainfield, whose only other loss came Jan. 9 to Brownsburg (16-8), 52-51.
The first game of the afternoon should be special, too, as two heavyweights are set to square off in what should be one of the top regional matchups in the state.
Roncalli needed just two sectional wins to reach regional play and is led by one of the top players in the nation in 6-foot senior Lindsey Corsaro — a McDonald’s All-American and Kentucky signee. She has scored more than 1,500 points in her four years with the program and is currently averaging 25 ppg and 10 rpg.
Teammate Daesjah Ely, a senior forward, is averaging 13.2 ppg and 6.5 rebounds per game, adding a nice compliment to Corsaro’s capable scoring ability. Junior guard Paige Saylor (8.5 ppg) and senior guard Rachel Titzer (8.4) help give the Rebels balance.
All four of Roncalli’s losses this season came to ranked opponents.
Lawrence North, however, might just sport the most talent of any team playing at Decatur Central on Saturday.
The Wildcats caught fire in their sectional title game, destroying Cathedral 80-51 after hitting 15 3-point field goals.
“The only person I know on the team is Destiny Perkins, who we play travel with,” Helgason said.
Unfortunately, that’s not the only player to worry about for Lawrence North. Senior Lauren Dickerson, a Miami of Ohio recruit, led Lawrence North with 17 points in the title game, but most teams have been keying on senior Ae’Rianna Harris, a 6-foot-1 Purdue recruit. She finished with 10 in the win while Perkins chipped in nine.
Also for the Wildcats, sophomore guard Ashley Raines came off the bench to hit four 3’s and finished with 12 points while senior guard Amber Morgan added 13 points behind a 3-for-3 effort from deep — giving Lawrence North plenty of options to score the rock.
The team’s only losses this year came against No. 1 Columbus North, No. 2 Homestead and North Central, which Greenfield-Central beat in overtime earlier this season.
The Cougars present their own set of problems for the regional field as well, winning 10 consecutive games since losing to (No. 14 in IBCA poll) Westfield, 42-34, on Dec. 30.
Led by Wise’s season-high 35 points in the Sectional 9 championship game, Greenfield-Central set a single-season record for wins. The previous mark of 21 had stood since 1986-87.
Wise’s 30-plus point performance was her fourth of the year and puts her in rare company among Hancock County’s all-time greats.
With 1,406 career points, the sought-after Division I recruit is fourth overall on the scoring leader board behind 1988 Greenfield-Central graduate Beth Davis (1,617), who championed the Cougars to three regional titles in her illustrious career.
Greenfield-Central has four regional crowns to their credit in school history, including three straight from 1986-88 before Davis went on to shine at Wake Forest.
Wise has 592 points this season, averaging 22.8, and 272 rebounds at 10.5 a game. Both totals shattered Davis’ previous single-season records in points (547 in 1987) and rebounds (243 in 1988).
“She took over (in the sectional). Our girls just followed, that’s what leaders do, and she’s a leader,” Laker remarked after Greenfield-Central beat Mt. Vernon 61-43 in the sectional finals. “I think she’s Miss Basketball for the Class of 2017, and I think she’ll be the next Indiana Junior All-Star and Indiana All-Star for us, too.”
For now, Wise, Helgason and the Cougars are simply thrilled for the chance ahead and being mentioned along with some of the tops teams in the entire state, which is quite a turnaround from previous seasons.
“It’s awesome knowing that we are competitive with teams that are top in the state,” Helgason said. “We are super excited for this opportunity.
“But first we have to beat Plainfield.”
DECATUR CENTRAL REGIONAL (Saturday)
Indianapolis Roncalli (22-4) vs. Lawrence North (20-3)
GAME TIME: 10 a.m.
COACHES: Stan Benge, 59-16 in 3rd year at Indianapolis Roncalli, 578-142 in 29th year overall. Chris Giffin, 93-11 in 4th year at Lawrence North.
SAGARIN RATINGS: Lawrence North, 107.3, 1st overall, 1st in Class 4A. Indianapolis Roncalli, 98.74, 8th overall, 6th in Class 4A.
LAST OUTING: Indianapolis Roncalli defeated Southport, 78-44. Lawrence North defeated Indianapolis Cathedral, 80-51.
SERIES LAST 15 YEARS: Lawrence North, 10-1.
LAST MEETING: Lawrence North, 54-33, Jan. 9, 2016.
Plainfield (24-2) vs. Greenfield-Central (22-4)
GAME TIME: noon (30 minutes after game one)
COACHES: Curt Benge, 325-152 in 21st year at Plainfield. Doug Laker, 111-65 in 8th year at Greenfield-Central.
SAGARIN RATINGS: Plainfield, 92.82, 16th overall, 10th in Class 4A. Greenfield-Central, 92.67, 17th overall, 11th in Class 4A.
LAST OUTING: Plainfield defeated Terre Haute South, 63-47. Greenfield-Central defeated Mount Vernon (Fortville), 61-43.
SERIES LAST 15 YEARS: Greenfield-Central, 2-0.
LAST MEETING: Greenfield-Central, 40-36, Jan. 12, 2016.
Jr. Madison Wise — 22.8 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 4.1 apg, 3.0 bpg
Jr. Katie Helgason — 10.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 4.2 apg, 2.8 spg
Jr. Kayla Casteel — 13.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.1 apg, 52 made 3’s
Jr. Riley Blackwell — 12.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 2.5 apg, 46 FG %
Sr. Lindsey Corsaro — 25.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 3.1 apg, 36 made 3’s
Sr. Daesjah Ely — 13.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.4 bpg, 45 FG %
Sr. Ae’Rianna Harris — No stats available, 6-foot-1 Purdue recruit
Sr. Lauren Dickerson — No stats available, 5-foot-2 Miami (Ohio) recruit