4A Sectional 13 at Franklin
Greenwood (15-4) at Franklin (7-13), 6
Center Grove (15-5) at Franklin Central (16-4), 7:30
Whiteland (10-11) vs. GW-FR winner, 6
New Palestine (3-15) vs. CG-FC winner, 7:30
Greenwood defending champ. Winner advances to Bedford North Lawrence Regional.
The odds: Franklin Central has the top Sagarin rating in the sectional (and fourth-best in the state) at 99.9. Center Grove isn’t far back at 95.6, followed by Greenwood (91), Whiteland (80.9), Franklin (67.6) and New Palestine (50.5). The 4A sectional at Westfield is the only other tourney in the state with three above-90 Sagarin squads.
With one of the youngest teams in the state — your entire roster is freshmen and sophomores — how rough has this season been?
New Palestine coach Jacki Negri: “This sounds strange because we’ve only got three wins, but, for the situation, there have been a lot of positive things. One thing that I’ve noticed in talking to other coaches lately is that a lot of teams are having bickering, fighting between players, that sort of thing. I’ve heard that from multiple coaches, teams that have won a lot more than we have.
“So, I’m really thankful. This has not been easy year, and these girls, this team, could have easily gone that road, but they haven’t. The team unity and positive attitude has been amazing. One of my big goals for them, successful or not, was keeping them positive — because we all knew what kind of season this was going to be — and they have more than exceeded my expectation in that area.”
What are you looking for from your team in the sectional?
Negri: “I probably shouldn’t say this, because I like both teams and both coaches, but I hope we play Franklin Central. They beat us by 60 points our second game of the year, and I want our girls to have a chance to show how much they’ve improved.
“Emma Laughlin (sophomore point guard), that poor girl, we threw her to the wolves. But, her confidence level, her ability to calm down and take control, has improved so much. And that goes for the whole team. It doesn’t show in wins and losses, yet, but the girls have gotten better. Just learning to play together, learning each other’s style, that was the first hurdle. These were all JV players or middle schoolers last year. And then the basics … ball handling, passing at the varsity level. We do a much better job breaking the press; we still struggle, but we’ve come a long way.”
Local forecast: I’m not smart enough to pick a sectional winner in this field, so I’ll just say kudos to coach Negri, her players and their parents for sticking it out, and apparently not going at each other’s throats, during a tough year. If the measure of a man (or woman) is how they handle adversity, the Dragons rank high. — Brian Harmon, sports editor