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TRC battles highlight girls upcoming action

PASS: Northfield’s Addi Baker passes the ball to a teammate during last week’s game against Tippecanoe Valley.

BY JACOB RUDE - sports@wabashplaindealer.com

Two of the top teams in the Three Rivers Conference (TRC), North Miami and Northfield, are set for battle this week while Wabash looks to play spoiler to Manchester as highlights of the upcoming week of girls’ basketball. 

Northfield (14-2)

at Mississinewa, Jan. 10, 7:30 p.m.at North Miami, Jan. 11, 6:15 p.m.

Northfield’s win streak will undergo its toughest week to end the regular season with three games in four days. The Norse hosted Eastern on Tuesday before traveling to Mississinewa and North Miami on Thursday and Friday, respectively.

While the Norse will likely be favorites in each of the three match-ups based on Sagarin ratings, the combination of all three within the same week will likely offer a stiff test for Northfield, culminating in arguably the biggest remaining conference game of the TRC season. Northfield and North Miami are two of the four teams, along with Tippecanoe Valley and Manchester, to have just one TRC loss on the season.

The Norse still top the TRC in Sagarin ratings at 80.80 while North Miami ranks fourth at 56.76. The Norse have a nine-game winning streak over the Wariorrs dating back to the 2010-11 season. Last season, though, the Norse won just 53-50.

The Warriors are coming off their own big win, downing Manchester on the road last weekend with a fourth-quarter rally. North Miami is led by a trio of juniors in Bailey Keim, Hannah Hall and Maryann Freeman. The three combined to average 41.9 points per game, a staggering 81.3 percent of the team’s scoring.

A win by the Norse would hand the Warriors their second TRC loss of the season and almost certainly would take North Miami out of the TRC title race. The same would be true if Northfield were to lose the contest, making the game a de factor TRC title eliminator of sorts.

Prior to Friday’s game, Northfield will meet Mississinewa on the road on Thursday. The Indians, per Sagarin ratings, will be the toughest challenge of the week for the Norse as they enter with a rating of 70.54. On the year, though, Mississinewa is 10-6 and will be coming off its own tough contest on the road against Marion on Tuesday.

Northfield holds a 12-2 advantage in the series and won last year’s battle 74-48. The last win for the Indians came in 2011 as the Norse have a six-game win streak in the series.

Wabash (7-9)vs. Manchester, Jan. 12, 7:45 p.m.

After struggling through the Wabash County Tournament, Wabash returned to form with a TRC win over Maconaquah last weekend. After hosting Eastbrook on Tuesday, the Apaches wrap up their home portion of the regular season on Saturday against Manchester looking for a big home win.

While Wabash still has an outside shot of being in the race for the TRC title, it would require all four one-loss teams to drop a second game as the Apaches sit at 3-2 in conference games. The more plausible outcome is that the Apaches play spoiler with games against Manchester and North Miami remaining on the schedule.

While Mariah Wyatt (9.8) and Alivia Short (8.9) still lead the Apaches in points per game, Hope Unger’s 25-point performance over the weekend has upped her average to 8.7 points per game this season. Unger’s 28 three-pointers this season account for well over half of the Apaches’ long-range makes on the year.

The Apaches have a convincing lead in the series between the two teams, winning 27 of the 37 games in the last 15 years. While Manchester won the last meeting, that victory snapped a streak of 12-game win streak by Wabash.

Wabash enters with a Sagarin rating of 53.98, fifth in the TRC behind the four one-loss teams. 

Southwood (4-12)at Eastern, Jan. 10, 7:30 p.m.vs. Whitko, Jan. 12, 7:45 p.m.

The Knights will have a solid chance at a TRC win on the weekend when they host Whitko. Prior to that, though, Southwood will take on Eastern on Thursday.

Southwood and Eastern have met 15 times in the last 15 years with the Knights holding a 9-6 edge. Southwood won last year’s contest 57-32 in their biggest victory of the season last year. This season, Eastern has improved with an 11-6 mark after going 10-15 last year.

McKenzie Cooper leads the Comets in scoring at 13.9 points per game. Lexi James and Jeanie Crabtree chip in 8.8 and 8.5 points per game, respectively.

After Thursday’s showdown, Southwood will host Whitko on Saturday with both teams sides holding one TRC win on the season. Southwood’s win came over Rochester and Whitko’s win came against Peru.

Whitko has dominated the series historically, winning 13 of the last 15 battles including an overtime win last year, 60-55. The Wildcats also hold the edge in Sagarin rating this year at 47.48 compared to the Knights’ rating of 44.67.

MaKenna Pace is the lone Knight averaging double figures at 11.3 points per game on 32 percent shooting from range. For Whitko, Emalee Duggins pours in 13.3 points per game while Ellie Snep averages 10.7 points and 14.6 rebounds per game and is leading the TRC in rebounding.

Manchester (9-7)at Peru, Jan. 9, 7:45 p.m.at Wabash, Jan. 12, 7:45 p.m.

Like Northfield, the Squires have one of their toughest weeks in store with a pair of conference games. On Wednesday, the Squires head to Peru for its first TRC game of the week. Coming off its first conference loss of the season on Saturday, Manchester will hit the road to take on a team that they’ve won three-straight games against.

The Tigers enter the contest seventh in Sagarin rating and are just 2.1 points ahead of 10th-place Maconaquah. Manchester, meanwhile, is third in Sagarin rating at 63.43. Peru is led by Courtlynn Crowe’s 12.5 points per game while Harmoni Stone is averaging 8.5 points and 10.0 rebounds per game for the Tigers.

The Squires are still paced in scoring by Kennedy Fierstos with the senior guard averaging 12.9 points per game this season while connecting on 41 percent of her three-pointers. Eva Bazzoni is chipping in 9.7 points per contest along with a team-high 4.4 rebounds.

Manchester lost much of its wiggle room in the TRC with Saturday’s loss to North Miami. However, with a season finale match-up against Tippecanoe Valley on the cards, if the Squires can maintain pace until Jan. 24, the season could still end in at least a possible share of the conference title.