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Norse enter regional as favorites

BY JACOB RUDE - sports@wabashplaindealer.com

The Class A No. 4 Northfield girls’ basketball team will head into their first regional in nearly 40 years in a similar role that they’ve been in all season as heavy favorites.

While Northfield’s 23-2 record is only the second-best mark in the four-team field behind Class A No. 7 North Vermillion’s 24-2 mark, the Norse will be heavy favorites based on Sagarin ratings.

In the opener, Northfield will meet Cowan, who has a 10-15 mark on the season. The two sides have one common foe in Eastbrook. The Blackhawks lost to the Panthers 54-44 while Northfield beat Eastbrook 65-18.

Cowan is led in scoring by sophomore Kaylee Kear at 12.0 points per game. Kear is the lone double-digit scorer while also leading the team in rebounding with 7.7 boards per game.

On the year, Cowan is averaging 44.9 points per game while allowing 43.5 points per contest. Cowan opened the season with six straight losses but are on a four-game winning streak entering the regional. The Blackhawks’ 44-42 win over Daleville in the sectional final gave Cowan its first sectional title in program history.

Cowan’s 46.79 Sagarin rating is 48th in Class 1A on the year. For context, it ranks just marginally ahead of Maconaquah’s 46.17 Sagarin rating. The Norse beat the Braves 68-34 this season.

In the other match-up, North Vermillion and Class A No. 16 Blue River will battle for a spot in the regional final. North Vermillion is 24-2 on the year with an eight-game winning streak entering the regional. The Falcons beat Attica 53-43 in the sectional final to capture their 13th sectional crown and second in the last four years.

Blue River, meanwhile, is 19-6 on the season and are entering on a three-game winning streak that included a 46-21 win in the sectional final over Tri. The victory in the final gave Blue River its first sectional title since 1985.

The two sides are almost identical in Sagarin rating with Blue River holding a 61.58 Sagarin rating and North Vermillion a 61.51 Sagarin rating. For context relative to Northfield, Manchester had a Sagarin rating of 61.79. While the Norse dropped the first contest against the Squires this season, they bounced back for a 61-46 win in the County Tournament title game.

North Vermillion is led in scoring by McKenzie Crowder and Rylee Dowers at 14.4 and 13.0 points per game, respectively. Blue River is paced by Lindsey Williams 13.1 points per game and freshman Ally Madden’s 11.5 points per game.

Northfield’s duo of Ariel Dale and Kelcie Thomson average 16.2 and 12.0 points per game, respectively, on the year. Thomson adds 5.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 3.8 steals per game as well.

The Norse have won the regional once in program history, that coming in 1978.

Tip-off between Blue River and North Vermillion at Tipton will be at 10 a.m. Northfield and Cowan will follow with a scheduled start time of noon. The championship game will take played at 8 p.m.