INDIANAPOLIS – The stellar senior group for the Penn girls basketball team capped their high school basketball careers in some style Saturday night.
The style of a state champion.
The Kingsmen, sparked by its senior class, rode a dominating second-half performance to the program’s first-ever state championship.
No. 4 Penn pounded No. 1 and defending state champion Columbus North by a 68-48 final in the Class 4-A state title game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Senior stars Camryn Buhr and Kaitlyn Marenyi led the way as Penn prevailed in dominating fashion.
The Kingsmen, who had lost 67-52 to the Bulldogs during the regular season, outscored Columbus North 38-20 in the final half.
Buhr poured in a game-high 24 points and Marenyi scored 22 as Penn finished out a 28-2 season. The Bulldogs finish at 27-2.
Penn won its first state title in girls basketball in its third trip to the State Finals. The Kingsmen were runner-up in 2011 and again in 2014.
The Kingsmen, who had seven seniors on its roster, started red-hot to take a 20-9 lead after the opening quarter. North, sparked by its offensive rebounding prowess, rallied to cut the lead to 30-28 at halftime.
The Bulldogs took a 31-30 lead early in the third period. From there, it was all Penn. The Kingsmen outscored North 24-6 the rest of the third quarter to take an insurmountable 54-37 edge after the third stanza.
Junior Lindsy Kline scored 11 points and senior Claire Carlton had seven points and seven rebounds for the Kingsmen. Senior Kamra Solomon added five points for Penn.
Buhr, who will play at Lehigh, drained 8-12 shots from the field and also grabbed seven rebounds. Guard Marenyi, who missed 13 games during the season due to a foot injury, was a stellar 7-10 from the field for the champions. Buhr and Marenyi each had three steals in the win.
Penn, which beat Warsaw in the sectional championship game at Goshen, sizzled from the field to the tune of a 23-44 shooting performance. The Kingsmen also hit 6-14 from distance and were 16-20 from the free throw line.
The state title was so sweet for Penn coach Kristi Ulrich, who guided the Kingsmen to their state runner-up finishes on their previous two trips to the State Finals. The former Mishawaka High School and Bethel College player is now an amazing 158-21 in her seventh season as the Penn head coach.
Junior Imani Guy led North with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Junior Maliah Howard-Bass had 11 points for the Bulldogs, who had defeated Penn in the title game of their own North Invitational back on Dec. 20.
North shot just 19-59 from the field, including 2-7 from distance. The Bulldogs were 8-12 from the line and had 17 turnovers.
North senior Paige Littrell was named the Patricia L. Roy Mental Attitude Award recipient following the game.
Penn will honor its state championship team on Monday at 6 p.m. in the Main Gym at Penn High School.