MIDDLEBURY – The Northridge girls basketball team made history last weekend by winning the program’s first-ever regional championship.
The Raiders will look to add to their already impressive legacy with another title come Saturday.
No. 7 Northridge faces No. 2 Homestead in the Class 4-A North Semistate at Crown Point High School. The pair will clash at approximately 3 p.m. (ET), following the Class 3-A game between South Bend St. Joseph and Heritage Christian, which begins at 1 p.m.
Coach Doug Springer’s Raiders are on some kind of roll. Northridge sits at 28-1 thanks to a 16-game winning streak. The Raiders lone loss was at home way back on Dec. 13, a 50-44 setback to defending state champion Penn. Northridge avenged that loss by topping the Kingsmen 48-39 in the championship game of the Goshen Sectional on Feb. 4 to claim just the second sectional crown in program history. The Raiders beat Penn after posting dominating sectional wins over Concord and Warsaw.
The Raiders have relied on outstanding team play, balance on the offensive end and tough defense to earn their semistate berth.
Something will have to give come Saturday in the matchup with Homestead. Northridge is allowing just 37 points-per-game and has give up 50 or more points just four times all season. The Spartans are averaging 72 points-per-game, the second best scoring mark in the state, and have scored 80 or more points nine times this season.
Northridge defeated Gary West 59-44 and Merrillville 55-45 last Saturday to win the LaPorte Regional title. Brooke McKinley and Morgan Litwiller each scored 14 points, while Marci Miller had 13 and Kelsey Brickner 12 in the semifinal win over Gary West. Brickner then dominated Saturday night with 21 points in the title game victory over the Pirates. Marci Miller and Julaine Miller each had 10 points in the championship contest.
The Raiders are led by McKinley. The junior guard is averaging a team-high 13.7 points-per-game for an offense that averages 54 points-per-outing. Senior Marci Miller averages 11 points and five rebounds per game and senior Brickner checks in at 10 points and 5.2 rebounds per contest. Sophomore Litwiller averages 8.8 points-per-night and senior Julaine Miller 5.2.
Springer is now 171-66 in his 10th season on the Northridge bench. He has guided the Raiders to back-to-back Northern Lakes Conference titles the past two seasons, going 7-0 in league play each year. Northridge was 21-5 overall last year and lost three seniors to graduation, including two of the team’s top three scorers in Baleigh Carithers and Kelly Miller.
Homestead boasts a veteran group that has had some three-year run. The Spartans, who are 26-2 this season, have won three straight regional titles. Homestead lost 50-45 to eventual state champion Penn in the semistate in 2016 and were state runner-up in 2015 after a 62-56 loss to Columbus North in the state title game.
The Spartans have won eight in a row since a 64-59 overtime loss to Huber Heights Wayne (Ohio) back on Jan. 16. The other loss for Homestead was a 56-54 final in overtime at Carmel on Jan. 7. The Spartans beat No. 5 Carmel 63-59 last Saturday in the regional final at Kokomo after topping No. 4 Zionsville 52-38 in the semifinals of a loaded regional field.
Homestead led Carmel 48-29 in the final quarter of the regional final before the Greyhounds stormed back. Carmel cut the deficit to a single point at 54-53 late in the game before the Spartans hit their free throws to claim the fourth regional crown in program history.
Homestead is led by senior guard and Florida recruit Karissa McLaughlin. McLaughlin had 19 points, six rebounds and six assists in the regional title game win over Carmel. McLaughlin has scored over 2,500 career points to rank among the Top 10 in state history. Senior guard Madisen Parker and senior forward Jazmyne Geist are also big keys for the Spartans. Parker will play at Bowling Green next season and Geist, who previously attended school in the Penn system, is bound for Northern Kentucky.
Coach Rod Parker is 268-112 in his 16th season in charge of the Spartans’ program.
The winner of the Northridge-Homestead game advances to the Class 4-A state championship game on Feb. 25 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. They will play the winner of the South Semistate this Saturday, which pits Columbus North (21-7) versus No. 4 Pike (23-3).
The Northridge-Homestead game will be shown by WHME-TV (Channel 46) on Saturday at 10 p.m. The St. Joe-Heritage Christian semistate contest will be shown by the station at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.