South Bend area girls basketball teams gear up for sectional battles

The Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) announced the girls basketball sectional pairings for the 49th annual state tournament on Sunday night. The sectional games will start on Tuesday, Jan. 30, and end with the championship games on Saturday, Feb. 3. The regional, semistate, and state finals will follow in the subsequent weeks.

The South Bend area has several teams that are aiming to make a deep run in the postseason, including defending Class 3A state champions Fairfield and Class 4A powerhouse Penn. Here are some of the highlights and storylines from the sectional draw.

South Bend area girls basketball teams gear up for sectional battles
South Bend area girls basketball teams gear up for sectional battles

Penn faces tough competition in Class 4A, Sectional 4

Penn, the 2019 and 2020 state runner-up, has been one of the most dominant teams in the state for the past decade. The Kingsmen (14-6) have won 10 consecutive sectional titles and seven regional titles in that span. However, they will face a challenging road to repeat as sectional champions this year.

Penn is in the bottom half of the six-team bracket, playing a first-round game against Concord (8-11). The winner of that game will face Goshen (10-10) in the semifinals. Penn beat both teams during the regular season, but neither game was a blowout.

The top half of the bracket features host Northridge (20-3), Warsaw (12-7), and Elkhart (11-9). Northridge is having one of its best seasons in program history, with only three losses to ranked teams. Warsaw is the only team that beat Northridge in the Northern Lakes Conference, handing the Raiders their first loss of the season on Jan. 6. Elkhart is a dangerous team that recently got back one of its top players, senior Samiyah Stout, who missed most of the season due to injury. Stout scored 21 points in a win over Penn last week.

The sectional semifinals and final will be must-see games for any girls basketball fan, as four of the top teams in the area will battle for the trophy.

Fairfield looks to defend its Class 3A state title

Fairfield, the reigning Class 3A state champions, have been impressive again this season, posting a 19-3 record and winning the Northeast Corner Conference. The Falcons have a balanced and experienced roster, led by seniors Brea Garber, Brooke Sanchez, and Morgan Sanchez.

Fairfield will have a rest advantage in the sectional, as it will not play until the Friday of sectional week. The Falcons will face the winner of the game between Lakeland (4-17) and Wawasee (13-7). Fairfield beat both teams by double digits in the regular season.

The potential sectional final opponent for Fairfield could be NorthWood (17-5), the only team that beat the Falcons this season. NorthWood, led by junior Kate Rulli and sophomore Kendal Miller, handed Fairfield a 47-38 loss on Dec. 9. The Panthers will have to get past West Noble (11-10) in the semifinals to set up a rematch with the Falcons.

Fairfield will try to win its fourth consecutive sectional title and make another run at the state championship.

South Bend Washington aims to continue its resurgence in Class 4A, Sectional 3

South Bend Washington, the host of Class 4A, Sectional 3, has been one of the most improved teams in the area this season. The Panthers (11-9) have more than doubled their win total from last season, when they finished 5-18. They have also been competitive in the Northern Indiana Conference, finishing third behind Penn and South Bend St. Joseph.

Washington is led by senior Mila Reynolds, who averages 21.3 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. Reynolds, who has signed with Maryland, is one of the top players in the state and a candidate for Miss Basketball. She is supported by junior Amiyah Reynolds, who averages 14.8 points and 4.3 assists per game, and sophomore Rashunda Jones, who averages 10.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.

Washington will play Michigan City (8-12) in the first round, a team that the Panthers beat 64-55 on Dec. 5. The winner of that game will face South Bend Riley (2-17) in the semifinals. Riley will play LaPorte (5-15) in the first round.

The other side of the bracket features South Bend Adams (10-9), Plymouth (8-13), and Mishawaka (7-13). Adams, which has won seven of its last eight games, will play LaPorte in the first round. Plymouth and Mishawaka will meet in the other semifinal.

Washington will try to win its first sectional title since 2012, when it reached the state final.

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