2020 Renegade Girls Basketball Final Poll...
and a look ahead to 2021

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


The sun has set on high school sports for the 2020 spring season. Several highly regarded Northwest Indiana high school softball and baseball teams never got on the field. (Photo by Mark Smith)

CROWN POINT (04-10-2020) The high school basketball season ended with the 2019 state runner-up Lawrence North topping undefeated and top-rated Northwestern 59-56 in the Class 4A state title game.
Northwestern defeated Penn, which topped undefeated Crown Point at the regional. Penn and CP, which split two games last season, figure to meet twice again in the season to come.

Which brings me to the season to come.

Weíre living in a world of face masks, closed stores, half empty streets and deserted schools. Iíve never seen so many people riding bicycles and walking dogs. And Iím not optimistic about things returning to normal this (calendar) year after the COVID-19 virus outbreak shut down all the stateís schools in March.

So many summer and late summer events are being cancelled that I have to think it will be difficult for a situation to occur where high school students go back to school in August. Without actual in-school days (not E-learning days at home) it's my understanding that high school sports cannot be played. And it seems obvious to me that every single school kid has to be tested for this virus before anybodyís going to be OK with putting 1,000 or 2,000 kids back in a school building five days a week.

So just as the virus has canceled the 2020 spring sports season, while Iím pretty sure there will be high school this fall, there is a very good chance there may not be high school sports of any kind.

As someone who has spent a million years watching games played by other peopleís children, Iím sad. But in a much larger sense, Iím also sad that I can't tell anyone that things are going to be all right anytime soon. I can't tell anyone not to worry or be scared of the immediate future. I wish I could say that.

So, assuming there is a 2020-2021 high school basketball campaign and state tournament, let's look at five teams for next season. As always, these are not in any way the top five teams for next season.

Just five teams to watch.

And hopefully, Iíll see you there.

1. (4A) Crown Point (26-1)
2019 (28-1), 2018 (13-11), 2017 (16-9), 2016 (20-6)

CROWN POINT: Despite significant losses, the inside-outside combination of Crown Pointís last two teams will return whenever next season begins. All-area guard Jessica Carrothers (19.1 points per game) and 6-foot-3 center Lilly Stoddard (9.7 points, 8.1 rebounds) were to be juniors in the fall of 2020. CP also gets back sisters Alyna and Alyvia Santiago plus forwards Allie Govert and Nikki Gerodemos. It's hard to be critical of a team that has gone 54-2 the last two years, but one thing stands out. CP hasnít been a good distance shooting team. They were 123 of 431 from 3-point range over 27 games. They were 28% on 3s the year before. Thatís not terrible, but itís also not going to beat the top teams. The Lady Bulldogs will start the season ranked in the Top-5 state wide and they should meet Penn in the regional again in 2021.

2. (3A) Knox (25-2)
2019 (21-5), 2018 (21-5), 2017 (8-15)

KNOX: Knox returns all five starters from a team that won 25 games. Remi Jordan, a 6-foot center, averages 14.5 points and 7.6 rebounds. Felicity Olejniczak, a 5-foot-8 forward, averaged 13 points and five steals per game. Hereís another team thatís got to shoot better to get out of the regional. Knox shot 28% on 3s and 58 percent from the foul line. This has to get better. But with players like 6-foot Brianna Korcha and 6-foot-1 Megan Bolen returning along with co-captain and guard Preston Minix, everybodyís going to have a problem with this team. The Redskins lost to eventual state champion Northwood 43-30 and they did beat 4A teams Merrillville and Chesterton. But the Redskins' schedule could be tougher. I would love to see Crown Point get on the bus and drive out to Starke County to play Knox in the Redskinsí old classic gym. I would pay to see that.

3. (4A) Chesterton (18-6)
2019 (11-12), 2018 (20-3), 2017 (13-10)

CHESTERTON: What I see in Chesterton is four returning starters in 6-foot Carley Balas (8.0 points per game), guard Nalani Malackowski (9.0 points), 5-9 forward Emma Schmidt (9.9 points) and 5-8 forward Caitlyn Carr. The Trojans bring back all but three seniors off a team that lost only to Huntington North (15-8), Portage (20-6), Knox (25-2), Munster (22-6) and Crown Point (26-1). Obviously, the road block for Chesterton is Crown Point, a team they lost to twice last season. The advantage they have is seeing CP multiple times. Eventually they might break through.

4. (2A) Bishop Noll (11-15)
2019 (21-7), 2018 (18-10), 2017 (11-14)

HAMMOND: Noll didn't win the sectional last year, but theyíll be back with guards Courtney Blakeley (23.0 points, 4.1 assists per game) and Rose Fuentes (12.8 points, 4.1 assists) leading the way.
What I saw here was six freshman who last year got varsity playing time last season. Noll lost more than they won, but the juniors on this team won 21 games two years ago. Hereís another team that simply has got to shoot better, but I think they will. The Warriors shot 23% from 3-point range and only 50% from the foul line. Thereís no excuse for shooting 50% from the foul line and Iíve got to believe that Noll will improve. Only one starter graduated off last yearís team. With a strong backcourt, the Warriors won't have a losing season again.

5. (2A) Lake Station (15-9)
2019 (15-7), 2018 (11-12), 2017 (6-16)

LAKE STATION: Am I kidding? Lake Station? Not really. The Eagles graduated five seniors from a 15 win team, but top scorers Taylor Auston (19.8 points per game), Nasiya Gause (13.8 points) and Darne Toney (8.8 points) all return. 5-foot-6 Makayla Chabes played in 24 of 25 games.

What do I see here?

This team had 250 steals in 25 games. Austin had 99. Gause (33) and Austin (32) combined for 65 3-point shots. This is a small team and they won't get any taller in the off-season. And Bishop Noll stands in their way in Class 2A Sectional 25.

But I think this team is very much on the rise and they are a sentimental favorite. Lake Station has never won a sectional and never is a long, long time. Is 2021 the year?

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Revised: April 17, 2020 .