2017 Renegade 'Magnificent 7'
Girls Basketball Week-13 Poll

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


Can anyone from here or near Northwest Indiana make it to Crown Point for the semistate championship on Feb. 18? We are about to find out as the 2017 Indiana state girls basketball tournament has begun. (Photo by Mark Smith)

EAST CHICAGO (02-01-2017) The National Basketball Association (NBA) playoffs don't begin until April.

College basketball playoffs don't start until early March. Boys basketball playoffs don't start until the first week of March. So we leave it to the girls to start the three-month playoff run that everyone points to.

Obviously, when the basketball playoffs are beginning on the final day of January, it's far too early. There's no real reason (that I know of) when the season begins in early November and ends so soon. Some girls teams play a half dozen games before Thanksgiving when the football season is still ending. Life would be easier for all if the boys and girls basketball seasons BEGAN after Thanksgiving and extended through March, but this is Indiana and so we resist all change.

I want to note that this playoff run will see the end of high school games for Gary West Side's Dana Evans, who will finish with over 1,500 points scored for the Cougars. I want to note that her days will pass into history without her or her team EVER being on television in Northwest Indiana. In a state where every other area has high school basketball on local TV, one of the greatest offensive players in state history will play four seasons without ever being seen on local media. The lack of local (non-print) coverage is frustrating after games were on TV for almost 20 years.

Let me say again that the basketball semistate is locked in to be played at Crown Point on Feb. 18. Two games involving four regional champs. No one knows if there will be Northwest Indiana teams playing, but top teams will be there. The times are set and the crowds will be large.

Lakeshore Public Television should be there every year. It is an easy broadcast on a Saturday afternoon and evening. There is an IHSAA fee but the winning teams would bring sponsorship for the price of a phone call. One time a year Lakeshore could travel 2-1/2 miles and air championship caliber games. There's still time. Those games should be on TV every year.

1. (4A) East Chicago (19-5)
2016 (19-6), 2015 (15-10), 2014 (4-16), 2013 (12-11)

EAST CHICAGO (2-01-2017) At full strength for the last month, EC did not lose in the last month. The Cards won 11 of their last 22 with the only loss coming to Homewood-Flossmoor 64-54. H-F (17-2) was 24-4 last year. The front court power EC has cannot be matched by anyone in this part of the state. But they have to control the pace because they have bigger, slower players playing with smaller, quicker ones. The only losses are still to Marquette (17-5), Crown Point (15-8), Heritage Christian (16-6), Homewood Flossmoor and Chicago power Marist (22-4). East Chicago's big test comes right away against Lake Central (18-6). If they win that first game, they are the regional favorite.

2. (4A) Lake Central (18-6)
2016 (23-2), 2015 (22-4), 2014 (19-3), 2013 (16-8)

ST. JOHN: Lake Central dropped a close one 37-36 to South Bend St. Joseph's in the season finale, a game that meant nothing to either team. The only losses since Thanksgiving are to East Chicago (18-5), St. Joseph's (19-2) and Northridge (23-1). 5-11 Kylie Fehrman (13.0 ppg.) and 5-10 Rachel Robards (10.1 ppg.) give them a decent chance to get some rebounds against East Chicago. Fehrmen is 33 of 91 (36%) on three-point shots. Junior Laurie Lendownski (10.0 ppg.) is a 72% foul shooter. LC has 103 3-point baskets in 24 games. The Indians have a real chance to take out EC.

3. (4A) Merrillville (18-5)
2016 (20-7), 2015 (21-8), 2014 (16-7), 2013 (23-2), 2012 (21-1)

MERRILLVILLE: The Pirates, who won eight in a row to end the regular season, will take on Kankakee Valley (21-1) in Friday's Class 4A Sectional 2 semifinals at Chesterton. The past is irrelevant. No matter what you are told, the past never, ever repeats itself. With that said, the 2015 Pirates won their last nine games and then won sectional and regional championships. Merrillville is 119-30 in the last six seasons. Losses are to Mooresville (16-7), Jeffersonville (16-7), Northridge (23-1), St. Joseph's (19-2) and Lake Central (18-6). The only other one-loss team Merrillville has faced was Northridge, which buried the Pirates a long time ago, 70-25 in December. Merrillville also lost December games 56-37 to Mooresville and 52-32 to Jeffersonville. The Pirates, who have won the last four Class 4A Sectional 2 titles, need to prove that that was then and this is now.

4. (4A) Kankakee Valley (21-1)
2016 (19-4), 2015 (17-8), 2014 (16-7), 2013 (16-5)

WHEATFIELD: The Kougars, who got the toughest draw in 4A Sectional 2, escaped host Chesterton 59-52 in the sectional quarterfinals Tuesday (1-31-2017) night, giving KV its first 20-win season.
It's the hour of decision for the Kougars as they take on Merrillville in the sectional semifinals Friday night. KV averages 65 points a game and that up-tempo style runs right into Merrillville's strong perimeter defense. KV's only loss was the season opener 52-50 to Benton Central (19-5), but Merrillville will be the best team they've played this season. KV was the undefeated champion of the Northwest Crossroads Conference, but Highland (15-9) was the only other team in that league with a winning record. I would be surprised if Kankakee Valley is still playing next week.

5. (1A) (MC) Marquette (17-5)
2016 (24-3), 2015 (9-15), 2014 (4-14), 2013 (2-18)

MICHIGAN CITY: Marquette has rolled up good numbers and the defeats were all to top teams. The losses were to St Joseph's (19-2), Hersey, Illinois (21-3) and Montini, Illinois (23-1) following the earlier defeats 45-31 at 1A No. 4 Argos (19-2) and 45-38 to Penn (18-4). Montini's only loss was to Butler high (22-1) of Louisville, Kentucky. The Marquette girls have been everywhere, but now is the time to face their 2016 playoff loss, a 44-43 regional loss to North White. I don't know how Marquette lost that game and they probably don't either. North White lost their next game by 20 points to Argos. Marquette doesn't even play until semifinal Friday night so, even though they must get by Morgan Township (21-3), I would be surprised if Marquette was not playing next week.

6. (4A) Crown Point (15-8)
2016 (20-6), 2015 (12-11), 2014 (13-8), 2013 (5-16)

CROWN POINT: CP got a great draw at the 4A Chesterton sectional, facing Hobart and probably Valparaiso (14-10) in the first two rounds. KV (21-1) and Merrillville (18-5) are on the other side of the draw. This is why coaches love the 'blind draw.' It's hard to tell about the Lady Bulldogs. They've only played seven games decided by 10 points or less. Most nights have been lop-sided one way or another. Odds are against CP in the pairing since they must win three games in four nights on the road to win the sectional and the finals game will pit them against a 20-game winning team that has already defeated them. CP averages just 47 points a game and they do not have wins over anyone stronger than Chesterton (13-10) and Highland (15-7). But Crown Point should reach the sectional 2 championship game and play Merrillville just like they did last season.

7. (1A) Morgan Township (21-3)
2016 (17-8), 2015 (13-10), 2014 (15-7), 2013 (14-11)

LaPORTE: Okay, who's the seventh best team? LaPorte (12-10) lost five of their last seven. Valpo (13-10) lost five of their last eight. Morgan Township is 21-1 and they beat Valpo 50-40 in January. Morgan's losses are to Kankakee Valley (22-1), Argos (19-2) and Hebron (15-8) and the Porter County Conference (PCC) champions have won their last 17 in a row. Could they beat Gary West Side (16-6) and Dana Evans (34 ppg.) or Gary Lighthouse (16-6)? I'm not sure. Morgan did beat Valparaiso by 10. Obviously, Morgan isn't going to win the state title against all the 1A private and charter schools. So, the Cherokees can cap a great season if they can top Marquette and win the Class 1A Sectional 49 at Marquette this weekend.

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Revised: February 01, 2017 .