Three La Porte County teams will be trying to extend their postseason on Saturday and move closer to the ultimate goal of a state title.
What does each of them need to do? Well, I’m the man to tackle that $64,000 question.
Two girls basketball teams — Marquette in Class A and La Porte in Class 4A — and the Michigan City boys bowling team will all be in action on Saturday.
The Blazers (19-5) are at the Caston Regional, facing state-ranked Argos (No. 3 in the ICGSA poll with 22-2 record) in the semifinals. The survivor faces the winner of Fort Wayne Blackhawk (12-12) vs. North White (21-4), which ended Marquette’s season last year in the regional semifinal with a heartbreaking one-point loss.
You can bet the Marquette girls collectively want North White in the final. After all, revenge is a dish best served cold (old Klingon proverb) and it will still be winter for a while, according to the groundhog last week.
But first, the Blazers need to figure out a way to beat the Dragons, which only lost to Oregon-Davis and Bremen (both 2A programs) this season. One of Argos’ wins was at home against Marquette (45-31 on Dec. 20).
Marquette coach Katie Collignon has mentioned that contest to her players this week to remind them of what could have been their worst effort of the season.
“We're going to bring different defensive intensity, that's for sure,” Collignon said. “We came out very flat against them the first time, probably the flattest we've come out all year. That definitely won't happen. We're going to be ready to go right from the tip.
“We're going to play our tempo this time, no let them take us out of that. We're going to try to be the tougher team. They're senior-led, which is always tough, but I think we're ready. Our defense, which we showed against Morgan Township, is a defense that can take us to the next level.”
That defense will have one primary job on Saturday: Stop Courtney Dunlap.
The senior is averaging 22.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game, while shooting 56 percent from the field, 76 percent from the free-throw line and 39 percent from three-point range. She’s the only player on the Dragons scoring in double figures.
“She's a very good player,” Collignon said of Dunlap. “She can make a lot of things happen. If we can shut her down and make everything tough for her, which is what we're going to try to do, then I like our chances.”
The Slicers are hosting the Class 4A regional, facing familiar Duneland Conference foe Merrillville (20-5) in the semis. The winner gets whoever survives the other semifinal between Gary West Side (19-6) and Northridge (26-1), which is ranked No. 6 in the state.
La Porte (15-10) lost to the Pirates 67-48 on Dec. 9 at home, so head coach Rob Walker knows what it’s going to take to advance to the evening game.
“To win against Merrillville, we’ve got to stop (Kiarra) Thompson and (Jasmine) Wright,” he said. “And not too many teams have been successful doing that over the last couple of years. So we’re going to try some things that hopefully will help us stay within striking distance.
“If we can keep it within striking distance on our home floor, we feel like we’ve got a good shot. We’ve just got to take care of the basketball.”
Wright and Thompson might be the most potent 1-2 punch of any girls team in the northern half of the state. They combine to average 35.4 points (18.9 for Wright and 16.5 for Thompson) of the 57.3 that the Pirates average per game. They’ve also combined to make 107 3-pointers this season (68 for Wright), while Thompson also averages 8.0 rebounds and 3.3 steals per game. Wright adds 4.1 assists and 3.0 steals per game, and I think both also sell popcorn during halftime of home games.
Needless to say, the Slicers have their work cut out for them. They may need that home court advantage more than ever.
Michigan City’s boys bowling team didn’t make it out of regional last year, which is why head coach Chase Coleman was so happy last Saturday when it was announced the Wolves earned the fourth and final advancing spot at the South Bend Regional. He wasn’t the only one.
“It’s good to see us get so excited together,” he said. “This is my favorite moment as a coach so far.”
His favorite moment overall as part of City’s bowling program was being a member of the 2010 state championships squad, and these Wolves can take another step toward matching that achievement by simply repeating how well they’ve bowled at Stardust Bowl II — Saturday’s semistate location — in recent years.
“We finished third in the preseason tourney there,” Coleman said.
With a new postseason format of 12 Baker games (five bowlers rolling two frames each), spare shooting will be key for everyone, not just the Wolves, whose conference is well-represented at semistate with the Chesterton girls, and Portage boys and girls.
Also bowling in the singles semistate in the morning will be City’s Braxton Hervey and Megan Grams, and La Porte’s Alyssa Foster.
Three teams with three tough tasks. Here’s hoping all three are still playing one week later.
Reach sports editor Steve T. Gorches at firstname.lastname@example.org or (219) 214-4206. Follow him on Twitter @SteveTGorches.