MARION – For a generation, the girls basketball regional championship sign hanging in Charger Fieldhouse has listed just one title, won in 1998.
Carroll had been knocked out of the state tournament in the regional semifinals in each of the last four seasons, most recently a 51-24 loss to Homestead in 2020.
So it was extra sweet for the Chargers (25-2) to get a little revenge over their SAC rivals in the Class 4A Marion regional final Saturday, beating the Spartans 66-58 to earn a regional title that will be commemorated next to 1998's.
“They stayed with the game plan, we spread them out, we attacked,” Carroll coach Mark Redding said. “We had to go into 3-2 because (Homestead junior Ayanna) Patterson was killing us down there. And we had to switch her and just say hey, hope they don't get shots.”
Patterson was a force for the Spartans (20-6), scoring 33 points (21 of them in the second half) and pulling down 14 rebounds. But the rest of the team shot just 7 of 29 from the field and 4 of 23 from behind the 3-point line. Sharp shooting had led Homestead to an overtime win over Noblesville in the semifinal earlier in the day, as the Spartans shot a combined 7 of 12 from 3, with six of those coming courtesy of Alison Stephens.
But in the nightcap, Maggie Keinsley scored 11 points, and aside from Patterson no other Spartan scored more than five points.
The Chargers took a 10-3 lead on another shot by sophomore Taylor Fordyce, and led by as much as 19-7 in the first quarter. Patterson scored the first five points of the second quarter, igniting an 8-0 Homestead run that cut Carroll's lead to 19-15.
But Carroll senior Emily Parrett blunted the Homestead run by hitting two shots, one of them a 3-pointer, near the end of the quarter, and the Chargers took a 28-20 halftime lead.
Homestead further cut into the Chargers lead in the third quarter: Patterson made three shots from the floor and hit all five of her free throws, and Stephens, Molly Stock and Amber Austin all hit 2-point field goals, the only three that would be made by Spartans not named Patterson all game.
But sophomore sisters Saniya and Nevaeh Jackson showed a knack for hitting big shots when the Spartans were closing in: Each sister hit two 3-pointers in the second half, and Saniya was sent to the free throw line four times in the fourth quarter, hitting seven of her eight attempts. Saniya finished the game with 16 points and seven rebounds, and Nevaeh had 14 points.
“I was feeling good,” Saniya Jackson said with a laugh when asked how it felt at the free throw line in crunch time of a regional championship. “I work on free throws a lot, and take my time. And when I miss them I know what I did wrong for next time.”
The Spartans trailed 44-40 heading into the fourth quarter, and as the period started Patterson quickly hit two shots to tie the game at 44. Carroll's Delane Sheets responded with a 3-pointer, and then Homestead's Keinsey answered with one of her own. Neveah Jackson continued the back-and-forth with her final trey of the night, permanently taking the lead for the Chargers.
Still, Patterson scored 10 points for Homestead in the fourth quarter, keeping the Spartan hopes alive until about a minute and a half remaining, when the team began to foul, but couldn't always make the shot even when they did get the ball back.
Carroll will face Crown Point (23-1) at semistate.
NORWELL 53, BENTON CENTRAL: At the Class 3A Bellmont regional, the Knights (23-5) hit a 3-pointer that cut Norwell's lead to four points with 55 seconds remaining, but the Knights held off the rally to advance to semistate, where they will face South Bend Washington. Maiah Shelton led the team with 24 points, and freshman Kennedy Fuelling had 8.
N. JUDSON 65, BLUFFTON 34: At the Class 2A Winamac regional, the Tigers (15-11) season came to an end after beating Fairfield in a double-overtime thriller in the afternoon semifinal. Bluffton trailed 35-19 at halftime and were led by Natalie Lehrman, who scored 14 points.