Class A La Porte Semistate
No. 1 Marquette Catholic (25-2) vs. No. 4 Northfield (25-2)
When: Noon, Saturday
Where: La Porte High School
Marquette Catholic Sectional — Gary 21st Century (76-3), Westville (60-23) and Morgan Township (55-33); Caston Regional — South Central (51-28) and Fremont (57-25).
Players to Watch: Emma Nolan (leads team with 20.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.3 apg, 2.5 spg, 1.9 bpg), Sophia Nolan (17 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.9 spg), Morgan Crook (7.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.7 spg, 21 points in regional semifinal), Claire Salyer (5.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.9 spg, 14 points in regional final).
Northfield Sectional — Clinton Central (79-34), Tri-Central (74-28) and Southwood (58-31); Tipton Regional — Cowan (62-35) and Blue River (55-41).
Players to Watch: Ariel Dale (leads team with 16.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.1 apg, 2.6 spg), Kelcie Thomson (12.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 4.4 apg, leads team with 3.9 spg), Kyra Kennedy (9.5 ppg, 4 rpg, 1.9 apg, 2.2 spg), Addi Baker (7 ppg, 6 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.3 spg).
Outlook: If it wasn't for a shocking sectional upset victory for Tri-Central (who later lost to Marquette at semistate by 40 points) over Northfield a season ago, this could've been the Class A north semistate game last season. The Norseman come into Saturday's matchup as winners of their last 20 games and haven't lost since Dec. 1. For the Blazers, they've lost to just one team in the state of Indiana and that came in the first game of the season by two points (65-63) against Class 4A North Central. It's their third straight semistate appearance and they now sit just two wins away from back-to-back state titles. Northfield can really shoot it from deep with Dale (42 percent on 168 attempts) and Thomson (48 percent on 73 attempts) fwhile averaging a shade under 61 points a game, but outside of a 58-32 loss to Chicago Simeon on Jan. 12, the most points Marquette's allowed since then was 42 in a four-point win over 16-win South Bend St. Joseph on the road on Jan. 15. North Central's the only team to score 60-plus against the Blazers this season. Saturday is a clash of strength against strength and with this matchup also taking place in Marquette's backyard about 20, 25 minutes from the school, the scales lean the Blazers way.
Prediction: The Sagarin ratings on John Harrell's esteemed hoops website spit out a 53-43 Blazers victory. This will be a much more competitive contest than Marquette's semistate game a season ago in Valparaiso, but it should yield the same result. The Blazers are not only a nightmare on offense with the Nolan twins' versatility, but the guard trio of Crook, Emmery Joseph and Salyer, specifically on the defensive end, has continued to flex their muscles during their tourney run and hounded their opponent's every move. If the Norsemen can't hit the 3-ball and at least slow down the Blazers attack with its pressure, it could be a long afternoon. Give me the Blazers clinching their second straight state title game appearance, 61-42.
— compiled by Michael Whitlow