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No. 1 Tigers top 2A No. 2 Golden Eagles

EAGLE’S EYES: Oak Hill’s Taylor Westgate eyes the basket as she shoots over Northwestern’s Kendall Bostic. The Class 3A and coaches’ all-class No. 1 Tigers topped the Class 2A No. 2 Golden Eagles, 60-42 Wednesday night in Kokomo.

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

There are multiple reasons why Northwestern's defending Class 3A girls state basketball champions is not only ranked No. 1 in its class, the Tigers top the Indiana coaches poll for all classes.

Two of the biggest reasons, 6-foot-1 juniors Madison Layden and Kendall Bostic, gave another example why Northwestern is so highly regarded against Class 2A No. 2 Oak Hill on Wednesday night .

Layden, a do-it-all point guard who has verbally committed to Purdue, poured in a game-high 22 points and dished out seven assists on the night she also became the school's all-time leading scorer. While Michigan State-commit Bostic finished with 21 points and 12 boards to lead the Tigers over the Golden Eagles, 60-42.

"They're just a really good basketball team. There's a lot of things that separate them from other teams, but in my mind, and it was incredibly obvious today in the first half, they are just good shooters," said Oak Hill coach Todd Law. "You don't see a lot of girls teams who are consistently hitting perimeter jump shots like they do. I'm not just talking Layden, they were all hitting. 

"We had some breakdowns defensively and we left Layden open three or four times and she made us pay on all of them," he added.

Oak Hill played the Tigers tough throughout, trailing just 14-10 after one, before Layden drilled a three then assisted on Sarah Heaver's 12-foot jumper and Northewestern quickly increased the lead to 21-12.

Taylor Westgate and Adrianna Trexler each scored a basket around one by Bostic and the Eagles were within 23-16 midway through the second quarter.

But the last four minutes belonged to the Tigers who closed with a 10-3 run. The final six points off the sweet-shooting hand of Layden, who swished home a pair of triples, the second from nearly 30-feet as the halftime clock expired to put Northwestern up 33-19.

Though Layden's triples made the 14 point margin, it was Northwestern's 11 second-chance points that most disappointed Law.

"We had us for 14 turnovers (for the game), which against this team, as long as they are and the kind of pressure they bring, was pretty satisfactory," Law said. "My biggest issue in the first half, which just killed us, we just did not block out. ... that was the difference in the first half and it's hard to recover from that point."

Northwestern hit 13-of-25 from the floor in the first half while Oak Hill was 8 of 18.

Taylor Westgate scored 12 of her team-high 14 points in the first half to help keep Oak Hill within striking distance. She became even more of a target for the Tigers' defense over the final 16 minutes.

"I didn't think we did a very good job of knowing where she was inside," said Northwestern coach Kathie Layden of Westbrook. "She was getting inside position on us. (At halftime) We talked about that and talked about when she did get the ball limiting her to one shot."

Kaela Robey scored 10 of her 12 points in the second half for Oak Hill and left Law encouraged for her as the state tournament draws quickly closer.

I thought by far Kaela's best game, reminiscent of we'd see from her last year," Law said. "I'm glad. I think that knee is finally feeling good for her. She battled really hard on the boards, absolutely outsized obviously, got some good slashes to the basket and got some buckets for us.

"I felt like her and Taylor really battled inside," he added. "Taylor, every time she'd touch it was getting a double team, those two girls did a nice job for us inside. They all battled hard and fought hard, we were just playing against a really good team."

A really good team with two outstanding players that is in hot pursuit of another state championship. Madison Layden is a front-runner for 2020 Miss Basketball and Bostic a likely all star. And the pair is now playing together for a third season.

"The girls play well together," Kathie Layden, Madison's mom, said.  "They know where each other is going to be and Madison does a really good job of making her teammates better and getting them the ball in scoring position."

Ultimately the loss for Oak Hill means little in the season's big picture and next time out for the Golden Eagles (15-3) is much more significant. Oak Hill goes to Eastbrook Saturday night where a win over the Panthers clinches at least a share of a third-straight Central Indiana Conference title.

 

"We just talked about it in the locker room. This thing's done," Law said. "This is a game that is great for us, it pushes us and challenges us, that was good. But when its all said and done it really doesn't mean a whole lot, its not a conference team wasn't in the tournament.

"Good experience, now we go get back focused in on the conference."