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Defense leads Golden Eagles back to regional semifinal

DEFENSE: Oak Hill’s Taylor Westgate gets her hand on an entry pass while Adrianna Trexler (33) and Jenessa Hasty surround Mississinewa’s Caily Bolser in a December game. The Golden Eagles are the stingiest defensive team in Indiana, allowing just 27.7points through 24games. and surrendered less than 20 a game in winning the Manchester Sectional. The Class 2A No. 3 Eagles meet No. 11 Lafayette Central Catholic at noon today in an Eastern Regional semifinal in Greentown. No. 9 Tipton faces No. 12 Monroe Central at 10 a.m.

BY KEVIN HELFRICH - ctreporter@indy.rr.com

CONVERSE  — If you have followed Oak Hill girls’ basketball during the Todd Law era you know his teams have been historically good defensively. But not quite at the elite level of the 2018-19 team.

The current Golden Eagles squad owns the best defensive average in the entire state of Indiana, allowing a scant 27.7 points per game.

Look for that part of the third-ranked Golden Eagles (21-3) game to travel well again today when they square off against 11th-ranked Lafayette Central Catholic (20-6) around noon in the second semifinal of the four-team Class 2A Eastern Regional.

“Traditionally most games our kids play pretty hard,” said Law, who has amassed 285 wins in 15 seasons at the helm of his alma mater. “Our length is one thing that has helped us be successful.”

It also doesn’t hurt with the championship experience Oak Hill will have on the floor with a senior class that has won Grant Four (3), Central Indiana Conference (3), sectional (3), regional (1) and semi-state (1) titles while compiling 90 wins.

“It has been a special group, and they have accomplished a lot of things,” complimented Law. “They’ve done a lot for our program. Obviously, they don’t want to be done yet, and so they are going to come out and give their best to get this regional championship.”

Last year, these two teams met in this exact round, with the Golden Eagles earning a 53-38 victory on the very same court, however this is a different Knights team.

“I think the thing that is different about them this year is their guard play is so much quicker,” Law stated with concern. “They take the ball to the basket very well, but they can also shoot the three.”

Each team faced one common opponent in 3A top-ranked Northwestern, resulting with similar double-digit losses. All three of Oak Hill’s losses have come against schools in higher classes.

Senior Lexi Thompson is the leading scorer at 15.5 points per game for an LCC team that scores at a 54-point clip. She is committed to play college basketball at NCAA Division II Southern Indiana next season.

“Lexi and I actually played on the same AAU team this summer,” senior forward Adrianna Trexler noted. “She is a great shooter.”

Freshman Karsyn Cherry (12.5 ppg) is the only other Knight to average double figures, while sophomore Caroline Lutz chips in 8.2 points.

“We are going to have to play very well defensively in this game,” Law added. “We need to communicate well so that we know where shooters are and then block out. We are stepping it up a level here with what we are playing in LCC.”

In three postseason tournament games, the Golden Eagles have gotten even stingier when it comes to surrendering points. Opponents have rarely found the basket, producing a measly average 19.7 points.

“We constantly work every single day in practice on our defense,” said junior center Taylor Westgate. “We believe that is what wins games. The more we work together and push each other the better we get.”

Standing at 6-foot-1, Westgate spearheads a balanced Oak Hill offense (56.5 ppg) where the starters all average over five points apiece. Westgate statistically leads the Golden Eagles in a couple categories with 14.7 points and eight rebounds a contest. Senior starters Adrianna Trexler (12.8), Kaela Robey (8.4), Janessa Hasty (6) and Brittany McCorkle (5.4) are all capable of leading the team in scoring on any given night.

“We’ve been playing together since we were little,” said McCorkle, who had a game-high 15 points in the sectional championship win over Manchester. “It’s our last go around and we are just all playing for each other.”

Oak Hill was without Hasty through the first four games to start the season due to an injury. In her absence, Abby Shaw, Andrea Wilk and Marissa Wilk saw extended minutes that has now resulted in added production off the bench.

“It was a slow start for me as far as my injury,” said Hasty, who believes she is finally close to 100-percent. “What helped was a lot of others stepped up, and it has given them a lot of confidence.”

Even though Hasty’s scoring is down from a year ago, she is the catalyst for a defense that averages over 13 steals a game, with nearly four herself.

For a program that has been on the brink of a state title three times, a surprise early exit in last year’s regional finals loss to Frankton 68-58, has given this team extra motivation.

“It definitely wasn’t expected,” Robey said. “It really helped our drive, and we all know it takes a lot to win. We just need to go out and play our game.”

Should the Golden Eagles win, they would advance to face the winner of the 10 a.m. matchup between No. 12 Monroe Central (19-5) and No. 9 Tipton (20-5). The championship game is scheduled for an 8 p.m. tip-off.