No game better encapsulated the annual Basketball Day in Indiana than Lawrence North’s 61-58 sectional title win over North Central.
An hour before tipoff, the soundtrack from Hoosiers was blasting on the loudspeakers. The stands were nearly packed with fans from both Lawrence North and North Central, and their energy was felt the entire night. This was a prime environment for a championship game.
Both teams were well-acquainted with one another, considering they were conference foes and had already played each other twice this season. Lawrence North won both outings, once in the regular season and again in the Marion County championship game.
North Central looked like a team that was ready to get those two losses out of their mouth as they raced out of the gates with a 9-2 run. Lawrence North was bothered all night by North Central forward Meg Newman. Newman, who’s getting interest from power-conference schools across the country, finished with a game-high 23 points. North Central’s bigger lineup of Newman and Nakaih Hunter led to many second-chance opportunities for the Lady Panthers. By halftime, North Central was ahead, 30-27.
Despite playing from behind most of the game, Lawrence North head coach Chris Giffin and his senior-heavy team were unfazed. His team has battled through moments of adversity throughout the season.
Lawrence North has proven to be a favorite to win the IHSAA Class 4A state championship, but the Lady Wildcats were limping into sectional play. A 3-4 record in the month of January against state title contenders like Fishers, Hamilton Southeastern and Homestead left plenty of question marks over whether this team could make it back to Bankers Life Fieldhouse. An ugly win in the sectional semifinal game over Warren Central the previous night did little to alleviate those doubts.
Trailing by six with 5:30 left in the game, Giffin relied on his seniors to get the Lady Wildcats over the hump. Lawrence North would outscore North Central, 19-10, the rest of the way.
With less than a minute to go in the fourth quarter, Kayln Ervin recovered a Katie Davidson miss and hoisted up a 3-pointer. Ervin missed, but she was fouled. Ervin knocked down all three free throws to tie the game at 56 with 48.6 seconds left.
Even with North Central regaining the lead with 12 seconds to go, point guard Kristian Young was determined to not let her high school basketball career end in this fashion. Young raced down the floor and was fouled as she banked a layup off the backboard with 2.2 seconds left.
“I wasn’t worried about the foul,” Young said. “I knew I had to finish that layup no matter who was standing there, so I just looked at the rim and knew I had to bank it off the backboard.”
The seniors – Young, Ervin, Davidson and Lauren Gunn – finished with 42 of Lawrence North’s 61 points. Their togetherness has rubbed off on the rest of the underclassmen, and it will decide just how far Lawrence North can go in the rest of the postseason.
“In many ways this is a player-led team, and that’s when the team is the best. A player-led team is always better than a coach-led team, if it’s led the right way, and this team certainly has been,” Giffin said.
Lawrence North takes on conference foe Ben Davis in the regional semifinal next Saturday at 10 a.m.