Columbus North girls basketball coach Pat McKee delivered a quick answer to the question of where his team's biggest strength lies.“We have Ali Patberg,” McKee said, “and nobody else does.”
Patberg is a 5-foot-10 senior guard headed to the University of Notre Dame next season, presumably after she picks up the Indiana Miss Basketball award. She averages 25.7 points, 8.8 rebound and 6.1 assists per game and stands as the undeniable biggest obstacle between the Homestead Spartans and their hopes for a Class 4A state title.
“Patberg is a kid you're not going to stop,” Homestead coach Rod Parker said. “We have to try to slow her down. The big thing is not letting her get other players involved like she did last time. She really has a basketball savvy you don't see often at the high school level.”Homestead (26-2) plays Columbus North (27-1) for the 4A title at 8:15 p.m. Saturday in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis.
Columbus North's only loss came against Lawrence North on Nov. 29, a loss the Bull Dogs avenged at the Richmond semistate last Saturday. Homestead has lost only to Elizabethtown, Ky., and Columbus North.
Patberg scored 34 points with 12 rebounds, 11 assists, four steals and two blocks in Columbus North's 86-75 win over Homestead on Dec. 30.
“You're not going to stop Indiana Miss Basketball – I'll be shocked if she doesn't win it,” Homestead senior Josie Fisher said. “You can't stop a girl going to Notre Dame. But we can't let her score 50.”
The task of slowing Patberg will be a team assignment, Parker said, although it's likely junior guard Savannah Buck will draw the initial assignment when the Spartans are in man-to-man defense.
“Savannah is one of our best defensive stoppers and she'll get the call early on,” Parker said. “Lindley Kistler is a good matchup, just with her size and length and ability to defend the perimeter. Those two kids have allowed us to defend a lot of good individual players this year, but the biggest challenge so far will be Ali.”
Buck grew up battling her older sister, Sydney, now at Butler University, so she's no stranger to understanding how to defend a variety of moves.
Patberg has a bit of a size advantage, being three inches taller than Savannah Buck.
“The first time was a new experience for me, but I got a feel for the way she plays and certain moves she has,” Buck said. “She's really good at the pull-up jump shot from the elbow and great at getting to the basket. We're going to try to keep her from getting to the basket, that's the main thing. Containment is the key.”
Parker hints that he might throw a few defensive wrinkles into the mix to deal with Patberg, too.
Homestead is known for its offense. The Spartans are the highest-scoring team in the state (77 points per game), so it's interesting how much will ride on their defense, particularly on Patberg.
“She handles the ball probably 75 percent of the time and she's so smart, she'll figure things out,” Parker said. “We have to keep her thinking as much as we can, even if we can just make it two or three possessions before she figures things out.”
Patberg is the only player on Columbus North whose scoring average is in double figures, another nod to how pivotal she is to the team's attack. Homestead's offense presents a bit more diversity, with five players at or near double figures: Karissa McLaughlin 23.6, Grace German 12.6, Kistler 11, Fisher 10.7 and Madisen Parker 9.7.
“They're a lot like us structure-wise and fundamentally,” Fisher said. “They have a really good player in Ali, she creates a lot for them. If we can contain her, keep her off the boards and hold her to her average, I think we can beat them.”
Those are big ifs, of course. But at least there's no mystery about what the Spartans must do.
IHSAA Class 4A Championship
Tipoff: Homestead vs. Columbus North, 8:15 p.m. Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse Indianapolis
TV: Fox Sports Indiana Plus
Radio: ESPN 1380-AM
Coach: Rod Parker
Player Ht Yr Avg
Madisen Parker 5-9 So. G 9.7
Josie Fisher 5-6 Sr. G 10.7
Karissa McLaughlin 5-8 So. G 23.6
Nicole Weaver 5-8 Jr. G 1.8
Savannah Buck 5-7 Jr. G 4.4
Cali Casaburo 5-8 Sr. G 0.9
Kathleen Landrigan 5-8 Sr. G 0.6
Teryn Kline 5-9 So. F 0.9
Lindley Kistler 6-0 Jr. F 11.0
Grace German 6-0 Sr. F 12.6
Jazmyne Geist 5-11 So. F 1.5
Hannah Stine 5-10 Sr. F 1.1
Courtney McPheters 5-10 Sr. F 0.6
Coach: Pat McKee
Player Ht Yr Avg
Emily Kim 5-6 Jr. G 1.7
Debbie Gedeon 5-9 Sr. G 4.8
Sheyanne Street 5-8 Sr. G/F 6.1
Imani Guy 6-4 So. F 5.3
Jenna Borger 5-9 Fr. G 1.3
Kat Norman 6-0 Fr. F 1.2
Sydney Patberg 5-6 Sr. G 0.2
Ali Patberg 5-10 Sr. G 25.7
Elle Williams 5-11 Jr. G 5.9
Karli Reynolds 5-6 So. G 0.6
Amy Weisner 5-7 Jr. G 0.4
Maliah Howard-Bass 5-9 So. G 9.4
Paige Littrell 5-10 Jr. G 8.4
Kenzie Patberg 5-6 Fr. G 2.7
Kelsey Patberg 5-6 Fr. G 1.0
Hannah Poindexter 5-10 Sr. F 1.0
Liz Tynan 5-9 Fr. G 1.0