Disruptive interior presence propels Homestead in win Spartans beat Pike inside like no previous team had.

Homestead girls basketball has never had a problem controlling the perimeter. So it should be no surprise that the Spartans held Pike to just 9.1 percent shooting from three-point range in Saturday’s IHSAA Class 4A State Championship game.

It should also be expected that offensively, Homested senior Madisen Parker tied a Class 4A title game record for most three-pointers made.

However, what could come as a surprise, despite its history, is how the Spartans’ post players played against a Pike front line led by 6-foot Michaela White and 5-11 Kinnidy Garrard.

The Red Devils came into the game averaging seven rebounds more per game than Homestead, but the Spartans scoffed at any notion of inferiority inside by consistently harassing Pike in the post.

“We knew coming in that post play was going to be huge in our ability to rebound and not give them easy shots,” Homestead coach Rod Parker said. “When we got into our half-court defense, I feel like we did really good.”

It was nearly impossible for Pike to get any clean looks inside during the first half. The Red Devils’ post players combined for just two points by halftime and found Spartan senior Jazmyne Geist’s disruptive hands more than the basket.

When Geist came out of the game in the second quarter with foul trouble, it was sophomore Haley Swing and freshman Sydney Graber who showed the poise of seasoned veterans despite the environment of their first state championship game.

“We had to look at it as just another game, even if it is the state championship,” Graber said of she and Swing dodging nerves on the big stage. “We made sure we stayed calm. Coach Parker set up this tough schedule to get us to the state championship so we could keep our composure in the championship game.”

Geist was active early, as she grabbed three of her game-high 12 rebounds before either team ever gathered momentum in the first quarter. Swing added 10 rebounds in the game, and Graber had seven.

In the end, it was Homestead who won the battle of rebounding, 43-40. It was the first time all season that a team had outrebounded Pike.

“The key to this game was rebounding,” said Geist. “It was good for us to be loose and just enjoy the state journey. It helped us come out confident.”

The Spartans pushed the battle inside offensively just as well as on the defensive end.

The culmination of the Spartans’ push to the post came in the closing minutes as guards Parker and Karissa McLaughlin looked inside to seal the state title win. With 2:31 remaining, Parker found Swing in the post for an easy layup that pushed the lead to six.

“It was hard at times, but my team had my back,” Swing said of her performance. “I had trust in them and they had trust in me.”

Following Swing’s basket, McLaughlin found Geist, who made a strong post move to put the Spartans up eight and that was the final Homestead field goal of the game.

While Pike pulled back within four points before the final buzzer, it was those baskets that had the Spartan fans rocking Banker’s Life Fieldhouse and put all of the game-closing momentum clearly on Homestead’s shoulders.

Homestead scored just 20 of their 61 points in the paint during the game, but the 15 scored by the trio of Geist, Swing and Graber were every bit as important as the Spartans’ perimeter game. And, as coach Parker said, it helped highlight the team playing just as they had all season no matter its competition.

“I told the kids all week, ‘this is just another big game,” Parker said. “We’ve played in so many big games and you have to treat it like a big game, but we didn’t over exaggerate it. I didn’t let them watch film. We stayed very normal all the way through and they came in relaxed, knew that expectations were high and they went out and competed real hard.” <br>