Penn pushes powerful Tigers to limit before semistate loss

Scott Davidson
South Bend Tribune

LAPORTE — The Penn girls basketball team almost shocked the state Saturday.

The No. 6 Kingsmen went toe-to-toe with top-ranked Northwestern before dropping a 56-46 final in the Indiana High School Athletic Association Class 4A LaPorte Semistate.

Senior stars and All-Star locks Kendall Bostic and Madison Layden proved worthy of their lofty billing by combining for 47 points to lead the undefeated Tigers.

Bostic, a 6-1 forward bound for Michigan State, had 24 points and 12 rebounds. She became just the fifth girls player in state history Saturday to go over 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a prep career.

Layden, a 6-0 guard headed to Purdue, scored 23 points. She hit 10-of-14 free throws as the Tigers outscored Penn 22-8 from the line. Layden now has 2,335 career points, good for 15th all time in Indiana history. She also ranks second in state history with over 700 career assists.

Northwestern, which has won 36 straight games, takes a 29-0 mark into the state title game next Saturday night at 8:15 p.m. at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

The Tigers, who have won the last two Class 3A state crowns, will meet Lawrence North (25-4) in the championship contest.

Juniors Trinity Clinton scored 18 points and classmate Kaitlyn Costner 14 to pace Penn, which closes at 27-3.

The Tigers entered play Saturday with a 39 points per game margin of victory. Penn gave them their second closest game of the season. Northwestern beat Maine West out of Illinois 61-58. The Tigers closest game versus an Indiana foe prior to Saturday was a 65-51 win over North Central out of Indianapolis.

“I’m just extremely proud of my team,” said Penn coach Kristi Ulrich. “Every single person in the state counted us out today. I’m just so proud of everything; injuries, illness, ineligibility that this team overcame this year. No one thought we would be here.

“The growth that this team has shown has been the most impressive thing about them. No one for us should hang their heads. We need to move forward and use this as a stepping stone.”

Penn, who lost in the regional final at LaPorte a year ago, came out aggressive Saturday. The Kingsmen, who had won 13 in a row, blazed to a 16-8 lead after the opening period as Clinton scored 11 points.

“We came out and followed the gameplan to a T,” said Ulrich of the great start. “We went right at them and let them know we were no pushover.”

The Tigers rallied to take a 27-23 halftime lead. Layden heated up in the second period with eight points in the frame as the Tigers outscored Penn 19-7. Layden entered Saturday averaging 25 points per game.

The Kingsmen battled foul trouble all game long. Starters Costner and Jordyn Smith each had two early in the second period and Costner got her third less than a minute into the second half.

Northwestern stretched its lead to 40-31 at the end of the third stanza. Layden scored 11 of her team’s 13 points in the period, including draining 6-of-8 from the line.

Penn got within 45-41 on a pair of Costner free throws with 3:19 left in the game. But back-to-back Bostic layups pushed the lead back to eight at 49-41 for the Tigers. Northwestern, which is 85-4 over the past three seasons, hit 8-of-12 from the line in the final frame to seal the win.

“These girls are battle tested,” said Northwestern coach Kathie Layden of her squad. “We always talk about weathering the storm and we did that in the first quarter. Penn did a great job early being physical and aggressive.

“I just thought that we did a good job keeping our composure. Madison and Kendall did what they have done all year. The team has so much confidence in Madison. Our girls are great at making decisions under pressure. I knew that Madison was going to get the ball to Kendall.”

Layden, who owns five state titles as a coach, was impressed with Penn.

“Everything,” responded Layden when asked about what she liked about the Kingsmen. “They are so well coached. We knew we had to contain Clinton and Pate (Reganne Pate).”

Ulrich, who has guided Penn to three semistate crowns in her 11 seasons, praised the Tigers’ talented twosome.

“When their two studs combine for 47 points that’s tough to overcome,” summed up Ulrich. “That’s why they are two of the best players in the state. They made us pay for every mistake we made.”

Penn overcame much this season. Starting junior point guard Jordyn Smith, a starter the past two years, missed the first 23 games due to a knee injury. Costner played JV ball until the sectional after transferring from Elkhart Central.

Penn will lose four seniors, including starters Pate and Antreese Shelton. Pate, who went over 1,000 points in the sectional and led the state in treys for the second straight season, had five points. Shelton scored six Saturday.

The Kingsmen also lose seniors Dalayne Sanchez and Caroline Morris.

The Penn junior varsity team went 22-0 this season.

NORTHWESTERN 56, PENN 46

At LaPorte High School

PENN (46): Trinity Clinton 7 4-7 18, Kaitlyn Costner 5 4-5 14, Reganne Pate 2 0-0 5, Jordyn Smith 1 0-0 3, Antreese Shelton 3 0-0 6, Jada Patton 0 0-0 0, Delayne Sanchez 0 0-0 0, Caroline Morris 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 18 8-12 46.

NORTHWESTERN (56): Madison Layden 6 10-14 23, Kendall Bostic 8 8-8 24, McKenna Layden 1 2-4 4, Klair Merrell 1 2-2 5 Sarah Heaver 0 0-0 0, Ellie Boyer 0 0-0 0, Leah Carter 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 16 22-28 56

Penn 16 23 31 46

Northwestern 8 27 40 56

3-point goals: Penn 2 (Pate 1, Smith 1), Northwestern 2 (Merrell 1, Madison Layden 1). Shooting: Penn 41% (18 of 44), Northwestern 57% (16 of 28). Rebounds: Penn 21 (Clinton 5, Shelton 5), Northwestern 27 (Bostic 12). Turnovers: Penn 8, Northwestern 12. Total fouls (fouled out): Penn 22 (Smith), Northwestern 11 (none). Records: Penn 27-3, Northwestern 29-0.

Penn’s Kaitlyn Costner, left, goes up for a shot in front of Northwestern’s Klair Merrell, center, and Madison Layden during the Class 4A semistate girls basketball game Saturday at LaPorte High School in LaPorte.
Penn’s Jada Patton, center, pushes through Northwestern’s Klair Merrell, left, and Leah Carter during the Class 4A semistate girls basketball game Saturday at LaPorte High School in LaPorte.