Ironically it was against those same Class 4A No. 2 Pioneers that the first signs of Northview's jump in talent level began to appear back on Nov. 12.
Though the Knights lost 83-52 in their season opener against the, then unranked Pioneers, Northview coach Bob Medworth saw the possibilities even then. "I was pretty encouraged that we were able to put in over 50 points against them. I saw some glimmers that we might be a pretty decent team."
It's doubtful that even the most hearty of Northview supporters could have imagined a 15-win season with a young squad starting just one senior along with three juniors and a freshman, but the squad has gelled as the season progressed.
"This experience has been wonderful for the kids," commented Medworth. "People like to talk about character building and to me this has been the ultimate test of character and the results have been great."
The Knights took second place in the Clabber Girl Classic in Terre Haute early in the season and later put together an eight game winning streak and a perfect 6-0 WIC mark. All of this after posting 5-16 and 3-18 seasons the past two years shows the confidence that has been building this year. "Most of these kids were here for last year's 5-16 and the 3-18 and they worked hard and stuck with it," said Medworth. "They played AAU ball and did not quit. Now they can enjoy the satisfaction of knowing they were the kids who helped turn this program around."
The program's U-turn has led them to the doorstep of something great with another chance at the Pioneers who will assume Goliath's role in the sectional a year after Terre Haute South mowed down the competition on the way to the 4A state championship. The Braves have in fact won the past six sectional titles.
The Knights are used to playing the role of the underdog, but this season their bite is quite a lot more dangerous than previous years. With that said, a look at how the two teams stack up.
Northview Knights vs. Mooresville Pioneers
At Plainfield High School
Friday, February 14, 2003
There is no doubt that the Mooresville Pioneers are a dangerous squad with a lot of weapons. A team doesn't get to No. 3 in the Class 4A ranks without dashing a lot of hopes along the way. It was Northview who got the first look at this year's version of the Pioneers and they held their own in the season opener before falling 83-52. A marked improvement from the previous year's 75-21 thumping.
A lot has changed even over the course of this season for a youthful Northview squad.
The Knights were missing junior sparkplug Erica Koehler in that first game with an ankle injury and it was also the varsity debut for 6'5 freshman center Julie Whitted.
Koehler is a scrapper, rebounder and opportunistic scorer who is often the barometer for this Northview squad.
She averages 8.2 points a game along with nearly five rebounds a contest as well. She leads the Knights in getting to the freethrow line with 64 attempts and she hits 72 percent, second on the team. "(Having Erica back) will be a big help for us," said Medworth. "She is athletic and has excellent court sense."
She'll also give the Knights an aggressive defender to help match up with the sizable Mooresville rotation that starts three players 5'10 or taller.
At 6'5 Whitted is a big part of any opposing coach's game plan and Mooresville's Mark Hurt is no different. "I thought (Whitted) had a nice game the first time. I think Northview as a team has gotten even better."
Whitted had eight points and 10 rebounds in a solid debut versus an experienced Pioneer interior. She leads the team with 13.3 points a game and just under 10 boards a game along with a pair of blocks per contest. She'll have to hit the offensive glass hard for the Knights on Friday night.
According to Medworth, taking care of the ball will be the most important factor in Round Two of Northview vs. Mooresville. "We should be better this time. Two years ago the turnovers were in their backcourt, this year many were in our halfcourt offense. But we still need to work on that."
The Northview guards committed 37 turnovers against the swarming Mooresville defense, a statistic that has to drop dramatically for Northview to have success.
Whitney Medworth and Amy Thiemann will be responsible for much of the ball handling as well as the perimeter play for Northview.
Their outside shooting could be the difference with the Pioneers inside defense. If the pair are hitting from beyond the arc it will mean easier looks for Ashley Pierce, Whitted and Koehler inside.
Rachel Deal and Sara Frazier have played well off the bench of late and will get important minutes against Mooresville's talented group of guards.
All in all the Knights will have to weather the initial Mooresville storm, something they didn't do last time when they fell behind 15-4 after one quarter. Northview will also have to control the boards because second chances will be at a premium. The Pioneers' size is daunting but they like to release their players in transition which could give Northview extra opportunities. "We're going to have to block out," commented Medworth. "Our kids are all capable of doing that, but unfortunately they do not all choose to do it all the time."
The Knights are in a prime spot here and will likely have to play a near flawless game for the win. But they've overcome the odds all season long, why not one more time?