DUNLAP — In Doug Springer’s eyes, Taylor Miller could be a starter on nearly any other girls’ basketball team in the area.
Unfortunately, on a team as deep as Northridge, the sophomore guard must be content with her role as the sixth man.
Not that Miller minds coming off the bench. In fact, she relishes it.
“I feel like when I come off the bench, it’s my role to set a spark,” Miller said. “So I don’t really care about starting. I’m happy to be playing at all.”
That spark included a 19-point performance in a sectional semifinal against Goshen on Friday, Feb. 8.
Miller went a perfect 3-for-3 from behind the arc and 6-for-6 from the free throw line to lead the Raiders (19-4) past the Redskins 45-38.
“As a sophomore, I’m telling you, she’s one of the top sophomores in the area,” Doug Springer, Northridge’s coach, said of Miller. “It’s great when you can have a Taylor Miller that can be your sixth man off the bench. She had a huge game. She was fearless.”
While Miller was hot from the field, Goshen’s Aimee Swihart was putting together another type of fearless performance.
While Goshen (14-8) trailed throughout the contest, the 5-foot-4 senior relentlessly penetrated the lane for 5- and 6-point solo scoring runs. Swihart finished with a game-high 21 points before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.
It was the kind of fight Springer expected of a Lenny Krebs-coached team.
“I was extremely nervous and extremely worried (about tonight),” Springer said. “I told Aimee that it’s been a pleasure coaching against her for the past four years. She’s probably the most competitive kid I ever coached against. And we knew she was going to come out here and put Goshen on her back. And she did.”
Krebs said Swihart’s performance was indicative of every game she played with Goshen.
“There were so many times this year that Swihart made so many things happen,” he said. “Swihart’s a special kid, a special player. She’s really been a huge part of us turning this program around.”
Goshen matched Northridge in nearly every major statistical category — field goals, fouls, rebounds, turnovers — except one huge one: free throws.
While the Raiders sank 10 of their 15 attempts from the charity stripe, Goshen struggled to make 7 of 20.
“Our kids came out hard tonight and held their own against a very good team and the fact that we’re just talking about missed free throws says a lot about how far along our team’s come. As frustrating as this moment is, I am proud of those kids and how hard they’ve worked and how far they’ve come this year,” said Krebs
While Goshen goes home, Northridge advances to face Warsaw in the sectional championship Saturday night.
If Northridge wins, the Raiders will avenge last year’s 2-point loss in the championship game to Memorial and take home the school’s first-ever girls basketball sectional title.
There’s also the extra motivation of getting back at a Warsaw team who beat Northridge 52-39 earlier this year.
“We’re ready to get another chance at Warsaw,” Miller said. “We feel like we let ourselves down the first game and we’re ready to come back and show them who we really are.”