MIDDLEBURY — After an emotional rally past Warsaw the night before, the Northridge Raiders were determined to shake the championship drought that has plagued them through the program's history.
Finally, after three years of toeing the edge and falling just short, the Northridge girls basketball team could cut down the sectional championship net on their home court.
Northridge powered past Goshen in the 4A sectional championship, 53-37, on Saturday, Feb. 15.
"I'm just so proud of my kids," Northridge coach Doug Springer said. "They were resilient. They had to fight through last night and come back tonight for a big game, and our kids had enough energy to continue to fight."
As "We are the Champions" echoed throughout the gymnasium, senior Brianne O’Dell soaked in the moment.
"It's really exciting, especially for all of us seniors because it's our last opportunity to do this." she said. "We made it to the championship game several times but we've never been able to pull it out. So we all wanted it bad. It's really nice to be able to say that we did it."
The Raiders got out to a quick 12-4 start and broke free on an 8-0 run early in the second quarter. But the Redskins always stayed uncomfortably close, countering Northridge's athleticism with power in the post.
On the heels of sophomore Olivia Love, who finished with a team-high 13 points, Goshen got within six points of the Raiders in the third quarter. Goshen coach Lenny Krebs was proud of his team's unrelenting fight to open the second half.
"I thought we showed a lot of heart tonight," he said. "I thought we showed a lot of passion. We had every reason to fall several times throughout the game."
But Northridge ultimately did what it had been doing all year — spreading the wealth around the court and lethalizing every player who touched the ball.
Taylor Miller led the team with 14 total points. O'Dell and Morgan Miller chipped in 13 and 11 points apiece. When the Redskins got close, Baleigh Carithers came off the bench and nailed a pair of 3-pointers.
"We pride ourselves on our unselfishness and our willingness to give up the ball to our teammates," O'Dell said. "I think that's also part of the reason why it's so hard for other teams to stop us, because we have so many people who can score."
But while the sectional title is the end of a long — and sometimes painful — road for Northridge, the appearance is the mark of a promising beginning for the young Goshen squad.
Krebs couldn't be prouder of the no-quit attitude his team showed all season. Goshen started the year 7-1 before losing six in a row midway through the schedule. But just as Goshen (11-11) didn't quit Saturday, it also didn't give up when facing the wrong side of a six-game stretch.
"They had every reason to fold after we lost six or seven straight and throw the season away," Krebs said. "And credit to all those girls in the locker room. We stayed after it and got better and gave ourselves a chance to play for a sectional championship."
The Raiders (18-4) will face Gary West Side in the Penn 4A regional Saturday, Feb. 22, at 12:30 p.m. For Springer, who came to Northridge when the Raiders had only four winning seasons in team history, Saturday was a fitting catharsis.
"I cannot say enough of my seniors," Springer said. "Those kids have been fighting since sixth grade, since I got here, to lift our program, and they've done it. They left a legacy to be the first (Northern Lakes Conference) champions outright and now a sectional championship, I can't ask any more of this group.