Friday, February 12, 2016

NorthWood High School head girls basketball coach Steve Neff oversees a practice in the NorthWood gym on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013 in Nappanee. This season will be the last for Neff after 37 years behind the bench. (Truth Photo By Jon Garcia) (AP)

Steve Neff ¬ Head girls basketball coach at NorthWood High School ¬ (Photo Supplied) ¬ ¬ ¬ (AP)
NorthWood eyes sectional title for Neff's final tournament
Posted on Feb. 9, 2014 at 7:23 p.m.

Steve Neff won't dwell on the inevitable yet.

Not while there are still games to play.

Tuesday, Feb. 11, marks the beginning of Neff's 37th and final appearance in the girls' state basketball tournament, but he won't get sentimental until NorthWood's run ends.

After a coaching career marked by a state championship in 1999, 10 regional championships and the third-most sectional titles (23) of any girls team in Indiana, Neff is retiring after this season.

"That probably won’t set in until it’s all over," he said. "We had a big senior night (Friday) and I had quite a few girls come back for that, that was part of it. That was sort of a celebration time. Now it’s back to work."

On Wednesday, the Panthers (16-5) face a 2-16 Wawasee team they beat 72-31 in the regular season, but Neff isn't resting on those laurels. 

"You can throw out the records usually when Wawasee and NorthWood play," he said. "We handled them OK the first time, but that means nothing if I know anything from past sectional experiences."

Neff said the goal is to win the sectional championship, which will be no easy task in a field with Fairfield, Whitko, West Noble and Tippecanoe Valley. When all is said and done, Neff will miss his players and their families more than anything.

"The girls help keep me young and in touch with what’s going on in the world," he said.

At the Northridge Class 4A sectional, the host Raiders (16-4) may look like early favorite to take home the hardware. But like Neff, Northridge coach Doug Springer cautions against relying on regular-season success come tournament time.

"I think this is the first year our sectional is wide open for anyone to take it," he said. "We have the best record, but Warsaw has beaten everyone in the field."

The Raiders have never won a sectional title, but they have a chance to make history if they can get past the winner of Warsaw and Elkhart Memorial in the second round.

"We don't have to do anything different because it's sectionals," Springer said. "We know what the implications are, and we're going to keep it simple on offense and defense and continue to do the things we've been doing since November."

The path to the championship game won't be easy. Springer notes that Warsaw (9-9) is a "much different team than they were at the beginning of the year" now that Nikki Grose and Brooklyn Harrison have returned to the court.

"They've got a month to get their starting rotation down, and they're playing their best basketball right now," Springer said.

Memorial (6-10), Springer said, is "a scary, scary team because of how athletic they are." If the Chargers beat the Tigers on Tuesday, the Chargers' Khadijah Moore will present a formidable matchup.

"Any time you have the best player in the tournament and maybe even in the conference, you're going to have your work cut out for you," Springer said of Moore.

On the other end of the bracket, Goshen waits to play the winner of Concord and Elkhart Central.

The Redskins finished their season at .500 (10-10) with a win over Fairfield on Saturday. The Minutemen (7-12) are coming off their first 2-conference win season since 2010.

The Blue Blazers (2-17) snapped a 15-game losing streak with a regular season finale win over South Bend Trinity.

Class 4A

At Northridge

Tuesday, Feb. 11

Memorial vs. Warsaw, 6 p.m.

Concord vs. Central , follows.

Friday, Feb. 14

Northridge bye, plays winner of Memorial vs. Warsaw, 6 p.m.

Goshen bye, plays winner of Concord vs. Central, follows.

Saturday, Feb. 15

Championship, 7:30 p.m.

At South Bend Clay

Tuesday, Feb. 11

Penn vs. South Bend Riley, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 12

Mishawaka vs. SB Washington, 6 p.m.

Plymouth vs. SB Clay, follows.

Friday, Feb. 14

SB Adams bye, plays winner of Penn vs. Riley, 6 p.m.

Mishawaka vs. Washington winner vs. Plymouth vs. Clay winner, follows.

Saturday, Feb. 15

Championship, 7:30 p.m.

Class 3A

At Glenn

Tuesday, Feb. 11

St. Joseph vs. Culver Academy, 6 p.m.

Rochester vs. Glenn, follows.

Friday, Feb. 14

Jimtown bye, plays winner of South Bend St. Joseph vs. Culver Academy, 6 p.m.

Marian bye, plays winner of Rochester vs. Glenn, follows.

Saturday, Feb. 15

Championship, 7:30 p.m.

At NorthWood

Tuesday, Feb. 11

West Noble vs. Whitko, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 12

Fairfield vs. Tippecanoe Valley, 6 p.m.

Wawasee vs. NorthWood, follows.

Friday, Feb. 14

Lakeland bye, plays winner of West Noble vs. Whitko, 6 p.m.

Fairfield vs. Tippecanoe Valley winner vs. Wawasee vs. NorthWood winner, follows.

Saturday, Feb. 15

Championship, 7:30 p.m.

Class 2A

At Central Noble

Tuesday, Feb. 11

Bremen vs. LaVille, 6 p.m.

Central Noble vs. Fremont, follows.

Friday, Feb. 14

Westview bye, plays winner of Bremen vs. LaVille, 6 p.m.

Prairie Heights bye, plays winner of Central Noble vs. Fremont, follows.

Saturday, Feb. 15

Championship, 7 p.m.

Class 1A

At Hamilton

Tuesday, Feb. 11

Lakewood Park Christian vs. Bethany Christian, 7 p.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 12

Elkhart Christian vs. Hamilton, 6 p.m.

Howe vs. Lakeland Christian, follows.

Friday, Feb. 14

FW Blackhawk bye, plays winner of Lakewood Park vs. Bethany, 6 p.m.

Elkhart Christian vs. Hamilton winner vs. Howe vs. Lakeland Christian winner, follows.

Saturday, Feb. 15

Championship, 7:30 p.m.