12/18/2010 7:30:00 AM Today's games to watch: Keirn, Groom try to keep up hot streak at Whitko; Caston girls host improving Frontier; uptempo Frontier boys visit Caston in doubleheader nightcap Winamac girls visit North White, boys head to Rossville;Culver girls visit Jimtown in NSC showdown; NM boys host West Central; Argos boys visit Pioneer
Tippecanoe Valley (2-8, 1-1 Three Rivers Conference) at Whitko (4-6, 1-1), 6:15 p.m./7:45 p.m. (JV/Varsity): Tory Keirn scored 13 points for Valley in a 63-55 loss to Winamac Thursday, including 11 in the third quarter as Valley cut what had been a 16-point deficit to two. Keirn also took on more of a ballhandling role in the second half with Staci Groom moving to more of a shooting guard role. Groom wound up scoring 30 points.
"That was kind of intentional," Valley coach Chris Kindig said. "Tory is capable of doing that. She really is, and occasionally, we'll play her at that spot just because we can move Staci around and put her in different sports and give her different looks out there, so the defense has a harder time keying on her."
Whitko is led by junior point guard Micaela Sylvester and senior post player Rachelle Kessie.
Frontier (4-2, 2-1 Midwest Conference) at Caston (0-9, 0-2), 6:30 p.m.: Former Hobart and Portage coach Kristen Peterson has made a different in her first year at Frontier. Last year, Frontier won only two games; this year, they've already won twice that many.
The injury-depleted Lady Comets have lost 13 in a row dating back to last year, but they did beat Frontier 46-40 in Chalmers last season, and sophomore point guard Jordan Moss is coming off a nine-point effort against West Central in a 57-19 loss Thursday.
This is the first game of a girls-boys doubleheader.
Winamac (7-4, 1-2 MWC) at North White (0-9, 0-2), 1 p.m./2:30 p.m.: Winamac coach Jeff Wagner has said that defense has been a weakness but saw signs of improvement in the fourth quarter of a 63-55 win over Valley Thursday.
"It was better," Wagner said. "We had some dumb fouls, and we can't be doing that, but it was. ... We gave up 55, and that's still too many. We need to keep people in the 40s. We're doing fine as far as scoring, but we have flashes of good series of defense, and then we let it go for a little while. So we're still working on it. We've still got a long way to go, but we've got some time before sectionals. That's when we want to be our best."
Culver (8-1, 2-0 Northern State Conference) at Jimtown (8-1, 2-0), 6 p.m./7:30 p.m.: These are two of the remaining three unbeatens in the Northern State Conference. New Prairie, the third unbeaten, hosts Triton this afternoon.
This could come down to a battle of point guards between Culver's Nicole Carnegie and Jimtown's Emma Stahl as well as a battle in the post between Culver's Gwen Zehner and Jimtown's Katie Goward.
Culver hasn't beaten Jimtown in Baugo Township since Dec. 21, 2002. The last time they were there, they lost 76-29 in 2008.
Frontier (2-4, 0-2 MWC) at Caston (0-4, 0-0), 8 p.m.: Caston coach Ben Snyder said Frontier will look to run.
"They have three or four kids that can shoot the three, and they love to shoot the three in transition," Snyder said. "They have the Woods kid that's really good at hitting that three. He'll go in spurts where he'll hit three or four threes in a row. Then you have the King kid that can step out and shoot the three, but he's as good as anyone at getting to the bucket."
Having said all that, Snyder said Caston has continued its focus more on self-improvement in eight days since its last game, a 56-42 loss to Carroll (Flora). That includes working the motion offense and rebounding without a starter taller than 6-1.
"It's still new offensively," Snyder said. "We're still working on our stuff. They'll run a 3-2 zone against us and some halfcourt trap-type stuff, so it will be important that we take care of the ball. I think that's a key for us all season. They crash the boards hard, so rebounding will be another key for us."
This is the second half of a girls-boys doubleheader.
Winamac (2-2) at Rossville (1-4), 6 p.m./7:30 p.m.: The Hornets come off a loss to Carroll (Flora) Friday night while the Warriors play for the first time in eight days thanks to a snow-out against Culver Tuesday.
Tanner Hack and Matt Ummel are key contributors for Rossville, who won the Class 1A state title in 2002 but hasn't won a sectional since.
West Central (3-4) at North Miami (1-4), 6 p.m./7:30 p.m.: North Miami coach Matt Storm said it's important how his team rebounds after a 52-28 loss to Rochester Friday.
"It's huge," Storm said. "The season is just like a long game in terms of momentum. Your momentum swells and what not with wins and losses. If you let a game like this affect two games - affect tomorrow night's game - then you've got problems. That's what we just talked about (in the locker room after the Rochester game). This is kind of a test of our character and who we are as a team. If we can bounce back tomorrow and play better basketball and get shots to drop and do things right like we did for about a half here, then we'll be fine. But that does make our test very much mental."
Argos (0-5) at Pioneer (2-2), 6 p.m./7:30 p.m.: This could come down to a battle in the post between Argos' Sam Edmonds against Pioneer sophomore Owen Dorris. Pioneer is a new addition to the Dragons' schedule.