In each of the last three seasons, Northeastern entered sectional play as the favorite to win the title only to endure the bitter disappointment of being upset. Beginning last summer, the Lady Knights worked to make sure that history did not repeat itself.

When Northeastern took the floor against the Shenandoah Lady Raiders for the championship game on Saturday, Feb. 3, they were focused and all business.

With the Lady Knights already leading 12-4, Ady Kircher hit a buzzer-beater 3-pointer to extend the lead to 15-4 at the end of the first quarter. The Knights pushed their advantage to 25-9 late in the second quarter before settling for a 25-13 halftime lead.

The Lady Knights dialed up their intensity in the third quarter and increased their lead to 44-18 entering the fourth quarter. The Knights played 12 players in the final period and the defense stayed focused holding the Lady Raiders to 3 points in the final period, winning 58-21. It was fitting that Knight senior Sady Gammon came off the bench to score the last 4 points for Northeastern.

The winners placed three players in double figures. Ady Kircher led the Knights with 20 points. Addisen Mastriano scored 15 points, pulled down a game high of 11 rebounds and blocked eight shots. Ava Mikesell scored 10 points and dished out five assists.  

Shenandoah did not have a double figure scorer. Grace Lee, Aurora McKnight and Gabrielle Patrick each scored 6 points for the Raiders.

Knights senior Addisen Mastriano, a Detroit Mercy commit, said it was a thrill to finally cut down the nets after three years of frustration. “It has been a goal for the senior group to win this for the last four years,” Mastriano said. “We should have won each of the last three years, but we didn’t. To finally achieve our goal is a thrill. I don’t think we are finished yet. We are looking forward to next week and beyond.”

Knights senior Juztice Slick, an IU East commit, missed most of the season rehabbing an injury. She said all the work was worth it after winning the title. “Tonight makes all the time I spent trying to rehab to get back on the floor worth it,” Slick said. “I sat on the bench most of the season and cheered on my teammates. It is great to be able to return to the floor and contribute. Winning this makes it all worth it, not just for me, but for the whole team.”

Knight head coach Cody Dudley said for the rest of the post season the opponents are not as important as how the Knights perform.

“I did not think I would be speechless tonight, but I am,” Dudley said. “These kids have put in so much work to get to this point. It started last June. They were determined to make a tournament run. They have been focused all week. There was no way they were going to lose. For the rest of the tournament, it is all about us. We will prepare our game plan and execute it to the best of our ability.”   

The Knights, who last won the sectional during the 2010-2011 season, will play Sheridan in the Southwestern (Shelbyville) Regional at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 10, for the right to advance to the semi-state.

Northeastern (19-6)     15  10   19   14   58

Mikesell 10, Kircher 20, Slick 2, Ariel Shuler 1, Karri Gammon 2, Sady Gammon 4, Gracie Green 1, Cami Angi 3, Mastriano 15, Nevaeh Chapman 0, Brooklynne Adams 0, Amiyah Davis 0 – Total 58

Shenandoah (12-11)       4    9     5      3  21

Clara Walker 0, Liliana Lynch 0, McKnight 6, Kayci Hill 3, Kimberlee Farmer 0, Haley Hughes 0, Lee 6, Kaylen Lynch 0, Patrick 6 – Total 21 

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A version of this article appeared in the February 7 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Dan Harney is a sports reporter at the Western Wayne News.