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Class 3A State Championship Preview

Anna Kayser, Special to
Posted: February 23, 2024
Gibson Southern vs Norwell graphic

On Saturday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, two of the most dynamic, high-scoring girls basketball offenses in the state of Indiana will face off with more on the line than just a state finals crown.

For the communities of Gibson Southern and Norwell following their respective high school girls basketball teams, state finals bids are few – two for each, to be exact – and far between. A state championship for either would be a first, with the Gibson Southern Titans’ last trip in 2002 ending in a runner-up finish and the Norwell Knights’ 1977 tournament run falling short in the semifinals. For Norwell, this year ends the longest drought without a state finals appearance (47 years) in IHSAA girls tournament history.

“It’s just a great opportunity for all of us,” Gibson Southern senior Ally Malone said. “We’ve all been working so hard for the last couple of years and our community has been so supportive, showing up to every game, donating and just being on this whole journey with us. Not only do we want it for ourselves and our team, but our community too.”

The similarities between the two continue on the court. With four losses apiece, each team is sporting double-digit winning streaks entering Saturday’s contest, which is slated to kick off the second session of state finals action at 6 PM ET. Offensively, Gibson Southern’s 65.49 average points per game narrowly besting Norwell’s 65.04 average, the third and fourth-best marks in the state, respectively.

Each team has their playmakers, too, from beyond the arch and in the paint. In 29 games for Gibson Southern, senior shooting guard Chloey Graham ranks sixth in the state with 81 three-point field goals and junior point guard Gabby Spink ranks seventh with 171 assists and leads the team with 19.4 points per game.

Norwell senior guards Kennedy Guelling and Makenzie Fuess are combining for 33.2 points per game, acting as a well-oiled machine in both shooting beyond the arc and driving the basketball. Guelling is the newly-minted all-time leading scorer in program history.

“I think there’s a lot of parallels between our teams,” Gibson Southern head coach Kyle Brasher said. “We attack it differently defensively, but we’ve both got great guards that can really shoot it and attack the basket, we both have some size on the inside. It’s going to be an exciting game to see what style of play comes out more on the defensive side because offensively, we’re very similar.”

As Brasher alluded to, both teams have put a unique emphasis on defense with a spotlight shining on the two highest-scoring teams remaining in the tournament. Malone has been a workhorse for the Titans defensively throughout her career, limiting shooting range from opposing guards. Center Paige Schnaus is expected to own the paint and limit drives to the hoop.


The Class 3A State Championship featuring Gibson Southern (25-4) and Norwell (23-4) will stream via PPV on this Saturday at 6 pm ET / 5 CT!


Despite an expectation of a high-scoring battle, Norwell head coach Eric Thornton says it doesn’t always end up that way, especially with both teams putting a strong emphasis on defense. For the Knights, the athleticism of sophomore guard Vanessa Rosswurm and senior forward Dekota Hubble work in tandem to limit scoring from all areas of the court.

“Our defense complements our offense,” Thornton said. “We’re trying to pressure the basketball, we’re trying to create more possessions, and I know Gibson Southern tries to do the same. It’ll be fun to play against them and play against their man-to-man defense is what we’re seeing so far. We’re going to prepare the same way we have all year.”

From both a player and coach perspective, each team seems to be peaking at the perfect moment.

In sectionals on Feb. 2, Gibson Southern defeated No. 8 Evansville Memorial, their highest-ranked win in the postseason. Throughout the state series, they also knocked off No. 10 Washington and No. 9 Scottsburg.

“Throughout the season in each game, everybody’s just trusting each other more,” Graham said. “There’s been a lot of growth from everybody and just how we’ve been playing the last few games, especially in the postseason, we’ve been peaking and doing the best we’ve done all season. It’s just coming together and trusting each other that’s helped us do that.”

One week after defeating No. 7 Benton Central in regionals, Norwell took down No. 1 Hamilton Heights, 64-50, in the first game of the Huntington North Semi-State. Hamilton Heights ended the Knights’ season in 2023, an event that made the team bond tighter together to overcome that hurdle this season.

“We tried to become tougher,” Thornton said. “I think that’s the biggest thing for our team… being able to beat a team like Hamilton Heights is huge for our kids’ confidence. Our team has been very loose this year, which has been great. I think that helps them go in and play with confidence.”

Both Gibson Southern and Norwell display that tight-knit, confident attitude that has been key for them each to win big games over their 15 and 12-game winning streaks, respectively.

Entering this weekend, success on both sides of the ball stems from that close-knit team dynamic. The key component of gelling as one team comes from all players working cohesively and unselfishly to limit opposing movement and command possession time.

“We’re always improving each other,” Fuess said. “We bonded so much this year, just being able to play two years together. We’re working really well together, getting each other open on the court and just having a great time off the court.”

Saturday’s 3A game at Gainbridge Fieldhouse could be one of the most electric girls basketball title games seen at this years’ state finals, with the end resulting in the hoisting of a first state championship in program history regardless of who is crowned victor.

For the coaching staffs, players and communities, the opportunity to compete is a long-awaited dream come true.

“The word that comes out the most is pride – a lot of pride in the work that the girls have done to get to this point, a lot of pride in our community and excited for the job they’ve done,” Brasher said. “At this point, we’re just excited to see what we can do in this last game, get a chance to play a great team and try to make a good, exciting end to the season.”