AP NEWS

A midterm glance

January 6, 2018 GMT

La PORTE — It’s been contrasting seasons so far for La Porte’s girls and boys basketball teams.

One team is 11-3 overall and sits alone in first place in the Duneland Athletic Conference.

The other team is below .500 at 4-5, experiencing a few blowout losses, albeit to stellar competition, and has yet to play a DAC game.

The Slicers’ girls have only lost to Penn, John Glenn and Homestead. The combined records of those three teams is 41-7.

The girls have their sights on the conference, though, with Lake Central visiting Slicer Gym on Saturday afternoon (the JV game starts at 1 p.m.), barring any postponement due to snow.

The Blue Indians, Chesterton and Valparaiso are all tied for second in the DAC at 3-1.

“Being 4-0 in the Duneland Conference going into Saturday’s game is where we want to be,” La Porte girls coach Rob Walker said. “Saturday’s game is going to be a pivotal game in the whole conference. We have two other tough opponents afterwards, Chesterton and Michigan City. When you’re playing in the Duneland Conference, it’s so tough day in and day out to win those games. I like where we’re at. We’re in control of our own destiny. If we win out right now, we can win the conference, and that’s what the kids are aiming for.”

While the Slicers’ girls team is excelling this campaign, La Porte’s boys squad is learning and growing.

The boys team is inexperienced at the varsity level and is looking to be better in the second half of the season and by the sectional. The girls, meanwhile, have won all four of its games in the conference so far and are striving to win the DAC for the first time since 2013-14, when it claimed the outright title with a perfect 7-0 mark.

Riley Ott guides the Slicers’ girls, earning 15.7 points per contest, and Ryin Ott follows at 10 points a game. The older Ott also averages 3.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and almost two steals per outing. She shoots a reliable 86 percent on free throws, too. The younger Ott corrals nearly nine rebounds per outing, while O’Neal grabs 6.9 boards a contest.

“Riley Ott’s played well against good competition,” Walker said. “That’s the sign of a really good player, they play good against the best teams.

“She’s had a lot of help from other players. We have a really good squad and supporting cast. When teams focus just on Riley, we give them some trouble because other players can put the ball in the hole and do some damage that way.”

Walker added Janelle O’Neal has played really well. He said when the team needs a big rebound, she gets it. Walker added Ryin Ott, Riley’s younger sister, has performed well overall as a freshman as well considering she’s a starter.

“O’Neal and Ryin Ott have both been pretty darn good,” Walker said. “Right now, in the conference, Ryin Ott has four double-doubles. That’s pretty unheard of.”

Collectively, La Porte’s girls defense has been stalwart as well.

Guards Kayla Jones, Nyla Asad and Riley Ott, forward Madison Pierro, and the forward/center O’Neal spearhead that unit.

On the boys side, the Slicers have had a demanding schedule to start the season under first-year head coach Kyle Benge.

They have faced South Bend Riley and Mishawaka Marian, two teams who each could make deep state tournament runs in March in Class 4A and Class 3A, respectively. La Porte lost big to both of those squads, but hopefully the experience of playing them will benefit it down the road. It also played South Bend Washington and Hobart, each of whom have seven victories. The Slicers only fell by two points to the Brickies in a close contest, and at times, La Porte has played fairly well.

The Slicers’ boys have defeated South Bend Clay, New Prairie, Lowell, and Hammond Noll.

Sophomore shooting guard Garrott Ott-Large returned earlier than expected from his ACL tear in his right knee, and has provided the team with a boost.

Senior shooting guard Austin Haferkamp is one of the lone returning players from last season, and he’s been pretty dependable this year.

Pacing the squad is Ott-Large, who averages nearly 14 points a game. He is shooting a blistering 53 percent behind the arc. Haferkamp scores 11 points per contest, while sophomore point guard Carson Crass nets a little over 10 points an outing, to go along with almost four assists a game. Carlos Jenkins has a team-best 5.3 rebounds per contest.

The Slicers’ boys are supposed to host Lake Central (7-4) on Saturday night in their DAC opener (the JV game starts at 5 p.m.). This game was rescheduled from Friday night when it was postponed due to the weather.