From left, Northview's Niki McCoy, Riana Miller and Lisa Johnson.
Niki McCoy defines versatility.
Riana Miller is lean and long.
Lisa Johnson is wiry and quick.
Together, they make a formidable frontcourt at Northview.
"When you look at them, that's a pretty big front line they have," said St. Ursula coach Tony Donofrio, whose Arrows fell to the Wildcats 56-39 in a Division I district semifinal on Thursday.
The talented trio lead Northview into a matchup against Central Catholic tonight. The Wildcats (22-1) are seeking a fourth straight district championship.
McCoy, a six-foot senior, is the only returning starter back from last year's state semifinalist. A three-year letterwinner, she top the Wildcats and the entire Northern Lakes League this season at 16.7 points per game.
Yet McCoy, who also helps Northview bring the ball upcourt against pressure, is more concerned about leading the Wildcats to some more wins.
"As long as I've been on varsity I've never not gone out of district," McCoy said.
Her first experience at winning a district title came about with Northview knocking off Central in the title game when she was a sophomore.
"I'll never forget that moment because we were not expected to win and we beat Central," McCoy said.
The Wildcats went 19-1 during the regular season and claimed their third straight NLL championship by going 14-0, extending their league win streak to 42.
Miller, a 6-3 junior, and Johnson, a six-foot junior, saw limited action a year ago when the Wildcats strung together a school-best 26 straight wins before falling to Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame 54-47 in a state semifinal.
With the departure of four starters to graduation, including All-Blade selection Nikki Smith, Miller and Johnson became starters in the frontcourt and accepted greater responsibility.
Miller, who transferred to Northview from Southview before her sophomore year, averaged 12.8 points and seven rebounds a game. She ranked second in the NLL behind McCoy in scoring and fourth in the league in rebounding. She's also been a major defensive presence. She recorded eight blocked shots in the victory over the Arrows. Her height and reach make her tough in the lane.
"She's definitely a force," Northview coach Jerry Sigler said. "When you go in there you've got to contend with her. We're blessed to have her."
Johnson has proven to be the ultimate complementary player in Northview's frontcourt. She produced 12.6 points and 5.6 rebounds during Northview's 15th season under Sigler with at least 19 regular-season victories. She stepped up with a team-high 18 points and 12 rebounds in a 59-53 overtime win over upset-minded Start in a sectional final that kept the Wildcats' season and hopes alive.
Johnson's play against Start demonstrates what Northview's foes must deal with.
"You can't guard all of us," Johnson said. "You can't shut everyone down.
"If we're all playing our A game, we can get out of [the district final]."
"We're the three offensive leaders of this team," Miller said. "When we're all playing at our best it makes it easier for everyone else on the team."
Senior guard Danielle Bly, one of the Wildcats' designated 3-point shooters, is pleased to have the three as teammates.
"They make it a lot easier for me than if they weren't there," Bly said. "Those three are awesome. They can handle the ball and do a lot of things with the ball."
Nevertheless, Central proved earlier this season the Wildcats are not unbeatable with McCoy, Miller and Johnson in Northview's starting lineup. The Irish (18-3) are responsible for the Wildcats' only loss - 56-44 early in the season.
The Wildcats believe they've learned from the loss.
"I think it's going to be a lot better than the first time we played against them," McCoy said. "We weren't playing well as a team back then.
"I think it's going to be a great game."
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