News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 20, 2012

Riverton Parke girls continuing on outstanding season behind seniors

David Hughes
The Tribune-Star

MECCA — Sara Dickey and Paige Yando were freshman starters in June 2010 when Riverton Parke captured the IHSAA Class A state championship in softball.

And they were junior starters on the Panthers’ girls basketball team that advanced to the Class A semistate last season.

Now seniors, along with teammates and longtime friends Kenzie Pollard and Kori Wood, they want to go out with a bang in 2013.

Judging by the way the current girls basketball season has gone so far, Parke County residents should prepare to cover their ears.

Ranked No. 6 in the state in Class A this week, Riverton Parke carries an 11-1 record after defeating South Vermillion 56-21 Friday for its school-record 11th straight victory.

Attaching their names to school records seems to be the norm for this group of Panthers. Here’s a partial list from this season:

n Dickey, a 5-foot-11 guard signed to play basketball for the University of Evansville next season, seized the RP career marks for points (1,401), rebounds (539), assists (237) and steals (310).

Riverton Parke graduates Traci Ball (points and steals) and Amy Wheeler (rebounds and assists) were the previous owners of these records, although fifth-year coach Josh Douglass indicated Yando may pass Dickey on the all-time rebounds list before the season ends.

Incidentally, Dickey is averaging 23.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game this season.

n In an 84-33 triumph at Rockville on Nov. 16, the Panthers established a school record for most points in one game. The previous mark was 77, originally set in 1987 and tied in 2003.

n In a 53-18 win at Turkey Run last week — even though Dickey twisted her ankle and missed most of the contest — the 5-9 Yando stepped up and sank seven 3-point goals, most in one game in RP history. On that same night, the 5-8 Pollard set the single-game mark for blocked shots with eight.

“It’s nice to set records,” Yando told the Tribune-Star later in the week. “But we can’t stop there. We have to keep pushing.”

Yes, regardless of how many school records they end up breaking, these Panthers won’t be completely satisfied unless they win the state championship March 2 in Terre Haute’s Hulman Center.

Douglass, a relatively young head coach at 31, thinks his squad’s stingy defense could lead to that result.

“We run a lot of half-court traps with Sara on the front,” he explained. “She’s got very good hand-eye coordination and causes a lot of deflections.”

Dickey and Yando, who tallies 16.7 ppg, also are believers.

“We can go all the way,” emphasized Dickey, who also plays volleyball and runs track for the school located near Mecca. “We just have to play hard every single day and stay healthy … We’ve grown up. We’re figuring things out. We’re just playing really well together right now.”

“We have matured as a group,” added Yando, a volleyball, basketball and softball standout who is undecided on a college choice. “We got a taste of [basketball success] last season and now we’ve got to make it happen … We have to remember to stay focused every game and make every possession count. We need to execute.”

Told that her comments sound like the kind a coach would make, Yando quickly replied: “I learned from the best,” referring to Douglass while he was within earshot.

On a more serious note, Douglass expects Dickey to be recovered from her ankle injury when Riverton Parke returns to action Dec. 27-28 in the Toby Yoho Tournament at Eastern Greene. The Panthers most likely will need her healthy when they face tougher competition down the road.

“Sara involves all of her teammates in the game,” Douglass pointed out. “She’s always trying to set them up to do good things on the court. She’s also a good shooter. That comes from her showing up at the gym at 5 a.m. to do a shooting regimen on her own. So she’s put in the time.”

Douglass also praised Yando, a former inside specialist who has been moved to the perimeter this season.

“She’s really worked hard on her outside shooting,” the Panthers’ coach said. “She has more confidence now.”

Douglass described the 5-5 Wood as someone who’s able to bring “a defensive intangible.”

“She can just shut down a player,” he noted.

The Panthers’ only loss came in the season opener — a 48-45 decision to Sullivan way back on Nov. 6. That won’t happen again because the Golden Arrows are not on Riverton Parke’s schedule for a rematch and they compete in the Class 2A state tournament.

Although a few other bigger schools appear on the Panthers’ regular-season slate, one more crack at the Class A state tournament is what they’re looking forward to the most.

“If we stay healthy,” Douglass assessed, “I really, truly believe we can go all the way.”

And if that actually happens, how would a 31-year-old coach react?

“Words wouldn’t be able to describe it,” he admitted.