Kelsey Pilant is smiling this week.
This probably doesn’t qualify as big news anywhere but the Jasonville area, where the 6-foot-1 center of the Shakamak High School girls basketball team had been known for her absence of grins until her Lakers won the Class A Clay City Sectional championship game on Saturday.
“[Pilant] never smiles,” assistant coach Kirk Buckley explained earlier this week, “but ever since we won Saturday night [an overtime decision over White River Valley], you can’t wipe it off her face.”
All true, Pilant herself admitted to the Tribune-Star — while smiling, of course. She and her teammates see no reason to change their expressions this week either.
Although the Lakers will be going to a girls basketball regional for the first time, that doesn’t mean they haven’t been close to winning a sectional in the past. Three of the Shakamak seniors were on the team the previous three years, when the Lakers lost in the championship game to Clay City each time.
“This is a week we’re going to appreciate … after four years in the finals, it was really nice to get one,” head coach Troy Fougerousse said this week. “But we can’t be satisified. We’d like to advance another week.”
Shakamak plays Tindley, an inner-city prep school from Indianapolis, at 10 a.m. Saturday at Southwestern (Shelby), with Jac-Cen-Del and the host team meeting in the second game. Southwestern is the defending regional champion, knocking off Clay City in the championship game a year ago.
The Lakers’ 11-11 record isn’t the best in the field, but they’ve won five in a row — and their 6-11 start may have been a product of their schedule.
“We started out against [teams including] Vincennes Rivet, Martinsville, Terre Haute North, Barr-Reeve, Sullivan … and we do that for a reason,” Fougerousse said. “That should help you this time of year.
“I guess we have been a little more focused lately,” he continued, after being asked about the winning streak, “and when we got on a little roll, the girls got confident.”
“We’re working as a team better, communicating,” explained forward Megan Phipps, another of the four-year seniors. “Our defense was awesome [during the sectional], better than it’s ever been … it’s all communication and effort.”
“We’re starting to work more as a team, communicating a lot more,” Pilant agreed. “You can tell everybody is out there wanting to win.”
“It’s our teamwork and our chemistry,” added the third senior, guard/forward Kelsey Fulford. “This year our chemistry is the best [of the past four seasons].”
Shakamak’s success starts with the three seniors — Pilant, averaging about 20 points and eight rebounds per game, as the “go-to” player, Fougerousse said, with the 5-9 Phipps the best perimeter shooter and the 5-9 Fulford “the glue to our team,” the coach added.
Jerri Beck, a 6-0 junior, gets the toughest defensive assignment and the “junk points,” Fougerousse said, with 5-8 sophomore slasher Sierra Hudson a primary ball handler and the team’s third-leading scorer behind Pilant and Phipps.
First-year player Casey Reynolds is a fourth senior on the team, but much of the depth comes from a pair of freshmen — 5-8 scrapper Kayla Gallagher and rugged 6-1 Kierra Samm.
And if the Lakers get to play yet another week, that would be something they could get used to.
“It’s crazy,” Phipps said. “[Being a sectional winner] feels better that I thought it would. The excitement, the crowd … it’s hard to take it all in.”
“It feels amazing,” added Pilant. “Having everybody there cheering you on, believing in you … that makes you want to accomplish it even more, both for yourself and the people supporting you.”
“I’m glad I got to share [the excitement of winning a sectional] with these girls,” Fulford said. “We’ve been playing together since fifth grade, and since the summer we’ve been in the gym as much as we could. That was our main goal, coming home with a [sectional] title … now we’ll try to bring home a regional title.”
- High School
Paris rally falls short in Super Sectional
When Petersburg (PORTA) finally showed it was possible to hit a free throw on the west end of the Illinois-Springfield gym Tuesday night — after 12 misses in a row — it spelled the end of a high school comeback by Paris that looked for awhile like it would be one for the ages.
“I thought we had ‘em,” Tiger coach Shawn Nugent said after the Class 2A Super Sectional game won by the Bluejays 58-49.
Paris seeking finals berth tonight
The Paris Tigers may be the underdogs again tonight when they play at the Class 2A Springfield Super Sectional, or they may be the favorites. What’s already clear as the Illinois boys basketball tournaments for the smaller schools enter their final week is that rankings and reputation don’t matter, particularly to the Tigers.
Class 2A girls: Rick Risinger coaches Heritage to fifth state title
Rick Risinger spoke this past week about defense being the key to securing a win against a talented Fort Wayne Canterbury girls basketball squad in the Class 2A state championship game.
Coach Risinger’s Heritage Christian squad rose to the occasion Saturday in Hulman Center, holding the Cavaliers to 33-percent shooting to claim the school’s fifth state title since joining the IHSAA in 2003.
The Eagles won their first title since 2009 by a score of 64-61.
Class A girls: Oregon-Davis holds off Vincennes Rivet
Oregon-Davis jumped out to a 15-2 lead when senior Alicia McIntosh drilled a 3-pointer in Saturday’s Class A state championship for girls high school basketball.
The Bobcats stretched that lead to as large as 17 before halftime, and still led by double figures with three minutes remaining.
Class 3A girls: Western over Evansville Mater Dei 38-35
Like Fort Wayne Canterbury in the Class 2A championship, two-time defending Class 2A champion Evansville Mater Dei found the going much more tough when moving up one class due to the IHSAA’s “Team Success Factor” legislation.
Mater Dei (26-2), which had an average margin of victory of 27 points throughout the season, struggled against Western’s 2-3 zone all night long in falling to the Panthers 38-35.
Class 4A girls: Bedford North Lawrence wins second straight title
Damon Bailey guided Bedford North Lawrence to a second straight state championship in his first year as head coach.
Bailey, an assistant on the Stars’ unbeaten Class 4A champions in 2013, watched his team hold off a scrappy Penn squad for a 51-41 victory Saturday night.
Central Catholic rallies to defeat Rockville
It was an old story in a new location Saturday for the boys basketball team from Lafayette Central Catholic High School.
Clay City wins third straight sectional
Clay City, the two-time defending champion of the IHSAA Class A Sectional No. 57, took the floor at White River Valley High School with a chip on its shoulder Saturday night.
Linton pulls away late to win at North Knox
Defending smartly and playing the offensive tempo like a finely tuned violin, Linton’s Miners dominated the fourth quarter of a previously air-tight high school basketball game to defeat South Knox 57-45 and repeat as Class 2A Sectional 47 champions.
Damon Bailey among coaches directing daughters at Hulman Center on Saturday
Father-daughter bonding was among the themes Saturday at Hulman Center as Terre Haute played host to the IHSAA girls basketball state finals for a third straight year.
Class 4A title favorite Bedford North Lawrence looked to repeat as champions late Saturday night. Former BNL state champion and Indiana Hoosier great Damon Bailey led his Stars into the game with a pair of daughters on the court. Junior Alexa Bailey, wearing No. 22 of course, is a Butler recruit and sophomore Loren is a reserve for the Stars.
Owen Valley, Edgewood in sectional final again
Things haven’t changed that much in the Class 3A boys basketball sectional. Northview was in the field for the first time and hosted the semifinals Friday night. But for the second year in a row, Edgewood and Owen Valley will play for the Sectional 28 championship tonight.
Temples’ 3-pointers help Paris advance
The prudent thing would have been to pull the basketball out, wait for an opponent to foul and run as much clock as possible in the final minute of the Illinois Class 2A Westville Sectional on Friday night. Audie Temples was thinking dagger.
Ailing Wilkey helps Rockville advance to title game
For part of Friday, doubt existed about whether flu-stricken Rockville standout Keiontre’ Wilkey would be able to play in the first semifinal game of the Class A North Vermillion Sectional for boys basketball. The junior guard gutted it out, however, and tallied 17 points to help lead the Rox over the host high school 61-53. That sent them into tonight’s sectional championship game against No. 7-ranked Lafayette Central Catholic.
Preps: Late free throws help Linton beat North Knox
Linton hit 4 of 5 free throws in the final minute and hung on to defeat streaking North Knox 47-46 in the semifinals of the Class 2A North Knox Sectional for boys high school basketball.
Former Terre Haute resident Rick Risinger looking for fifth state title in Hulman Center
An accomplished group of girls basketball coaches will make their way into Hulman Center on Saturday for the IHSAA state finals.
Damon Bailey, 1990 Mr. Basketball for state champion Bedford North Lawrence and former Indiana University great, is the most familiar name to Hoosier basketball fanatics. In his first year as a girls varsity coach, Bailey leads BNL into action in the 4A state championship game.
With 590 career wins, Fort Wayne Canterbury coach Wayne Kreiger is already a member of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
Behind senior Miss Basketball candidate Maura Muensterman, Steve Goans leads Evansville Mater Dei into the Class 3A title game on the heels of consecutive 2A titles.
No answer: Spears scores 30 as Martinsvlle ends TH South’s season
Terre Haute South ran into a championship performance Wednesday night in Game 2 of the Class 4A Avon Sectional for boys high school basketball. Martinsville’s Troy Spears scored 30 points while leading the Artesians to a 65-44 victory that ended South’s season.
North falls to No. 5 Brownsburg in Class 4A Avon Sectional
Terre Haute North did not bow out of the boys high school basketball tournament Tuesday night like a team on a seven-game losing streak.
The Patriots executed their gameplan, battled back from a double-digit deficit and forced Class 4A No. 5-ranked Brownsburg to hit free throws to win the opener of the Class 4A Avon Sectional.
Brownsburg (19-2) hit six straight free throws in the final 1 minute, 15 seconds to hold off the Patriots 51-47.
Two sets of Eels win at WRV Sectional
There’ll be no Cinderella story in Dugger to end this boys high school basketball season, and a spirited upset bid also fell short Tuesday night at the Class A White River Valley Sectional.
Defensive pressure and depth made the difference in both games, as Eminence ended the Union season — perhaps its last, at least as a public school — by a 59-46 score and Clay City pulled away in the second half for a 53-44 win over Shakamak.
Paris knocks off 23-2 Clinton Central in overtime sectional thriller
Paris’ boys basketball team has learned a lot in a late-season run of success, but the one thing that set the Tigers apart on Tuesday in Class 2A Westville Sectional semifinal game was composure.
The Tigers never got rattled, never flinched and got the ultimate reward.
BOYS SECTIONAL ROUNDUP: Linton holds off Sullivan at North Knox
Linton and Eastern posted victories in the opening round of the North Knox Class 2A Sectional on Tuesday.
Linton led most of the way to defeat Sullivan 51-43 in the first game. Eastern Greene bested North Central 62-42 in the nightcap.
Linton is 16-6 and will take on North Knox and Eastern Greene faces South Knox in the semifinals on Friday. North Knox takes an 11-game winning streak into the action.
Tough roads ahead: Terre Haute North faces big challenges in its sectional
With the hope that the obligatory snow is already on the ground, high school boys basketball sectionals begin today in Indiana, and for one Wabash Valley team in Illinois.
South swimmers fall short of lofty goals at state finals
Sometimes the journey is more rewarding than the destination.
That would best describe Terre Haute South’s performances Saturday in the 77th annual IHSAA boys swimming and diving state championships at the IU Natatorium.
Center Grove deals Terre Haute North 7th loss in row
Terre Haute North and Center Grove – two teams that haven’t won much lately – struggled to put the finishing touch against the other on Friday at North.
Prep roundup: Casey falls at Robinson Regional; Paris posts upset win at home
Teutopolis finished strong Friday night to defeat Casey 47-36 and win the Robinson Class 2A Regional for boys basketball teams.
Casey, Paris to play in regional title games
Championships of Illinois regional boys high school basketball tournaments will be decided tonight.
AMEY TAKES AIM: Bringing you the Amey Teams for girls basketball
Our Wabash Valley teams won’t be represented when the Indiana girls state basketball finals return again to Hulman Center on March 8 (even though the Class 4A title will probably be decided this weekend when Lawrence North plays Bedford North Lawrence in a semistate game).
I wish some of our girls teams had been able to play longer for a purely selfish reason: that might have given me an opportunity to see one or two of their games.
South boys fall to Southport, finish regular season 8-14
Terre Haute South got an up-close look Thursday night at what a Conference Indiana championship boys basketball team looks like. And Southport is big and quick.
Southport, led by 6-foot-10 sophomore Joey Brunk and junior guard Malik Bennett overpowered South’s Braves 61-49 at Southport Fieldhouse. Brunk had 16 points and 12 rebounds, while Bennett scored 21 points.
VIDEO: Wilhelm leads South swimmers into state finals
Christian Wilhelm plans to compete in the distance freestyle when he gets to the University of Illinois-Chicago’s downtown campus.
Wilhelm emerged as a state qualifier in the 500-yard freestyle and 200 freestyle as a junior for Terre Haute South. But his senior season took a different turn and he’s hoping to make a big splash in a new event.
Casey advances to regional title game
Casey will be in the championship game of the Class 2A Robinson Regional for boys high school basketball teams Friday night. The Warriors gained their spot in the title tilt with a 55-42 victory over Marshall on Wednesday.
Cloverdale joins Pizza Hut Classic field
The Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic has a new team, but the newcomer for the 2014 tournament is led by a familiar name to Terre Haute basketball. Pat Rady’s Cloverdale Clovers, currently 19-1 this season, will join the field as a likely contender.
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- Paris rally falls short in Super Sectional