TERRE HAUTE —
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.
Heritage Christian built a nine-point lead, 44-35, with seven minutes, 14 seconds remaining thanks to a little 5-0 spurt capped by a 3-pointer by Sydney Hall, who led the Eagles with 17 points.
Their nine-point lead didn’t last.
Darby Maggard, who scored 20 points with three assists for Fort Wayne Canterbury, dished to Kindell Fincher for a 3-pointer with 6:35 left.
Canterbury’s counter continued despite a direct answer from Heritage Christian’s Allison Schofield, who hit her only 3-point attempt. Maggard hit a 3-pointer to cut it to 47-45.
But reserve forward Taylor Hall scored two of her 13 points on a fast-break layup to maintain the Eagles’ breathing room.
Heritage Christian was outstanding in the fast break all afternoon, led by sophomore Tyasha Harris, who had 14 points and seven assists. Harris, who has multiple Big Ten scholarship offers, helped the Eagles take control early in the third quarter.
Her jumper tied it at 29 and her smooth one-handed bounce pass to Joely Pinkston on the fast break made it 35-29.
“We’d like to have run a little bit more, that’s our style,” Risinger said. “Give Canterbury credit. They’re a very good team defensively and they slowed that down a little bit.”
The Eagles shot 50 percent as eight different players scored.
“We’ve got players that could probably average 20 points a game, but we really don’t profile players,” Risinger said. “We try to have a nice balanced attack defensively and offensively. You kind of saw that today. We make the team the most important thing.”
Fincher, a Xavier recruit averaging 25.8 points, shot 5 for 19 from the field on her way to a game-high 24 points and a Class 2A-record 16 rebounds.
But the Eagles forced her into six turnovers and made her work hard for every bit of production.
“We played man-to-man defense most of the year,” Risinger said. “We played a match-up zone. We tried to clog it up in the middle. That worked pretty well.”
Maggard, reached her scoring average of 20 points, but she went 6 of 16 from the field.