It’s the familiar story of a small-town Indiana high school basketball team that makes it to the state championship game. But this time, it’s not the Hickory Huskers from the movie “Hoosiers.” Now, it’s the Parke Heritage Wolves’ turn.
Consolidated from Turkey Run and Rockville high schools three years ago, Parke Heritage High School comes from a long line of tourney champions.
The trophy case proudly displays trophies won by those two teams and spills over into a museum in the commons. With Parke Heritage trophies packed in between them, the Wolves will to try to add one more today when the school’s boys basketball team plays for the IHSAA Class 2A state championship at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Author of the “Hoosiers” movie, Angelo Pizzo, recognized the efforts of this young team during a two-minute video that inspired team.
“We may be the constant underdog, but we know who we are. We know what we’re made of. We know the heart and soul of this team and we’re a true Hoosiers team — a Wolf Pack family,” said said principal Dwight Ashley during a pep rally Friday at the school. “Through grit and determination with faith, family and community, we have done it our own way. This is the example of how the Wolf Pack does it.”
For senior forward Quintan Hanks, who moved to Parke County from Chicago, this small and tight-knit community is very different for him. “Becoming part of this school and of this community, where everybody comes together to show their support, really means a lot to me.”
Senior cheerleader Natalie Jones was quick to share her excitement. “Even though we’re only a three-year-old school, this championship shows that we have the capability of winning and all the community backing proves that we all believe in the team.”
“It’s really like a big family and we’ve been brought closer together by this experience,” said senior center Luke Gregg. “Spirits are crazy high for everybody and I’m so proud to be a part of it.”
Parke Heritage Coach Rich Schelsky has been guiding his team this season.
“This state championship is really significant to us, especially given the recent consolidation and not getting to play in the Regionals last year because of COVID,” he said. “This is such a proud community that truly supports athletics, so we’re going to do everything in our power to bring home a victory.”
Senior forward Reece Simpson is savoring the chance to play on a big stage. “It’s every kid’s dream who plays sports to make it to the state finals. So we’re having the time of our lives.”
Senior guard Landen Stewart said he’s just enjoying the moment, taking it all in and making the most of this opportunity. “It’s an amazing, awesome journey that we’re on.”
“All our hard work boils down to this — the last game of the season. It seems surreal, but yet, here we are,” said senior forward Robbie Cheatham.
The halls of the school were lined Friday morning with PHHS students, staff and parents waving victory flags and cheering, “Let’s go, Wolves!” While the band played the school’s fight song, the teammates slowly made their way to the bus for their trip to Indianapolis. There are seven seniors, three juniors and two sophomores on the 2021 team with a group of 14 cheerleaders who will shout out encouragement during the game.
Coach Schelsky said the team was scheduled to practice later Friday at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, eat supper, then turn in early for a good night’s sleep. This morning, the team will eat a substantial breakfast then review scouting and game strategy in preparation for the 1:30 p.m. tip-off against Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian. Both teams bring stellar 27-3 records into the game.
“We are proud of you. I want to reference something Coach (Melanie Newnum) Miller said last night: ‘You can move mountains. We believe in you and you are able to move mountains in this game.’ We are with you all the way. Now go take State,” said Principal Ashley.
A week of celebration and anticipation began after the Wolves brought home a 40-36 victory at the semi-state over the Southridge Raiders. Amy McCalister and her team of cheerleaders went around town afterward to hang signs and paint windows of area businesses to show the team just how proud the entire town is of their efforts.
Samantha Woodard, PHHS media teacher, brought together 14 previous state champions who played for Turkey Run and Rockville high schools to create a video in which they offered advice and encouragement to calm jittery nerves and inspire the team.
Reach Michele Lawson at Michele.Lawson@tribstar.com or 8120231-4232.