ANDERSON — There is no panic and no sense of dread.
The Anderson Lady Tribe are going into Saturday morning's regional clash against No. 1 Lawrence North with a surprisingly upbeat attitude.
Well, the Wildcats defeated AHS by 39 points to open the season. It was a loss that some teams might not easily shake off. Yet Thursday's practice was upbeat and cheerful. There was no cloud of inevitable doom anywhere to be found.
But there is no need to worry about this resilient group's sanity. There are reasons for optimism in the face of the ranking of the opposition and the regular-season result.
The Indians have learned that two pivotal players, senior Chelsea Bentley and junior Ania Daniels, will be available at 10 a.m. Saturday at Decatur Central when the regional begins. Both practiced on Thursday.
Bentley suffered an ankle injury in the Tribe's opening-round game and didn't play in the final two sectional contests. Daniels caught an elbow in Friday's semifinal and had to be taken to a nearby Connersville hospital for examination. She missed the final quarter of that game and the entire championship game.
"Every day we get some good news," said AHS coach Chad Cook. "This is a good news week. I'm feeling really good about our chances."
Daniels is just feeling really good, a big change from the way she felt when a golf ball-sized bump appeared on her forehead after she made contact with the elbow of a Pendleton Heights player.
"We both had a hold of the ball," recalled Daniels. "She started to pull it away from me and I was like, 'No, that's mine.' She turned and hit me with her elbow."
Daniels went down and remained on the floor for many minutes. "I knew it hurt bad," she said. "I could feel the bump and I just put my hands up over my forehead."
Watching the championship game on Saturday was difficult.
"I just cried," said Daniels. "I wasn't sad, but it was just because I couldn't get out there and play. I'd see something that needed to be done and knew I could be out there doing it."
Each of the Indians remained confident they could still be sectionals champs and that confidence has returned for this tall task.
"We are all ready," said senior Da'Sha Boyd. "We know what they like to do. We've been watching film. We are going to get after it. We are playing together as a unit better now than we were then."
"We've had 23 games (19-4) to get better," said Cook. "We had 35 turnovers the first time we played them. If we just have 15 that's 20 more possessions and we can score more points off those possessions. We are used to adversity. I know we can compete and that we will give it everything we have for the entire game and do something special."
The Shenandoah Raiders also have a ranked foe staring them in the face for a 10 a.m. opener Saturday in the Lapel Regional. The Tipton Blue Devils are ranked No. 5 and are the champions of the Elwood Sectional.
The team didn't exactly come out of nowhere to win its own sectional. Shenandoah has a 16-4 mark, which is identical to the Tipton mark.
Junior Rachel Krathwohl leads the Raiders in both scoring and rebounding. Freshman Macee Rudy also scores in double figures.
Shenandoah stopped No. 9 Lapel on the road to a sectional title so facing a ranked opponent won't be anything new for the team and coach Chelsea Kilian.