The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Sports

February 28, 2013

Nearly neighbors play for it all

Marauders, Huskies battle for 3A girls title

ANDERSON, Ind. — The two schools are just 25 miles apart and they used to play in the same girls basketball sectional.

On Saturday, they will play for the 3A state championship in Terre Haute. What a difference a few years can make.

The two schools are Hamilton Heights and Mount Vernon.

The Huskies of Arcadia are coached by Anderson resident Tod Windlan, who also coached girls basketball at Highland and Frankton. The Marauders are coached by Julie Shelton, who is in season No. 15 at the school with an impressive mark there of 242-102.

“I think for four years in a row, Hamilton Heights and Rushville and us were in the same sectional,” said Shelton. “Now this year all three of us were in the Final Four. It has been neat to see that.”

As some schools change class due to shifts in enrollment, the state get chopped up into different sections and sent in different directions, making it possible for teams that are virtual neighbors to go opposite directions toward the same goal.

“This isn’t really new though,” said Windlan. “I remember I went to the 1983 boys state finals at Market Square Arena and saw Anderson play against Marion. So it has happened before.”

The two schools played each other during the regular season, with the Huskies coming away with a 70-61 victory on Nov. 21.

The Marauders (22-4) will try to make 6-foot-1 junior Erica Moore play a larger role early. “In the first meeting, (Moore) didn’t touch the ball until there was two minutes left in the first quarter,” said Shelton. “She had two points in the first half. At halftime we got them straightened out and she got 20 points in the second half. They didn’t have an answer for her.”

Moore averages 17.8 points and 7.5 rebounds while hitting 53 percent of her field goals.

“She is a big player,” said Windlan of Moore. “We’re playing with four guards and a small forward. So that will be an issue for us.”

Hamilton Heights (23-2) lost only to Westfield (by 2 points) in the 2013 portion of its schedule. The Huskies have five players shoot better than 37 percent from 3-point range. Senior Dakota Weatherford is the top scorer at a 19.8-points-per-game clip. Junior Haley Cook is next with a 16.9 scoring average.

“Our kids are resilient,” said Windlan. “They play extremely hard. They are competitive and intense, extremely quick and smart.”

The uniqueness of the situation isn’t lost on Windlan.

“I am absolutely thrilled that we are fortunate enough to be doing this,” he said. “I told the girls this will be their one chance to do it with this group so they should cherish it.”

The Marauders, at least many of them, have done this before. Just a year ago they played for the state title and suffered a 42-39 loss to Fort Wayne Concordia.

“Some of our girls have been through it,” said Shelton. “Last year we were a deer in headlights for a while. We have three kids who play a lot who had that experience last year.”

Both teams are trying to keep things normal in preparation for this big game. “Whatever normal is for this week,” said Shelton with a laugh.

The two coaches are friends.

“Coach Shelton and I have a good relationship,” said Windlan. “We have exchanged text messages through the tournament.”

That doesn’t change the strong desire that each of them have to beat the other. But it could change the aftermath.

“If, after we play our heart out in that game, it isn’t enough for us to win,” said Shelton, “then it will be a little easier to lose to program that I respect.”

Both teams are tournament tested. In the case of each team, the past three games have been won by an average of about five points. Saturday’s title game is likely to be just as tight.

It should be enjoyable to watch. After all, it’s almost like a backyard brawl.

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