CIS women’s basketball teams emotional after losing in IHSAA regionals

FRANKTON, Ind. – The East Central Indiana women’s basketball season is over.

The three area teams that took part in regionals on Saturday were eliminated, with Blue River and Cowan both falling in the first round at West-Del, and Winchester losing to Frankton in the Championship.

It was an emotional day as each group wrapped up a memorable year and graduated impactful seniors. Here is an overview of the games:

Frankton 60, Winchester 56

Winchester (24-2) had a tough run in the playoffs. The No. 2 Class 2A Golden Falcons first outplayed No. 3 Eastbrook in their first section game, then held on to beat No. 5 Tipton by three points in the section final.

When head coach Holly Gutierrez’s daughters took on No. 11 Frankton in the Regional Finals at Eagles home ground, however, the team’s inconsistency and fatigue came to a head. Winchester had their chances to advance and held a three-point lead with less than two minutes to play, but the game slipped.

“We have to be mentally stronger in those times,” Gutierrez said. “I think we gave them the last three possessions of the game. It’s unfortunate.”

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The Golden Falcons beat Clinton Prairie 54-42 in the first round on Saturday morning, winning the second half 31-20 and looking more like the team that dismantled Eastbrook. Junior Caitlyn Campbell led with 21 points in a rebounding performance after her six-point effort in the section final.

Winchester kept that momentum going in the opening minutes against Frankton, securing an early lead before the Eagles hit four triples in the quarter. The Golden Falcons had trouble keeping the three-point line in cup play, and Frankton exploited that all night.

After entering half-time trailing 38-30, Gutierrez’s group fought back to take a one-point lead in the final eight minutes. They had the game in hand down the stretch until Frankton’s defensive aggression forced the steal and the essential scores he needed.

“(Frankton) turned off the lights in the first half at home. It’s a regional championship, we lost people we knew needed to be grabbed and there were a lot of mental breakdowns on our part” , Gutierrez said. “My kids worked hard, I’m not going to take it away from them, but you have to be focused…we did things that weren’t like us.”

Winchester's Haley Lanter scores against Frankton in their regional game at Frankton High School on Saturday 12th February 2022.

It was as heartbreaking a loss as it comes, as evidenced by the post-game emotions of players, managers, cheerleaders and Winchester fans alike. Only four Golden Falcons have scored, led by seniors Taylor Baker (17 points), Haley Lanter (16 points), Gena Moore (12 points) and Campbell (11 points).

Although Winchester have reassured themselves of regaining a sectional title after a 2020-21 season hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is the first year the side have not won a regional 2A title since 2016-17.

The loss of all four seniors will be felt, but Campbell – who this postseason surpassed 1,000 career points – junior Morgan Lawrence and other returning players are hungry for a deeper run next year.

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“These four seniors have been involved in this program since freshman year and they loved every minute of their summer prom, their season. They each have a different story,” Gutierrez said. “They’ve just been tremendous at what they do…they’ve just been nice, quality kids, quality kids who will be sorely missed in this program.”

North Miami 58, Cowan 47

Cowan (7-16) was never meant to get this far, so while the Blackhawks were emotional after the loss, they were also happy with their accomplishments.

Head coach Jeff Tharp’s group entered section play with the worst record in the field, 4-15, but came together at the perfect time to claim the program’s second section title. Although some thought Cowan was lucky to qualify for regionals, he followed North Miami and had a chance to win until the final two minutes.

“It’s satisfying…the kids kept believing that I kept saying, ‘This is what we’re building for, to win the section.’ That was the price,” Tharp said. “We matured and improved and we continued to believe in what we were doing.”

The Blackhawks have struggled both on and off the court this season. Top senior player Lauren Smith and others struggled through COVID-19 quarantines, and it was hard to keep spirits up when the team finished the regular season with five straight losses.

Cowan’s playoff momentum was also threatened when the team bus crashed before the Divisional Championship, delaying the game by 45 minutes. Fortunately, no one got hurt.

“It’s been hard at times trying to keep everyone on board. When you’re beaten and you get dragged down, it’s hard for the kids to (deal with). But it showed their character that when the things started to fall apart for us, they really pulled together,” Tharp said. “We’ve been through adversity and we just have quality kids and they represent the community really well.

Smith, who this season became the third Cowan basketball player to top 1,000 career points, left it all on the court one last time. She was visibly exhausted when the Blackhawks’ chances of advancing finally dwindled late in the game, and Smith and her teammates left the game in tears at the last minute to cheers.

Lauren Smith of Cowan scores against North Miami during their regional game at Wes-Del High School on Saturday February 12, 2022.

Tharp said Smith is the hardest worker on the team, a “fierce competitor” and an “independent spirit” whose defensive skills have taken a big leap this season. She was the driving force behind this group of Blackhawks, and she and fellow senior Emma Johnson – who blossomed this season to become the team’s top point guard – both started and ended their careers as champions. of section.

“I was proud. I just looked in the stands and saw… my friends, my family, everyone who supports me. It was just an amazing moment even though we lost. I was really able to seeing the support we’ve felt for four years, and it reminds me that we have a great community behind us,” Smith said. “Coach Tharp talks about legacy all the time…I hope the little kids can lift their eyes, see what I’ve done and inspire them.”

Smith and Johnson each led the team with 17 points in their last game.

“I played elementary programs with (Cowan),” Johnson said. “My high school career was so memorable…I’m going to miss it so much.”

Tharp said he was happy that this group, especially the seniors, helped bring positive attention to Cowan women’s basketball. After capturing the program’s only section titles, he believes they better left the program than they found it.

“Every year I say the same thing to seniors; we go on this long train ride with these kids, and they come in first grade and they get on the train, and then we have them for four years and we stop at the depot and we let those guys go. Then we brought in the eighth-grade class to replace them, but it never stops,” Tharp said. “It’s going to be tough letting those guys go to the depot.”

Lafayette Central Catholic 61, Blue River 43

Heading into Saturday, Blue River (24-3) hadn’t lost since Nov. 27, and the loss was the first time the Vikings hadn’t won at least one regional game in their historic four-year run.

This streak marked the best stretch in program history: four consecutive section titles (breaking a tie with the Blue Rivers run in the 1980s) and 10 championships overall, including conference and tournament play.

The defeat marked the end of an era as four of the team’s top six scorers graduated, so emotions ran high after the final buzzer.

“It was a golden age for women’s athletics at Blue River during their time here, because it wasn’t just the basketball team that saw success, it did (volleyball and tennis),” head coach Terry Bales said. “Girls aren’t one-dimensional athletes. Eight of the 12 kids who dressed up on our section list are athletes in three sports.”

At the heart of the roster is senior Ally Madden, who ended her high school career as one of Blue River’s greatest players. She had 1,632 points, 1,115 rebounds, 208 steals and 312 blocks in her four seasons, leading the Vikings to an 82-24 overall record.

She didn’t finish with her best game, scoring eight points and seven rebounds on just four shot attempts, largely because the Knights’ pressure defense forced Blue River to 10 turnovers in the first quarter.

Blue River's Ally Madden passes Central Catholic in their regional game at Wes-Del High School on Saturday, February 12, 2022.

The Vikings trailed 20-7 after the first period and never got out of that hole. Junior Maci Chamberlin led with 13 points, followed by seniors Sami Loveless (seven points), Samantha Webb (six points) and Jenna Willis (three points).

“We just hugged and talked about how much we care for each other,” Bales said of him and Madden after the loss. “I have a lot of respect for her as a basketball player but even more as a person. She’s a great person.”

Bales called this team the best he has coached, and although he wants another regional title, he is proud of what they have achieved.

“They were like family, if you will. They cared about each other, they celebrated each other’s successes, and they helped each other through the tough times they had,” Bales said. “It was a very, very gratifying thing to be able to witness.”

Gus Martin is a sports reporter at The Star Press. Follow him on Twitter @GusMartin_SPand contact him at [email protected] or 765-729-4742.