Lady Eagles break Mustangs for sectional title
By Brandon Miniard, Sports Writer, [email protected]
When the Lanesville Lady Eagles won their first-ever sectional title, on Feb. 2, 2019, it’s safe to say it was the beginning of a local dynasty.
Three years and two additional crowns later, the Class 1A No. 2 Lady Eagles are in the midst of their best stretch in program history. They came into the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s sectional 61 at New Washington on an 18-game winning streak, bolstered by defeating rivals Rock Creek Community Academy and Borden by a combined score of 121-20.
As had been the case the past two seasons, the final obstacle in the Lady Eagles’ path to the sectional championship was host New Washington. Despite losing their last seven games against the Lady Eagles, the host Lady Mustangs came into their third-straight sectional title game on their own hot streak, having won eight of their last nine contests.
The third installment of the postseason trilogy began differently but, in the end, the Lady Eagles overcame a shaky start to make it four in a row, winning 63-38.
While the Lady Eagles were the heavy favorites, the host Lady Mustangs weren’t willing to roll over for their visitors as Kaidin James, Sami Mattingly and Grace Ellison each knocked down a three-pointer against buckets from Lady Eagles’ senior guard Emma Campbell and junior wing Linzie Wernert, making for an early 9-4 Lady Mustangs’ advantage. The Lady Eagles recovered by way of a bucket from junior center Morgan Sonner and another five points from Wernert to take a 11-9 lead to end the opening frame.
Wernert kicked off the second quarter with a floater, the first two of an eight-point period. Freshman guard Hylton Brumley added six points, alongside a Campbell three and buckets from Sonner, sophomore guard Ava Kerr and freshman guard Hadley Crosier. The Lady Mustangs tried to keep pace with a trio of triples between Ellison and Mattingly, along with four points from James, but it could only bring the deficit to 34-22 at halftime.
“We knew that New Wash was gonna come out and make some shots; they’re very confident shooting the three, and they had nothing to lose,” Lady Eagles’ skipper Angie Hinton said. “They were very relaxed and confident when a couple of them went down.”
The Lady Mustangs again threatened to rally to open the third quarter, with five points from James and a Mattingly triple, but the Lady Eagles’ counterattack was led by six points from Sonner followed by triples from Campbell and senior wing Kennedy Gordon and a Brumley bucket. The period concluded when Brumley fired an inbound pass to Wernert, who elevated for a triple in the corner, the ball tickling the twine at the buzzer, giving the Lady Eagles a 53-30 edge.
The final quarter served as a formality as the Lady Mustangs could only muster another eight points. The Lady Eagles closed the door on their fourth consecutive sectional title with triples from Kerr and sophomore forward Ellie Schneider, two Brumley freebies and a bucket from freshman forward Shelby Allen.
As the Lady Eagles raised another championship trophy, this one had greater implications behind it. The Indiana-shaped hardware marks the first time in school history that any sport has won four consecutive sectional titles. The previous longest championship streak belonged to the Lady Eagles’ softball program, which one three consecutive crowns from 2004 to 2006.
“The first one (in 2019) was such a thrill because they’d never done it before, but they’ve also never won four in a row, so it’s gratifying to be in that situation,” Hinton said. “I’m very appreciative of the kids that we have on our team and the community support that we have. You really appreciate being able to live in the moment because you never know from year to year how things are gonna be.”
Campbell and Gordon are at the forefront for this history streak, becoming the first senior class in school history to see sectional glory in all four years. For younger players such as Crosier and Brumley, they go from seeing the Lady Eagles cutting down the nets to experiencing it firsthand.
“Me and Kennedy kind of looked at each other and we’re like, ‘Wow, we’ve won four consecutive sectionals together, and it’s the only four sectionals our school has’,” Campbell said. “I couldn’t have had a better group of girls to start this run with.”
“It definitely feels good; it’s always been nice seeing them win like when my sister was on the team and watching them win that first sectional,” Crosier said. “We needed to win this to continue what they started.”
While the Lady Eagles spent time atop the traditional championship firetruck parade down Main Street, they went right back to work as they prepared for a daunting task at the IHSAA regional 16 at West Washington Saturday. They encountered a familiar foe in Class 1A No. 6 Vincennes Rivet, who ended the Lady Eagles’ first-ever deep playoff run in the regional semifinals back in the 2018-19 campaign.
Unlike the past three trips to regional, the Lady Eagles played in the second semi-final game. The victor between the Lady Eagles and Lady Patriots goes on to face the winner of No. 7 Tecumseh vs. No. 11 Trinity Lutheran in the regional championship later that night.