The Mt. Vernon High School girls basketball team's hopes of making another deep run in the state playoffs seemed in doubt when Erica Moore suffered a knee injury in late December.
After missing seven games, Moore returned to help the Marauders capture the sectional title last week. The 6-foot junior, a major Division I recruit, had 19 points and 11 rebounds in the 58-54 victory over Bishop Chatard in the final.
The Class 3A No. 6 Marauders (19-4) will face No. 1 Lebanon (21-3) at 10 a.m. in Saturday's Danville Regional opener. Indian Creek (19-5) will face Greencastle (15-9) in the second game. The championship is set for 8 p.m. Mt. Vernon lost in the 3A state title game last season.
Coach Julie Shelton said her team needs to play much better than it did against Chatard. Mt. Vernon trailed by 10 points in fourth quarter.
"Moore and (Sydney) Shelton scored most of their points in the fourth quarter and just refused to lose," Shelton said. "We picked up a little bit of defensive pressure, too."
Shelton said Moore's knee was fine in the sectional games. However, she was still regaining her conditioning. A week of practice should help Moore be ready in the regional.
"Hopefully we learned from last weekend," Shelton said. "(The Tigers) have a great, great point guard in Katie Curtis. Their freshman (Kristen Spolyar) has had a super year. They're quick and press a lot, some of the same things we struggled against Chatard."
Spolyar leads the Tigers with a 19.2 scoring average. Curtis, a senior who is headed to Colgate University, is averaging 17.4 points and 4.7 assists.
Speedway got Bailey Smith back just in time to help the Sparkplugs to their first sectional title since 1984-85 season.
After missing six games with an ankle sprain, Smith played two minutes in the semifinal but followed up with 18 in the final. Trailing Cascade 60-59, Smith hit two free throws with .1 seconds left to give the Sparkplugs the win.
Heading into Saturday's 10 a.m. regional contest against 2A No. 2 Heritage Christian (22-2), Smith, a senior, is the host Sparkplugs (15-8) No. 2 scorer with an 11.4 average. Junior wing Allison Nash leads Speedway with a 22.8 average.
"Allison can bring the ball up the court," Speedway coach Jordan Dever said. "She can shoot the 3. She can finish around the rim. She can have the one-dribble pull-up. She has a variety of skills she can go to offensively. She's also our best defensive player."
Huskies to be tested
Hamilton Heights cruised through the sectional, winning the three games by an average of 30.3 points. However, coach Tod Windlan isn't worried about his 3A No. 2 Huskies (20-2) being ready for Saturday's Bellmont Regional game with No. 5 Norwell (21-3) at noon. The opening game features No. 3 NorthWood (22-3) vs. defending 3A champion Fort Wayne Concordia (17-6).
"We played a lot of quality Class 3A and 4A teams in conference and out of conference to prepare for a regional like we are in," Windlan said. "We played Noblesville, Westfield, Carmel and Pendleton Heights. Western is ranked No. 8 in 3A."
The Huskies' two losses are to Westfield and Noblesville. Senior guard Dakota Weatherford, a University of Evansville commit, averages a team-high 19.1 points.
"Dakota was spectacular in the sectional," Windlan said. "But I don't think a lot of people realize we have five kids that start and all five have scored 20 or more in one game."