Indians defeat Arabians in girls basketball sectional final
February 12, 2012North Central Conference
GREENFIELD — Anderson held Pendleton Heights to two points in the fourth quarter and brought down the three-time girls basketball sectional champion Arabians 40-38 Saturday.
The Lady Tribe completed a journey that began a year ago when it dropped a decision to the Arabians in last year’s sectional championship game at the Walnut Street Fieldhouse in Muncie.
“We made up about 30 points from last year’s loss in the (Madison) County tourney to the sectional last year,” said AHS coach Chad Cook. “We beat them this year in the County so we knew we could do it again.”
But the Indians picked a difficult way to do it. Consider the hurdles.
In the first quarter the Indians were Jones-less. The junior twin guards, Sharice and Savannah, were both on the bench nursing knee injuries. Sharice tried and failed to play after going down in Tuesday’s game. Then Savannah twisted her knee in that quarter as well.
Pendleton Heights forged to a 22-18 halftime lead on the basis of figuring out the Anderson pressure and a quartet of 3-pointers. The common thread to both of those things was junior forward Kenzie Gustin. Gustin hit both of her long-range jumpers and was used to dribble through and see over Anderson’s vaunted pressure.
That lead swelled to 12 points in the first three minutes of the third period as PH scored the first seven points of the second half — all by Gustin.
“At that point I still felt like we could win,” said Cook. “Now you don’t want to be in that position, down 12, to a good team like Pendleton. But we came back like that on Tuesday (against Connersville).”
Arabians coach Shari Doud wasn’t thinking about her fourth straight sectional title at that point either.
“They came back Tuesday in about three minutes, so I knew Anderson wasn’t done,” she said.
The Indians were able to cut the gap from 12 to four during the last five minutes of the third period. They had the momentum, and the Arabians were shaky against the pressure again, turning the ball over nine times in eight minutes.
Less than two minutes into the final period, Savannah Jones hit a 3 from the wing to give AHS a 37-36 lead. Pendleton Heights was in the midst of a long wait for points.
Anderson was similarly struggling and led only 39-36 with 2:09 to play when Quincey Gary slipped under the basket and put up a reverse layup to make it 39-38 — the first PH points of the quarter and the last ones of the game.
The Lady Tribe held the ball for more than a minute as PH refused to chase the ball. Finally the Arabians fouled AHS sophomore guard Samia Carter.
Carter had almost single-handed kept the Indians in the game to that point by scoring 14 points and shredding the PH offense with five steals. But she had missed all four of her free throws to that point and became a target for the Arabians. She missed the first of a one-and-one opportunity with 53 seconds left and PH got the rebound.
Just 12 seconds later, Carter had a near steal and with 18 seconds left the Arabians did turn the ball over. PH fouled Darien Thompson with 12.9 seconds left. Thompson hit the first free throw and missed the second, giving the Arabians life. Gustin brought the ball down and Kelsey Hubble got off a good 3-pointer at the top of the key, but it bounced off the rim.
“We didn’t have enough time to run a set play,” said Doud. “But we had enough time to get a good shot. It was what I wanted. The fact that the shot didn’t go in wasn’t what lost the game.”
Anderson got 10 points from Thompson and six rebounds from her and Jireh Hart. Gustin led all scorers with 18 for the Arabians, followed by 11 from Gary.
“Take nothing away from Anderson,” said Doud. “But I don’t think we got anything from the officials. I think the calls against us were probably correct, but they missed calls against them. Defensively we followed the game plan as well as we have in any game all year.”
“When we caught up in the fourth quarter, I thought we could make the plays to win,” said Cook.
It was the 14th girls basketball sectional title for the Indians and the first since 2008.
Anderson (19-5) will play in the second game of the Decatur Central Regional against Mooresville (13-9). The opening game will be Ben Davis (19-6) against Lawrence North (18-4). Action begin at 10 a.m.