To help celebrate IHSAA boys basketball state finals day – albeit without any state title games being played – we wanted to take a brief look back on the last […]
To help celebrate IHSAA boys basketball state finals day – albeit without any state title games being played – we wanted to take a brief look back on the last five area teams on the girls side to play for a state basketball title. These are the teams that played for a state title in the last 10 season, including this season where we will officially have no area teams playing for the big wood trophy.
In this quick look back, we will address their impact as well as what the major names from those teams went on to do.
2018 – CENTRAL NOBLE – GIRLS CLASS 2A CHAMPIONS
Final record: 23-5
State finals score: 46-42 win over Winchester
What made them special: No other team on the road to the state finals packed as strong of an inside-outside punch as Meleah Leatherman and Sydney Freeman. The two had a unique way of playing completely separate games that just blended so naturally. The pair was as good as any duo we’ve seen in the area in the last 10 years. Around them, they had a tight core that you never had to worry about letting down.
The key faces: Both juniors Meleah Leatherman and Sydney Freeman returned as seniors to make it to semi state in their title defense attempt. The two best scorers in program history went on to play as freshmen this past season at Saint Francis and Ball State respectively. Freshmen Lydia Andrews and Bridgette Gray were two of the top players for the Cougars again this past season, now as juniors.
2017 – HOMESTEAD – GIRLS CLASS 4A CHAMPIONS
Final record: 28-2
State finals score: 61-54 win over Pike
What made them special: If any team was built for a state title, it was this group. They had run the full circle of successes and failure and came into the season with three of the top 5 seniors in the area. Of course, they had Miss Basketball, Karissa McLaughlin, who was an absolute machine. This team bulldozed their way through so many tough games and days along the way and it was a true indication of the depth of the program with players from every class stepping up along the way and even in the state finals win.
The key faces: McLaughlin has been an absolute dagger shooter at Purdue, where she has already passed 1,000 career college points. She scored a team second best 13.1 points per game this past season and hit 71 three pointers. Who hit more threes? Homestead teammate Madisen Parker, who set Bowling Green single season records for threes made (98) and three point percentage (48 percent) this season. That was the best three point percentage in all of D1 womens basketball. The third star from the Homestead team, Jazmyne Geist, played in limited time as a junior due to injuries by played in all 60 of Northern Kentucky’s games her first two seasons.
2015 – CANTERBURY – GIRLS CLASS 2A RUNNER UP
Final record: 23-3
State finals score: 73-53 loss to Heritage Christian
What made them special: This truly was the final team of Canterbury’s immense legacy of success in the 2010s. The season represented the fourth time in as many years that the Cavaliers had advanced to the state finals, this time taking on a Heritage Christian squad that lost just twice all year. In Coach Wayne Kreiger’s final season, Canterbury began the season with 16 straight wins, beat the likes of South Side and Concordia Lutheran by 20 points apiece and was rarely challenged inside of Allen County.
It is crazy how quick things can change for a program, as Canterbury was THE team in northeast Indiana during their run. Homestead has since taken that moniker and ran with it, but this group was the last true incarnation of the Cavaliers being loaded with state-caliber talent. The run to the Class 2A state title game included just one postseason game decided by single digits – a 56-48 victory over Westview in regional play. But the buzz saw that was Heritage Christian ended the shot at another state championship as the Eagles ran the Cavaliers up and down the floor, outscoring Canterbury 22-4 in fast break points on the way to the lopsided win.
The key faces: Before Darby Maggard made a name for herself at the collegiate level at Belmont University, the diminutive guard schooled opponents on the regular for the Cavs. In her senior season in 2014-15, she averaged 28.6 points per game, connecting on 47 percent of her three-point attempts and 90 percent of her free throws. She finished with a team-high 16 points in the state championship. Maggard had help, namely from inside presence Katherine Smith as the senior averaged 15 points and 13 rebounds. Smith ended up at UMass Lowell, finishing her career last season as a grad student. Sophomore Mason Vanhouten took some of the scoring slack off of Maggard on the outside, averaging nearly 14 points a game; she signed with Long Beach State and played minimal time as a freshman.
2015 – HOMESTEAD – GIRLS CLASS 4A RUNNER UP
Final record: 26-3
State finals score: 62-56 loss to Columbus North
What made them special: The Homestead girls’ basketball program’s first-ever trip to the state championship game had a roster that was arguably its deepest in terms of youthful talent and veteran upperclassmen. The team lost just three games total – two to Columbus North and one to Elizabethtown out of Kentucky. While the Spartans fell short against Ali Patberg and Columbus North, it was a breakthrough year that set the stage for a Homestead state championship two years later.
Patberg finished with 31 points in the state championship game while the Spartans were held to just 37 percent shooting from the field.
The key faces: The Spartans started a stellar group of two seniors, two juniors and sophomore sensation Karissa McLaughlin, who led the Spartans in scoring at 23.6 per game and is now one of the top players for the Purdue Boilermakers. Senior Grace German (12.6 ppg, 9.8 rpg) does not get much acclaim in terms of her impact on Homestead in its dynasty, but she was pivotal in the post in the 2014-15 season along with junior Lindley Kistler (11.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg). German went on to play at Northwood University (Mich.) and Kistler signed with IPFW before finishing her career at Saint Francis. Senior Josie Fisher (Youngstown State/Ranger College/IPFW) commanded the offense at the point guard spot and was silky smooth, while junior Savannah Buck (Saint Francis) brought some high-intensity and leadership to the lineup.
2014 – CANTERBURY – GIRLS CLASS 2A RUNNER UP
Final record: 20-5
State finals score: 64-61 loss to Heritage Christian
What made them special: Canterbury was a two-time defending state champion entering this game, its first year up in Class 2A. Darby Maggard and Kindell Fincher were the centerpieces, but the dynamic duo had plenty of help. Interestingly, this group was not as dominant as some other Canterbury teams, with this squad losing to the likes of South Side, Bishop Luers and Concordia. But when it mattered, this team came to play. It swept through the postseason without a single game being decided by double digits until the final. At state, Canterbury trimmed a nine-point Heritage Christian advantage in the fourth quarter to just two late, but the Cavaliers didn’t have enough to fight completely back.
The key faces: Future Xavier Muskateer Kindell Fincher led Canterbury in scoring (25.8 ppg) and rebounding (9.4 rpg) and is one of the more complete basketball players to come out of northeast Indiana in the 21st century. Fincher and teammate Darby Maggard (20.8 ppg, 6.0 apg) led the way, with help from players like Katherine Smith and Mason VanHouten.