GREENFIELD — Greenfield-Central juniors Katie Helgason and Madison Wise would follow one another into a brick wall, because that’s just what best friends do. And if one wanted to score a basket for the other team, that would be OK too.
The dynamic duo, which currently leads the Cougars in scoring, has been playing basketball together since the age of 4. Thirteen years later and the “blonde twins” have transformed into one of the state’s top inside-outside tandems.
It was a bond formed by a love for the game. It was a bond so strong so fast, in fact, that Wise maybe trusted Helgason no matter the circumstance.
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“One time in seventh grade, I tipped the ball to her, and she (Helgason) went the wrong way,” Wise recalled, who is averaging a team-high 23.5 points per game this season. “I, of course, followed her and went along with it. It was the county championship between us (Greenfield-Central) and Mt. Vernon.
“Coach was not too happy, but we got the win. So now we can laugh at it.”
It was not the first or last time Wise and Helgason stuck together. After playing at the Boys and Girls Club, the pair played on a Greenfield HGBL team between the third and sixth grades. During that span, Wise and Helgason increased their playing chemistry on the court by joining the same AAU team, the Indiana Elite, in fifth grade.
“As we grew together, our love for basketball became a passion we shared,” Helgason said, who is second on the team in scoring at 10.6 ppg. “We know each other as much as we know ourselves.”
Added Wise, “People used to get us confused a lot, because we looked so much alike with our blonde hair.”
Helgason said that confusion actually worked out in their favor a time or two. This time, specifically, was in fifth grade.
“I picked up my fifth foul, and Maddie went over to the referee and told her she was the one that fouled,” Helgason said. “The referee accidentally got it mixed up since we look alike, which kept me in the game.”
Now, however, the two are much easier to tell apart. Wise is an athletic and dominating force in the post, recording 12.2 rebounds per game and 3.5 blocks per game. Helgason, a super-quick guard, contributes a team-high 4.6 assists per contest. Her 14 3-pointers made leads the team, as well.
Although both have changed in stature, old traditions remain the same.
“In seventh grade, we decided to keep the numbers we had chosen in third grade on our first AAU team,” Helgason said. “They were number two and three, which would be announced back-to-back in introductions, and we would get to use our signature handshake. The handshake we do now, we have used since our freshman year.”
Greenfield-Central coach Doug Laker has known the duo for more than a decade. He said they exemplify everything a student-athlete should be and what the Cougars’ program represents.
“It’s been a pleasure to watch them grow together,” Laker said. “I’ve been around them since third grade. They just have that chemistry. They have always loved the game of basketball. It’s always been like that.
“They are just great young ladies.”
Wise has scored 20 or more points five times this season and thirty or more twice. She had season-high 35 points in a win over No. 17 North Central while Helgason added a season-high 15 points in the four-point win. She has totaled at least three assists in every game this season.
And after all this time, Wise and Helgason, who have had brief talks of playing together in college and are being recruited by similar schools, know each other’s playing style as well as they know their own. It’s a connection that’s taken years to build. For opposing teams, it’s been nearly impossible to stop.
They have the Cougars off to an 8-3 start including a perfect 4-0 stint in the Hoosier Heritage Conference.
“Katie and I know each other like we know the back of our hands,” Wise said. “We know where we’ll be on the court and where we’ll be on the weekends, and that’s always together. That’s just what best friends and teammates do, we have each others backs.”
Currently, the team is receiving votes in the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association poll. According to the Sagarin Ratings, the Cougars are the 24th-best team in the state.
Teammates like seniors Savannah Girolami (3.6 ppg), Madeline Gibson and Bradlie Gruell, according to Wise, also were on the aforementioned HGBL team and have been just as important to the team’s success. Senior forward Amanda Flora (62 perfect field goal percentage), sophomore forward Jessica Pharrell (3.5 ppg) and freshman guard Katie Real (4.3 ppg) have also played valuable minutes.
“I give a lot of credit to our seniors,” Laker said. “They have been around me since I started in the program. They give themselves up for the better of the team. They are great leaders for our young kids.”