GREENFIELD — The Indiana High School Athletics Association’s blind draw turned a blind eye on the 10th-ranked Class 4A Greenfield-Central Cougars on Monday night, but head coach Doug Laker said he isn’t concerned.

Even though his team was handed arguably the toughest path in Sectional 9 at Mt. Vernon with a first-round matchup against state-ranked New Castle (19-3), the goal remains the same, the coach emphasized.

“It’s tournament time. Everybody wants to win,” Laker remarked on the upcoming girls basketball state tournament, which opens Tuesday. “Every team wants to win as bad as you do, so you just have to go play. That’s the great thing about the tournament; you can’t control it.”

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Since the 2015-16 season opened Nov. 7, the Cougars (18-4) have done their best to dictate what they could, namely winning.

En route to a 15th overall ranking in the state’s top-20 poll, the Cougars have strung together winning streaks of four or more games three times.

Their longest run stretched seven games, and they were riding a five-game winning streak entering Tuesday night. By beating Yorktown, the Cougars ran that number to six for an outright conference title.

A big reason for their success has been the play of 6-foot-1 junior forward Madison Wise and point guard Katie Helgason.

Ranked in the top-60 in her class by ESPN, Wise leads the team with 22.5 points, 10.9 rebounds and 3.0 blocked shots per game. Helgason is producing nearly 11 points a night and quarterbacks the offense with 4.2 assists on average.

This year, the Cougars have topped 60 points or more seven times and scored a season-best 77 points against 16th-ranked North Central in an overtime win.

If seeded, the sectional tournament draw would have played out much differently based on records and Sagarin ratings alone. Greenfield-Central has been one of Sectional 9’s top teams with a 92.21 overall rating while playing the 19th-strongest schedule.

HHC foe New Castle has kept stride with a 91.96 rating and is currently second in the league standings at 5-1.

The Cougars beat the Trojans head-to-head 50-39 at home Jan. 15, setting up a highly-anticipated rematch in the second game of Sectional 9’s opening night.

The winner will move on to play another HHC rival in Pendleton Heights (10-11), which drew a first-round bye, in the semifinals Feb. 5,

At 4-0 against sectional opponents, Laker’s Cougars have beaten each team they could potentially face, which gives them confidence, but they aren’t overlooking anyone.

Not with a chance at the program’s first sectional title since 2004 at stake.

“We knew we had to play some great teams to end this tournament, so you might as well play them right away,” Laker said. “New Castle is very, very good, and I still think the Pendleton Heights team, one through seven, has some of the best personnel in the tournament. After that, you turnaround and in the championship you’ll probably have to face (Mt. Vernon and) Sydney (Shelton).”

Marauders on upswing?

Upon hearing his team’s tournament draw, Mt. Vernon head coach Steve Doud was hard-pressed not to notice the obvious.“Naturally, it favors the three teams in our bracket, at least until the final game,” he said. “The other bracket is tough. That’s a tough side there.”

The Marauders will open the sectional Tuesday against Connersville (4-18), which Mt. Vernon beat 47-13 on Nov. 13. Richmond (8-12) drew the bye and will face the winner between the two.

A short-handed Mt. Vernon lineup beat Richmond 59-50 last week.

On paper, the Sectional 9 tournament hosts have the more envious road in comparison to rival Greenfield-Central, a stroke of good luck after such a turbulent season, Doud said.

Stricken by many injuries, the Marauders (14-8) have played four games with their starting five on the floor and nine games with three or more of their top-seven players sidelined.

With the return of IU Southeast recruit Ariana Sandefur, a senior, and junior Megan Gawrys last week, the team is steadily regrouping around fellow starter Hanna Johnson.

Senior Sadie Baugh is set to rejoin the mix this week, which is a welcomed boost, but Sydney Shelton, a Butler recruit and the county’s all-time leading scorer, is still questionable with a leg injury.

The Indiana All-Star candidate has sat out four games after playing through the pain for five contests before shutting it down to recover for a potential postseason run. She was nominated for the McDonald’s All American Game and averaged 24.1 points per game before taking a break.

“I’m hoping with the two girls that could be back, even though they haven’t been on the floor, will come back and won’t miss a beat,” Doud said. “The last time we had everyone on the floor was game No. 5.

“If we take care of business and we keep everyone healthy throughout the tournament, I think we can make a run to the title game.”

Dragons can avenge past

It’s not how you start but how you finish, and the New Palestine Dragons are surging at the right time.Winners in seven of their last eight games, coach Brian Kehrt’s Class 4A Dragons turned a 6-4 start into a 15-6 record, which could bode well in the Sectional 13 at Center Grove.“The best part is we have a team that can pick you up when certain areas aren’t having its best game,” Kehrt said. “Katlyn Keele, the past few weeks, has just dominated the boards and has been a force down low, which gives us one more option along with Raegan McMurray, who has been outstanding. Because of that, I think the sectional becomes a little bit more wide open.”

New Palestine will see a familiar face in Whiteland (12-8) as they open sectional play Wednesday night. Losing to the Warriors 51-44 on Jan. 16, the Dragons could run into either Franklin Community (8-13) or Greenwood (12-9) in the semifinals. Greenwood beat New Palestine 48-42 on Nov. 10.

Despite the previous setbacks, Kehrt said he believes season-long maturation will be a factor for his team, which is led by McMurray’s 11.9 points per game.

“If someone would have asked me three years ago, ‘Do you think you have a chance to win the Center Grove Sectional?’ I would have laughed,” Kehrt said. “Do I think so this year? Yeah. I think we’re as good as anybody on a given night.”

In line for rematch

While discussing her team’s chances at its first potential sectional title since 2001, Eastern Hancock head coach Shari Doud made a distinct point.“It’s time for us to beat one of those teams no one expects us to beat,” Doud emphasized.At 15-6 on the season, Doud’s Class 2A Royals have won its fair share of games, including 4 of 5 against sectional opponents.

Matched up with Irvington Prep Academy (4-18) in the first round of the Sectional 42 tournament, which will be played at Eastern Hancock, the Royals have familiarity on their side.

Defeating Irvington 67-10 on Nov. 20, the Royals feed into the same semifinal as Shenandoah (6-13), who received the bye and lost to Eastern Hancock, 48-29, on Dec. 4.

The true test could unfold in the title game on Saturday, Feb. 6 with Triton Central (12-8) favored to advance. The Tigers beat the Royals 41-22 on Jan. 16.

“I have a good vibe about the team just based on how the kids are growing in the aspects of the game and based on how we were really struggling in the beginning of the season,” Doud said. “The competitiveness is reaching its peak, and I think things are really coming together.”

Sectional History

Past Sectional Success

Class 2A Sectional 42

Team, Record, Most Recent Title, (total titles)

Eastern Hancock;15-6;2001;(1)

Indianapolis Howe;6-7;1984;(2)

Irvington Prep;4-18;none;(0)



Triton Central;12-8;2015;(8)

Class 4A Sectional 9

Team, Record, Most Recent Title, (total titles)



Mt. Vernon;13-6;2013;(14)

New Castle;18-3;2007;(17)

Pendleton Heights;10-11;2011;(6)


2015-16 Class 4A Sectional 13

Team, Record, Most Recent Title, (total titles)

Center Grove;10-10;2015;(18)


Franklin Central;5-16;2014;(12)



New Palestine;15-6;2004;(4)


If you go


Dates: February 2, 3, 5, 6, 2016.

Admission: $6 per session or $10 all sessions.

Home Team: The second team listed in each game is the designated home team.

Sectional Pairings

Class 4A

Sectional 9 at Mt. Vernon (6 teams)

Game 1: Mt. Vernon vs. Connersville, Tues., Feb. 2

Game 2: New Castle vs. Greenfield‐Central, Tues., Feb. 2

Game 3: Richmond vs. Winner of Game 1, Fri., Feb. 5

Game 4: Pendleton Heights vs. Winner of Game 2, Fri., Feb. 5

Championship: Winner of Game 3 vs. Winner of Game 4, Sat., Feb. 6

Class 4A

Sectional 13 at Center Grove (7 teams)

Game 1: Franklin Community vs. Martinsville, Tues., Feb. 2

Game 2: Franklin Central vs. Greenwood, Wed., Feb. 3

Game 3: New Palestine vs. Whiteland, Wed., Feb. 3

Game 4: Center Grove vs. Winner of Game 1, Fri., Feb. 5

Game 5: Winner of Game 2 vs. Winner of Game 3, Fri., Feb. 5

Championship: Winner of Game 4 vs. Winner of Game 5, Sat., Feb. 6

Class 2A

Sectional 42 at Eastern Hancock (6 teams)

Game 1: Knightstown vs. Triton Central, Tues., Feb. 2

Game 2: Eastern Hancock vs. Irvington Prep, Tues., Feb 2

Game 3: Indianapolis Howe vs. Winner of Game 1, Fri., Feb. 5

Game 4: Shenandoah vs. Winner of Game 2, Fri., Feb. 5

Championship: Winner of Game 3 vs. Winner of Game 4, Sat., Feb. 6

Author photo
Rich Torres is sports editor at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at or 317-477-3227.