GREENFIELD — Eight years ago, Doug Laker had a vision.

His mission? To build a winning tradition within the Greenfield-Central girls basketball program.

Claiming a sectional title while making its presence felt around the state was included on the long list of goals. After a 23-5 record, including a 6-3 mark against teams ranked inside the top 25, and the elusive Sectional 9 championship win against Mt. Vernon this season, Laker’s dreams have become reality.

The Cougars are officially on the map.

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Greenfield-Central also finished 13-5 against teams ranked in the top 64, cementing its status as one of the premier programs not only in the area but in the state of Indiana.

Returning four starters from a team blessed with valuable tournament experience solidifies promise for the future as well, as the Cougars fell just short of a regional championship appearance after a 46-45 loss to Indianapolis Roncalli, which eventually played in the semistate.

For his and Greenfield-Central’s accomplishments, Laker has been named The Daily Reporter Girls Basketball Coach of the Year.

The Daily Reporter caught up with the eighth-year head coach (112-66) to talk about the Cougars’ season and the future of Greenfield-Central basketball.

What are your thoughts on the season and how you were able to accomplish what you did?

The two things we always talk about at the beginning of the year are our two “T’s”, toughness and togetherness. Those are the two things we have done well. We are a big family, and we play hard for each other. You have to be mentally and physically tough with the schedule we play. Our kids did a great job. I am just so happy for them. They put in a lot of time and spent a lot of time building this program up.

You have also spent tons of time with the program, how much does all this — the season and this award — mean to you?

I’m not going to lie, I do put a lot of time in. We sold a lot of popcorn and hot dogs at tournaments over the summer. It’s just a lot of stuff, going to tournaments and clinics and spending a lot of time on the road scouting. It does mean something to me. We have three other teams in the county who had winning records. It has great coaches. They are all great people. It makes it better when you have great competition.

How much do you think your tough scheduled helped once tournament time rolled around?

It’s the only thing. We had the third most wins against top 25 teams. We play people and next year is going to be the same way. We are going to pick up Homestead and Gary West. My philosophy has changed a little bit. The more talented you are the more you have to push them. We played competition and we played them anywhere. It’s the only way we’re going to get better, especially where we are at. Ultimately, we do want to win a state championship. I know it may seem lofty, but it is our goal.

What is the biggest attribute this year’s senior class left with the underclassmen and the program?

How to be a good teammate. How to be a good person and honest. And say the honest truth. Those seniors mean so much to me and the program. These guys won championships. Hopefully our underclassmen understand what it takes to get that. They are just great kids; they just bought into their role no matter what it was. Bottom line, they were just great role models for our younger kids.

With returning four starters, what will you work on the most this summer?

It’s basically fundamentals. We are going to do a lot of shooting and work on a lot of ball handling. Mainly work on being tough, working out when you don’t want to work out. Those summer days when it’s 90 degrees out, we’re getting in the gym. Then we are piling in a bus and traveling on the weekends in June. A lot of our kids play AAU. Sometimes you have to sacrifice if you want to get to where you want to go. Their expectations are higher than mine and that’s what’s great. They want to play the best. It’s fun to be around.

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Kris Mills is a sports reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at 317-477-3230 or kmills@greenfieldreporter.com.