One More Stop

FORTVILLE — Ariana Sandefur and the road have become one the past few days.

Since walking across the stage at graduation Friday, Sandefur has made driving more than two hours one way to New Albany her new routine.

It’s a hefty trek southbound, but one the former Mt. Vernon standout is excited to make as the next chapter in her basketball career begins to unfold.

“I have to drive to Louisville every single week, and I’m good with that,” said Sandefur, who is anxious to embark on her NAIA basketball career at IU-Southeast. “I’m just trying to get into the gym with my teammates and be able to prepare for next season. I’m super close to my team already.”

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More importantly, she’s healthy for the first time in what seems like an eternity.

Sidelined for more than two months during her senior season at Mt. Vernon, Sandefur is 100 percent again, and has avoided any setbacks — well, almost.

“My ankle is completely healed. I tweaked it the other day, though. I stepped in a pot hole and I started freaking out because I thought I hurt it,” Sandefur jokes after the fact. “But nothing is wrong with it. I’m fine.”

The injury robbed Sandefur of 14 games in 2015-16 and sapped her production as she averaged 8.3 points per game compared to a stellar 12.3 as a junior.

Even when she returned Jan. 19 after getting hurt Nov. 20, 2015, she admits, her game wasn’t the same.

“It was probably the hardest nine weeks I could have imagined. I had an injury in the eighth grade, but it was nothing like what happened to me this season,” Sandefur said. “It was hard mentally to overcome this challenge.”

As tough as the ordeal was for the shooting guard, it made her motivated to regain her footing.

In her return she scored 20 points against Richmond, knocking down 6 of 13 trademark 3-pointers. Her season high came against Delta on Jan. 28 with 23 points and six more treys.

The rest of the time, she struggled to find a rhythm. Instead, she rediscovered her drive as the team labored to a 17-9 record and a sectional championship loss to rival Greenfield-Central, 61-43 last February.

“It was senior year. It was supposed to be our year. It was supposed to be my year, and I couldn’t even fulfill it,” Sandefur reflected. “It didn’t only mess up my game but it messed me up. I had to learn how to become stronger and realized this is a game that I want to play and that I love.”

Those thoughts ride along with Sandefur every time she clicks her seat belt, and will follow her for one more planned stop along the way this Friday.

Invited to compete in the 11th Annual Hoosiers Reunion Classic doubleheader in Knightstown, Sandefur and Greenfield-Central graduate Tate Hall have one final high school obligation.

Sandefur couldn’t imagine closing her prep career any other way. 

“I got nominated for the (Hoosier Basketball Magazine’s 2016 Top 60 Senior Workout), which I thought was a super big deal, and to go into the Hoosiers game is just awesome,” Sandefur said. “It means a lot, especially if you’ve seen the movie.”

A rite of passage for most Hoosier born hoopsters, Sandefur has seen the movie “Hoosiers” several times and recently in class weeks before graduation.

She knows all about the picket fence, the nostalgia and the gym’s notable dimensions. Only 665 fans can sit in the venue, which makes the event intimate and prestigious.

Each player is granted a little more than a dozen tickets. All of hers have been spoken for by family and friends to witness her last high school game. 

“It’s sad that it’s over, but it’s also a good thing. I’m ready to move on to college,” Sandefur said. “It’s time to finish that chapter.”

No better way to close the book than by doing what she does best, burying treys.

As a junior she hit 55 of 144 attempts. In limited action this past season, she was 21 of 73 from 3-point range.

As a member of the fabled Hickory Huskers, Sandefur would like to find No. 22 while playing alongside and against some of the state’s best players, including Indiana’s Miss Basketball Jackie Young of Princeton.

“I have to make a three. That’s my one goal,” Sandefur said. “That’s my shot. If I make one, I’ll be happy.”

The girls game opens the night at 6 p.m. with the boys game to follow at 8 p.m.

Hall, the 2015-16 Hancock County Player of the Year will run with the Hickory Huskers and Mr. Basketball Kyle Guy. 

A Hoosier Heritage Conference First Team selection, Hall will play at the University of Indianapolis.

The 6-foot-6 wing led the county in both scoring and rebounding (458 points and 194 boards). He finished with 1,315 points (fourth all time at Greenfield-Central).

If you go

What: 11th Annual Hoosiers Reunion All-Star Classic

Where: Knightstown’s Historic Hoosier Gym

When: Friday, 6 p.m.

Who: Several of the state’s top graduated senior basketball players, including Ariana Sandefur (Mt. Vernon/IU Southeast) and Tate Hall (Greenfield-Central/UIndy).

Tickets: To purchase tickets (only 665 seats available), call 317-925-8200 or email hoosierbbllmag@att.net. Tickets are $25 per person.

At a glance

Hickory Huskers Boys Team

Coach: Bobby Allen, Knightstown

Name, School, Ht., Pos., College

Tucker Blackwell, Bloomington South, 6-2, Guard, Army Westpoint

Joey Brunk, Southport, 6-10, Center, Butler

Hunter Crist, Hamilton Heights, 6-2, Guard, Undecided

Jackson Edwards, Knightstown, 6-1, Guard, IU-South Bend

Eron Gordon, Cathedral, 6-0, Guard, Seton Hall

Kyle Guy, Lawrence Central, 6-3, Guard, Virginia

Tate Hall, Greenfield-Central, 6-6, Forward, Indianapolis

Christian Munson, Guerin Catholic, 6-5,Forward, Rollins (Florida)

Anthony Murphy, Griffith, 6-5, Forward, Undecided

Keegan Northern, Martinsville, 6-8, Forward, Indianapolis

Jaret Sons, Rushville, 6-6, Forward, Grace

Jordan Walker, Cathedral, 6-2, Guard, Morehead State

Terhune Tigers Boys Team

Coach: Daniel Cox, New Castle

Name, School, Ht., Pos., College

Desmond Bane, Seton Catholic, 6-5, Forward, Texas Christian

Marcus Burk, Franklin Central, 6-3, Guard, Campbell

KC Earls, Mooresville, 6-1, Guard, Marian

Andrew Garrett, New Castle, 5-8, Guard, Undecided

Reggie Jones, Marion, 6-6, Forward, Western Michigan

Luke Kenney, Mooresville, 6-6, Forward, Undecided

John Kiser, Noblesville, 6-5, Forward, Undecided

Kyle Mallers, Carroll (Allen), 6-7, Forward, Ball State

Dru Smith, Evansville Reitz, 6-3, Guard, Evansville

CJ Walker, Indianapolis Tech, 6-0, Guard, Florida State

Brian Warren, Indianapolis Howe, 5-10, Guard, Undecided

Cameron Wolter, Fishers, 6-8, Center, Massachusetts-Lowell

Hickory Huskers Girls Team

Coach: Tim Young, Vincennes Rivet

Name, School, Ht., Pos., College

Alyssa Clay, Pike, 5-8, Guard, Akron

Lauren Dickerson, Lawrence North, 5-3, Guard, Miami of Ohio

Kelsey Ivers, Vincennes Rivet, 5-8, Guard, Kentucky Wesleyan

DeAnn Kauffman, Union (Modoc), 5-10, Forward, Indiana Tech

Allie McCool, East Central, 6-2, Center, George Mason

Katelyn O’Reilly, Noblesville, 6-0, Forward, Florida Atlantic

Riley Popplewell, South Central (Union Mills), 5-11, Center, South Carolina Upstate

Tyana Robinson, Pike, 5-9, Guard, Florida Atlantic

Ariana Sandefur, Mt. Vernon, 5-9, Guard, IU-Southeast

Jayla Scaife, Muncie Central, 5-11, Forward, Dayton

Kristen Spolyar, Lebanon, 5-10, Forward, Butler

Brooke Todd, Switzerland County, 5-5, Guard, Hanover

Terhune Tigers Girls Team

Coach: Corie West, New Castle

Name, School, Ht., Pos., College

Candace Danz, Indian Creek, 5-10, Forward, Marian

Vironnica Drake, Marion, 5-7, Guard, Grace

Daesjah Ely, Roncalli, 6-0, Forward, IUPUI

Tyasha Harris, Heritage Christian, 5-10, Guard, South Carolina

Macie Lively, Tipton, 5-6, Guard, Evansville

Lauren Rau, Center Grove, 5-5, Guard, Lipscomb

Myka Roth, Delphi, 5-11, Forward, Vincennes

Jasmine Shelt, Lawrence Central, 5-9, Guard, Kentucky Wesleyan

Emily Sullivan, Evansville Memorial, 6-4, Center, North Carolina

Laura Thomas, New Castle, 5-8, Guard, Northern Kentucky

Brooke Treadway, Northwestern, 6-0, Center, Grace

Jackie Young, Princeton, 5-11, Forward, Notre Dame

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