BLOOMINGTON — Though more than 70 miles southwest of Hancock County, Tuesday night’s Indiana All-Stars exhibition doubleheader at Bloomington High School South had a hometown feel for Greenfield-Central’s Madison Wise and Katie Helgason.
During player introductions, the Indiana Junior All-Stars duo heard it.
When Wise buried the first bucket for the Junior All-Stars on J.R. Holmes Court, the large cluster of fans and Cougars players in the stands wearing blue and gold reacted, again.
“It just shows that we really are all a family,” Helgason remarked on the supporters that made the hour-and-a-half trek to Monroe County. “It was awesome how they came all this way for us.”
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Wise, a member of the Indiana Junior All-Stars core group, showed her appreciation with a statement performance.
The highly-sought-after, 6-foot-1, four-star prospect scored 16 points on 5 of 13 shooting, grabbed two rebounds and a steal against the Indiana Senior All-Stars.
Fellow Junior core player Dana Evans of Gary West had a team-high 19 points. However, Mt. Vernon graduate Sydney Shelton and the Indiana Senior All-Stars won 111-79.
The Senior boys completed the sweep with a 118-96 win to increase their series lead against the Juniors to 36-8 all time.
Mt. Vernon’s Michael Ertel, a member of the south group for the Junior All-Stars, scored 11 points on 5 of 10 shooting and had six rebounds. North Central’s Kris Wilkes led the Juniors with 19 points.
Northern Illinois signee Eugene German (Gary 21st Century) posted a team-high 19 points for the Seniors.
“It was a great experience,” Ertel remarked after the game. “It was an honor to be on the court with the talent on both teams.”
Similar to Ertel, Wise felt at home on the floor. As the game progressed, her all-around game took hold.
“I was pretty comfortable out there. I just knew I had to play my game,” Wise said after posing for postgame photos with Helgason, Cougars fans and head coach Doug Laker. “I couldn’t take a back seat to anyone.”
Wise put her fearlessness on display, firing jumpers from all ranges and driving the lane with authority against the Seniors, including Purdue signee Ae’Rianna Harris (Lawrence North) late in the first half.
Blocked by the 6-1 player known as “Block Party,” Wise shook it off and responded with a nine-point outburst in the second half.
Wise scored eight of the Juniors 10 points in one stretch and hit her final basket from the foul line where she was 6-for-8.
“Being a member of the core group, it was important to come out and make a statement and show the other players that you belonged,” Wise said. “Obviously, a player will come out and have a few jitters, but it’s important to be confident.”
Wise, Evans, Evansville Central’s Zion Sanders, Plainfield’s Riley Blackwell, Homestead’s Karissa McLaughlin and Columbus North’s Maliah Howard-Bass are part of the Junior core group. They will play in the second exhibition doubleheader Thursday in Lebanon.
Wise is fielding college offers from Indiana, Southern Illinois, Arkansas, Indiana State, among others. She took a year off track this spring to concentrate on basketball and the upcoming AAU season with Helgason on Indy Magic.
“She’s just good. It’s awesome to see her hard work come together and for her to show everyone what she has,” said Helgason, who had two points, a rebound and an assist as a member of the Junior south group.
“It was an amazing experience to be out there with the best of the best. It makes it a lot better when you’re out there with your best friend doing it. It was really cool.”
For Shelton, a Butler signee, just being on the court was special. Participating in her first game since losing to Greenfield-Central in the sectional title game on Feb. 6, the 5-9 point guard has been sidelined with a knee injury.
“It’s getting there,” Shelton said. “This is my first game since the season. I’m not in basketball shape, but hopefully I’ll be able to get back into that quickly.”
Shelton’s first shot was a 3-pointer from the wing, which she drained. In her career, she has connected on 222 of 641 3-point shots and owns Hancock County’s all-time career girls scoring record with 1,985 points.
“I just want to have fun and enjoy it,” Shelton commented on the next Seniors-Juniors exhibition and annual series against Kentucky this weekend. “It felt good, especially after not playing for so long. This is a blessing.”
Notre Dame recruit, Jackie Young, the state’s career scoring leader, posted a game-high 26 points for the Seniors, which is 34-10 against the Juniors since the series started in 1996.