INDIANAPOLIS — When the phone rang Saturday morning, DeAnne Shelton was pleasantly surprised to hear her daughter’s voice on the other end of the line.
Training as an Indiana All-Star all week, Mt. Vernon’s Sydney Shelton’s phone privileges had been sparse since she arrived at Marian University in Indianapolis.
With two practices every off day, two exhibition games against the Indiana Junior All-Stars and team-bonding events before the squad’s matchup with the rival Kentucky All-Stars this weekend, Sydney was understandably busy.
“They were allowed to use their phones at night most of the time. They mostly checked social media,” DeAnne joked.
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With the Indiana All-Stars’ first game against Kentucky at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis that night, DeAnne was ecstatic to see Sydney’s name on caller ID.
Then, DeAnne got the big news.
“She called me and told me I was nominated for this thing. I was really excited. Then, she told me I was going to be part of the halftime show, and I was going to have to play against a mom from Kentucky,” DeAnne said. “I laughed because at first I thought they were teasing.
“She told me the girls voted for me and it was unanimous, but if I didn’t want to do it, I didn’t have to.”
DeAnne couldn’t say no. After years of getting to know nearly all of the 2016 Indiana All-Star girls through Sydney’s AAU and high school career, she didn’t want to let them down. But it didn’t mean she was stress free.
“They picked my mom because she played basketball, so they said, ‘She’d do it.’ When I called her and told her, she was so nervous,” Sydney laughed. “She said she had to go practice. I knew she would do it. I’m proud of her.”
The former Mt. Vernon Marauder, who was part of the program’s regional championship teams in the single-class system back in 1989 and 1991, didn’t disappoint.
DeAnne won the All-Star Mom competition with perfect form. Dribbling to half court from under the basket and returning for a layup, Shelton converted the bucket on the first try to score a victory for the Hoosier State.
“I have to admit, though, I was nervous all day,” said DeAnne, who raised her arm in celebration after winning the contest. “But these girls over the years, have made us all so proud, so I knew I had to represent well for them.”
The girls reciprocated, defeating the Kentucky All-Stars 106-69 for Indiana’s sixth straight win against their southern neighbors.
“That’s what this game is for (to have fun),” Sydney said after contributing seven points, two rebounds and three assists in the game. “We take pride in winning. Indiana has beaten Kentucky for the past few years. We wanted to keep that going and not be the team that loses.”
Regardless of the outcome, it was a win-win situation for Sydney, who hadn’t played in a game for nearly 18 weeks before taking the floor as an Indiana All-Star last Tuesday.
Hampered by a dislocated fibula, which she sustained last December, she labored through uncertainty and frustration, trying to regain her form and battle muscle atrophy from being on crutches for nine weeks.
“I know she’s worked for this, like all the girls say, since she was a little girl. This is a dream for all of them,” DeAnne said. “I wish she could have played a little more and been a little healthier, but we’re just very happy. A few months ago, we didn’t think she would have this opportunity at all.”
Sydney played 14 minutes Saturday, on par with her average during the exhibition games against the Juniors, which the Seniors won in both Bloomington and Lebanon last week.
While she is still looking for her shooter’s touch, her tenacity on defense shined on the Indiana Pacers home floor.
The 5-foot-9 guard had three steals, with an assisted theft that Lebanon’s Kristen Spolyar, Shelton’s future Butler Bulldog teammate, capitalized on for two.
Shelton trapped Emma Young near the top of the key as Spolyar poked the ball free. Spolyar scooped up the loose ball and immediately drove down the court for a layup, giving Indiana an 86-58 lead late in the second half.
“Sydney is just an awesome person aside from the basketball aspect. She’s a great person to be around,” Spolyar said. “On the court, we see each other and connect well.”
While the duo has never played on the same AAU team, they’ve known each other for years, and strengthened their relationship this past summer as members of the Indiana Junior All-Stars core team.
“Her and her mom are just alike,” Spolyar said. “It was funny that (DeAnne) got to do the halftime thing because we knew she would be a good person to be out there.
“Sydney is always high-spirited, just like her mom. It doesn’t surprise me what she’s done this week. I knew she would make it back because she really loves the game.”
Sydney was held scoreless in the two-game series finale at Bellarmine University in Louisville on Sunday, but she provided a pair of assists and another steal.
Most importantly, however, Indiana won again, 81-62, to make it seven consecutive.
On Saturday, Shelton cemented the Indiana girls’ ninth 100-point game as victors since the series began in 1976.
With a quick steal in transition, Mt. Vernon’s all-time leading scorer (1,985 points) buried a layup and drew a foul. Her and-1 put Indiana up 100-67 with 1:46 remaining.
Her final steal led to a Jayla Scaife layup and a 102-67 advantage with a minute left. Thirty seconds later, Shelton connected with Darby Foresman for an assist and a jumper, increasing the lead to 104-67.
Princeton’s Jackie Young, a Notre Dame recruit, led Indiana with 30 points. Spolyar, Lebanon’s all-time career scorer (2,882), had 12 with four rebounds, two assists and three steals.
Together Spolyar and Shelton said they are excited to get the future started. Shelton will report to Butler on June 17.
“One of my goals and her goals is to go in and make the team better and make the (NCAA) tournament next year,” said Spolyar, who averaged a state-best 35.6 points per game as a senior.
Shelton’s connection to Butler assistant coaches Damon Bailey and Julie Shelton, her aunt and head coach at Mt. Vernon during the team’s Class 3A championship run in 2013, has her anxious for the next chapter.
It doesn’t hurt that Sydney will be a short drive — or a quick phone call — away, either.
“It was great to be a part of this and end it on a fun note,” DeAnne said. “At this point, I just want her to be injury free, so she can play. It’s been a long year. And I really do hope she has the opportunity, once she is fully healed, to go to Butler and just start her season healthy.”
Game 1, Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Indiana All-Stars 106, Kentucky All-Stars 69
Game 2, Bellarmine College
Indiana All-Stars 81, Kentucky All-Stars 62