By Rich Torres and Kris Mills
Daily Reporter sports staff
Daily Reporter sports editor Rich Torres and sportswriter Kris Mills select their favorite players, teams and moments from the 2015-16 high school sports year.
Best Female Athlete
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Rich: Sydney Shelton
Nothing was going to keep Sydney Shelton from her goals. Not injuries, setbacks or doubt. And there were plenty to go around in 2015-16. A shell of her former self a majority of the season, Shelton was slowed from the start due to a hyperextended left elbow suffered during the offseason. What followed robbed her of any explosiveness when she endured extensive muscle and joint damage in her right leg during a game against Yorktown on Dec. 12. While most athletes would have thrown in the towel, the Mt. Vernon Marauders’ all-time leading scorer pushed through and nearly achieved everything on her senior checklist despite sitting six games and playing hurt for five. Shelton averaged 23.5 points per game in 21 contests, with 493 points overall. She was named All-Hoosier Heritage Conference, claimed Hancock County’s girls basketball’s career scoring crown with 1,985 points total and was voted to the IBCA/Subway Supreme 15 Senior girls team. Though, her team fell for in the sectional finals, Shelton rightfully earned a 2015-16 Indiana All-Stars nod, a dream she has chased since bursting onto the scene as a Class 3A state champion her freshman season. Helping Indiana sweep Kentucky in the annual All-Stars series, Shelton is continuing her career at Butler University.
Kris: Katie Helgason
There might not have been a better overall athlete in Hancock County last year than Katie Helgason — boy or girl. In soccer, she was second on the team with seven goals and added five assists, as well. In basketball, she was second for the Cougars in scoring (11.0 ppg) and led the team in assists (4.2 apg). Helgason also was named the Indiana Junior All-Star team (South squad). And in track — if the first two sports weren’t enough — Helgason made a state finals appearance with her 3,200-meter relay team (20th overall). But with basketball (Ball State commit) probably being her best sport, it will be interesting to see what Helgason performs next season. With the graduation of a deep senior class, Helgason and teammate Madison Wise (core Indiana Junior All-Star) will be no strangers to opposing teams. In 2015, she scored a season-high 20 points in a win over Connersville. And after helping Greenfield-Central claim a sectional title, Helgason scored 17 points in a win against Plainfield and 11 points in a 46-45 regional championship loss to Roncalli.
Best Girls Team
Rich: Mt. Vernon girls tennis
Mt. Vernon head coach Gabe Muterspaugh supplied his girls tennis team with a mantra for 2015-16 — “refuse to lose.” The Marauders didn’t merely embrace it, they lived it every time they stepped on the court. The only team in the county other than New Palestine’s football squad to nearly run roughshod over the competition, the Marauders lost just twice this past spring. They matched their record-setting win total with a 17-2 finish and won 12 duals with dominating 5-0 shutouts. The Marauders’ lone defeat during the regular season was against No. 11 Delta. Afterward, they recorded a stretch of 35 consecutive individual match victories. Cracking the Indiana High School Tennis Coaches Association’s state rankings for the first time since 2004, Mt. Vernon capture its third straight county championship — and second straight by winning all 20 matches. Their sectional title marked the program’s third in a row and sixth in eight years. The Marauders playoff run ended at regional in a hard-fought loss against Lawrence North 3-2.
Kris: Eastern Hancock softball
What an incredible run. Eastern Hancock never dipped into the top 10 rankings in Class 2A, but it didn’t matter. After breezing past their sectional (44 total runs), the Royals knocked off No. 5 Union County and No. 1 Henryville before falling to No. 2 Evansville Mater Dei — the eventual state champs — 3-2 in an eight-inning heartbreaker. Eastern Hancock, which finished the season ranked No. 16, accumulated an overall record of 20-4 and finished second in the Mid-Hoosier Conference (7-1). Senior Darby Shaw was an absolute force on the mound, and head coach Sue Anderson, who stressed teamwork from the very beginning of the season, got contributions all over the field to complete the best season in school history. Shaw finished 18-3 on the mound with 174 strikeouts, while fellow senior Jordan Pierson was electric from her leadoff spot, leading the county with 13 stolen bases. Junior Peyton West (.444) and sophomore Micah Black (.427) will return as the Royal’s offensive leaders. Also of note, Eastern Hancock topped Class 4A Shelbyville, which was one of the few teams to beat 3A No. 1 New Palestine during the regular season.
Best Girls Coach
Rich: Doug Laker
Eight was enough for Greenfield-Central girls basketball head coach Doug Laker. Taking over the program in 2008-09, Laker’s teams posted five winning seasons in seven years. The eighth was historic. With a dynamic Indiana Junior All-Star duo in Madison Wise and Katie Helgson along with a solid core of senior leaders, the 2015-16 Cougars broke through to set a school record for wins at 23-5. Among those, six Ws unfolded against teams in the state’s prominent rankings, including Westfield, Plainfield, North Central and Marquette Catholic. The Cougars climbed to 10th in the Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association’s state rankings and reached 15th in the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association’s top 25 poll. Their most compelling feat, however, occurred during the Cougars’ 11-game winning streak. Sweeping through the sectional tournament while facing the most difficult path, Greenfield-Central knocked off three straight Hoosier Heritage Conference foes in New Castle, Pendleton Heights and Mt. Vernon. The HHC champions continued to their run at regional, upending Plainfield in their third consecutive rematch game before falling to Roncalli in a heartbreaker 46-45. Greenfield-Central’s sectional title snapped a 12-year drought. Laker surpassed the century mark in his career and now sits at 112-66 in eight seasons.
Kris: Ed Marcum
This boiled down to a mix of the team’s success on and off the field rather than just wins and losses. With approximately nine girls on this year’s roster set to play at the collegiate level – mixed with New Palestine’s Hoosier Heritage Conference and sectional title – it was hard for me to give this award to another coach, although several were more than worthy. The Dragons were ranked No. 1 in Class 3A for the final portion of the season before losing in regional action. Marcum had seven girls hit .375 or better with 11 girls collecting at least one home run. Building from the ground up, Marcum has averaged 20 wins a season since he started over a decade ago. It is obvious if you attend a game, too, as the roster is comprised of players in every class. And when one is struggling, it was never a rare sight to see one of the Dragons’ pinch hitters knock a base hit. Maybe the biggest compliment, though, refers to the program’s sportsmanship. Watching the Dragons show great character in a 20-0 blowout win against Indianapolis Marshall was really inspiring. The game could have been much, much worse.
Best Highlight Performance
Rich: Christian Noble
Records are made to broken, and Mt. Vernon’s Christian Noble shattered them all, including his own. One of the school’s most prolific distance runners since Jeff Wheeler and Mike Mundy in the 1980s, Noble, a Lee University signee left nothing in the tank during his final season cross country and track and field seasons. The third Marauders’ runner to compete nationally in cross country, the senior became a three-time sectional and regional champion while also claiming his first career semistate title. He wrapped up the year with a fourth-place finish at the IHSAA state meet for All-State honors. Along the way, he set a school record in the 5K with a 14:55 at the Delta Regional, besting Wheeler’s previous mark of 14:57.3 set in 1983. Noble’s success earned him an invitation to the Foot Locker Cross Country National Championships in San Diego and to the Nike Nationals in Greensboro, North Carolina. Far from done, Noble saved the best for last as he continued to tear up the record book on the track. He earned his second sectional title and All-State distinction in the 3,200-meter run with a memorable runner-up finale during the IHSAA state finals. His time of 9:04.71 topped his two previous school records as he challenged defending state champion Ben Veatch of Carmel. Leading Veatch late in the race, Noble’s placement was the best in program history ahead of Wheeler, securing him a trip to the Midwest Meet of Champions in Ohio where he won the 3,200 in 9:23.36.
Kris: Madison Wise
Wise had her best game of the season on one of the biggest stages. In a 61-43 win against Mt. Vernon for the sectional championship, Wise was dominant. She finished 10 of 16 from the field (8-for-12 from 2-point range) for 35 points. She also knocked down 13 of 15 free throws and hit two threes in one of the most efficient title game performances this season. In addition, Wise added six rebounds, five assists, three blocks and two steals to give the Cougars their first sectional title since 2004 — not bad for a Saturday night. It was really no secret who Greenfield-Central wanted to feed the ball to and for her to deliver despite the added defensive attention was huge. Wise averaged 22.7 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game last season and was named a core member of the Junior Indiana All-Star team. She has a list of Division I offers, including Ball State and Indiana, already on the table.
Rich: Matthew True
Hardly an unknown in the tennis community, New Palestine freshman Matthew True made many wonder, if this kid is the Dragons’ No. 2 singles player right now, how good is he going to be when he eventually slides into the No. 1 spot? True gave onlookers a glimpse into the future by playing well beyond his years for the defending Hancock County champions. Working with first-year head coach Des Evans at the Indianapolis Racquet Club prior, True put practice to action by winning 21 of 23 matches, including two crucial head-to-head meetings with rival Mt. Vernon at county and sectional. In between losses — with the last coming against Hamilton Southeastern at the regional — True racked up 19 straight victories. He gelled quickly with the senior-laden team to propel the program to an unprecedented sixth straight county crown and a 20-2 record. With True a near surefire point every match, the Dragons earned a regional berth by clinching a county-best fourth straight sectional championship, the first time a boys tennis program from the area has achieved the feat.
Kris: Charley True
Mt. Vernon girls golf coach Caleb Zelencik knows the sound of a great golf swing when he hears it. As was the case with Marauders freshman Charley True, who finished 11th overall at the IHSAA state finals and first among girls in her class. The “boom” sound the ball made coming off her driver was the first indication of True’s skill level. The next was her focus. And finally her desire to succeed. I’ve never met an athlete so young and so confident. Not confident in a negative way, either, but in a way that makes you think she really knows what she’s doing in a super-tough sport. True knew exactly what she wanted to do and how to accomplish it. She also won the Mt. Vernon individual sectional title this season and finished fourth at the Hancock County meet and second at the Hoosier Heritage Conference meet. True also swims for Mt. Vernon.
Saturday: Best in Show, Part 2
It’s time to dish out some recognition. Daily Reporter sports editor Rich Torres and sportswriter Kris Mills take readers back through the 2015-16 school year and announce the best. We’re revealing our Best Male Athlete, Best Boys Teams and more.
Tuesday: Parting Shots
Staff photographer Tom Russo has dug deep into his archives to bring you his favorite photos from the 2015-16 school year. Russo has been there for the championship celebrations, tough losses and all the fun outside the lines.