All-Star Moment: Indiana’s best heading into showdown against Kentucky

While preparing for his first of five showcase games in 10 days late last week, Mt. Vernon’s Michael Ertel wanted nothing less than perfection.

Driven to win whenever he steps foot on the court, the former Marauders star point guard made a mental checklist.

First on his agenda, lead the Hickory Huskers to victory during the Hoosiers Reunion All-Star Classic in Knightstown. Second, suit up in red, white and blue for the Indiana All-Stars and run the table at 4-0 — two exhibition wins against the Indiana Junior All-Stars and two more against the Kentucky All-Stars.

“I want to win. Indiana has a streak going,” Ertel remarked prior to Indiana All-Star week. “We don’t want to be the team to blow it.”

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Since 2008, no Indiana All-Stars boys team has faltered against its interstate rivals, winning 16 straight and 24 of 25 games versus Kentucky the last nine years.

The Blue Grass neighbors almost ended the streak last year on southern soil, narrowly losing 99-96, but this weekend, it’s all about the W for Ertel and Greenfield-Central’s Madison Wise, the third Cougars’ player in program history to be chosen as an Indiana All-Star.

So far, Ertel is 2-1 in his quest.

Paired with his former Mt. Vernon high school coach Travis Daugherty one last time, Ertel, a Louisiana-Monroe signee, and the Hickory Huskers team were victorious last Friday night at the Hoosier Gym 152-130 against fictional foe Terhune — marking the player and coach’s 55th career victory together.

Then Tuesday happened, an embarrassing 122-110 loss in New Albany to the Indiana Junior All-Stars, minus probable 2018 Indiana Mr. Basketball Romeo Langford. Ertel finished the game with seven points, three rebounds, an assist and a steal in the defeat.

Adding insult to bruised ego, the Indiana All-Stars took the court at Plainfield High School for the final exhibition warmup on Thursday without 2017 Indiana Mr. Basketball winner Kris Wilkes of North Central and Jaylen Minnett of Terre Haute South.

The two, along with girls Indiana All-Stars Chyna Anthony of New Albany and Ajanae Thomas of North Centra,l were suspended one game for “conduct that violates team rules and policy.”

No further details were released concerning the suspensions by All-Star game director Charlie Hall, but the Indiana All-Stars didn’t flinch. They pressed on with a chip on their shoulder.

Bouncing back, the short-handed boys All-Stars — with only eight players — evened the score with a 134-92 thumping of the Juniors, a game the Seniors led by 16 points after halftime.

Ertel, Mt. Vernon’s first Indiana All-Star since Daniel Turner in 2010, finished the night with eight points, a rebound, three assists and a steal. Just another day at the office for the Marauders second-leading career scorer with 1,282 points the past four years.

Wise, Hancock County’s all-time leading scorer in girls basketball, continued to trend upward, matching Ertel at 2-1 during her showcase tour.

The Iowa State signee, who will head west soon after the Indiana All-Stars two-game series with Kentucky beginning tonight at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, lost during the Hoosiers Reunion All-Star Classic.

As Greenfield-Central’s first Indiana All-Star since Janet Meeker in 1989, however, Wise is unbeaten.

On Tuesday, she chipped in seven points, eight rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot as the Seniors ran away from the Juniors 112-76. Two days later, Wise posted a double-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two blocks in a 107-67 sweep of the Juniors.

Now that play time is over and the Indiana All-Stars back at full strength, Wise, who ended her high school career with 2,109 points, is seeking a second straight sweep.

Something tells me both 2017 county players of the year won’t leave anything on the floor in their pursuit.

Tonight, the first game starts at 5 p.m. On Sunday, the series concludes at Central Hardin High School in Elizabethtown, Ky. with the girls game first at 1 p.m.