The cream of the crop from the sports year that was in Hancock County. Sports editor Brian Harmon and sportswriter Grant Freking select their favorite prep moments.
BEST BOYS TEAM
BRIAN: New Palestine basketball
New Palestine’s inaugural arrival in Class 4A this school year — as the second-smallest school in the class — was supposed to spell doom for the Dragons’ tradition of collecting sectional trophies in a variety of sports. Except, it didn’t. You see, when you have a group of young men who believe in themselves the way Josh Penley, Reid Clark, Brandon Collins, Solomon Haynes, Wade Whitaker, Justin Ikerd and Michael Morris did this winter for the NP basketball team, it really doesn’t matter how much larger of a school the opponent comes from or how much 4A postseason experience they have. All that matters is heart, and the New Palestine boys, led by a coach in Adam Barton that has now won sectional titles in three of the last four years, had a collective confidence and spirit that would not be denied.
Runner-up: Greenfield-Central boys cross country, Hancock County champs, semistate qualifiers.
GRANT: Greenfield-Central soccer
Sweeping Mt. Vernon and New Palestine. Winning a sectional title for the first time since 2003 in a home atmosphere that could’ve been confused for a Champions League final. The domination of Roncalli in the regional semifinals. The oh-so-close loss to Center Grove with a bid to soccer’s Elite Eight on the line. G-C coach Jared Manning won’t ever be labeled as a fire and brimstone sideline-walker; it’s just not in his DNA. But his team blended fun and grit beautifully this past fall, netting offensive contributions from the entire roster while pinning their hopes each night on a back wall that was Hancock County’s version of Fort Knox. Manning’s Men reminded me about the pure joy of high school sports. Now, can they deliver a repeat performance this fall?
Runner-up: New Palestine baseball team reached 4A semistate with dominant starting pitching and countless comeback victories.
BEST GIRLS TEAM
BRIAN: Mt. Vernon softball
Winning three sectional games by a combined score of 53-0, the Marauders crushed a decade-long sectional-title drought with take-no-chances attitude. Sure, MV’s sectional opponents weren’t the worthiest of adversaries. But, sports history is littered with teams who underestimated their opponents. These Marauders were smart enough to treat each foe with respect, and with an all-out attitude put forth by coach Mike McGill, they cruised to an overdue championship.
Runner-up: New Palestine softball.
GRANT: Mt. Vernon basketball
They were the ideal basketball team, a well-oiled machine with perfect parts. Jessica Brown, the consummate senior point guard. Makenzi Reasor, the inside-out threat. Rachel Houck, the hand down, man down three-point sniper. Anna Olson, the Ms. Clean of the backboards. Erica Moore, the not-so-secret weapon. Kelsie Owens, the ultimate ‘glue’ player. And the best part? Coach Julie Shelton preached defense, which is what gave way to Hancock County, Hoosier Heritage Conference, sectional, regional and semistate championships. Yes, a state title would have been serious icing on the cake, but I think I can safely speak for the entire county and say that being along for the ride was good enough.
Runner-up: New Palestine girls’ soccer, which won its sixth-consecutive sectional crown and finished 17-1-3.