NEW PALESTINE — Player heights weren’t listed in the official program handed out at The Special Children’s All-Star Classic Friday at New Palestine.
But it didn’t take more than a cursory glance at the court to notice Shelby County was at a decided vertical advantage over Hancock County for both genders of the girls-boys charity doubleheader that benefited children with special needs.
In a matchup of senior boys from each county, Shelby County used its length to grab scores of offensive rebounds and knock down 14 3-pointers in an 86-63 win.
“We didn’t have Seth (Cox) and CJ (Coleman), whose kind of big for a point guard, so that kind of hurt us a little bit,” said New Palestine forward Connor Roach, who led Hancock County with 15 points.
Cox, a 7-footer out of New Palestine, and Mt. Vernon’s Coleman (6-3), were unavailable to help out their fellow seniors Friday due to injury.
In the girls contest, there was no need for the Shelby gals to grab boards and kick it back out to the perimeter – Southwestern center Oda Shackelford and Triton Central post Sarah Rogian didn’t miss many attempts from inside in leading Shelby to a 66-50 victory.
After a 10-10 split in the first quarter, Shackelford registered eight of her game-high 20 points in the second quarter to give Shelby County a 34-27 edge at the break, and Hancock County’s southern neighbors were in control the rest of the evening. Rogian notched six of her 12 points in the fourth quarter, which Shelby County won by an 18-11 margin.
Annie Thomas, a Southwestern guard and Shelby County’s all-time leading scorer, had 13 points.
Hannah Best of Eastern Hancock led Hancock County with 15 points. After the loss, the spirits of Best and her teammates remained high.
“I think we just wanted to have fun,” Best said. “This was our last high school basketball game. So we just wanted to work hard and enjoy it.”
Best’s Eastern Hancock teammate, Lauren Harmon, added eight points.
The Royals’ season ended two months ago with a sectional title loss to Knightstown, so Friday served as a pressureless cap to their careers.
“That was a really serious game,” Harmon recalled of the sectional loss. “Obviously, we wanted to win tonight, but this was more about just going out and doing our best, but also just enjoying the experience.
“Our group of seniors has been together since sixth grade. We had a good run.”
The girls contest was essentially the best of Shelby County – with players from Southwestern, Triton Central, Waldron and Shelbyville – versus Eastern Hancock seniors and New Palestine sophomores and juniors.
Greenfield-Central doesn’t have any senior girls, and Mt. Vernon seniors weren’t available Friday. So the host Dragons, also without any seniors this season, helped the Royals fill out the squad.
NP junior Gia Nitschke had 10 points and sophomore Katlyn Keele added eight points.
During stops in the action of both games Friday, special needs children and players from each squad mingled. At halftime of the boys game, Families United for Support and Encouragement (FUSE), a Hancock County-based organization that provides for special needs kids and their families, was presented with a check for $1,934.
“I felt like I was making a difference,” Best said. “To come out and do something I love for somebody else that can’t come out and play in a basketball game like we can.”
The true meaning of the event, which was sponsored by The Lions Club, wasn’t lost on the losing Hancock County boys team, either.
Roach, the New Palestine forward, said his favorite part of the evening was meeting a special needs child and presented them with a basketball. Each special kid on hand Friday was given a donated basketball by one of the Hancock or Shelby players.
Roach’s least enjoyable part of the night was the up-and-down pace.
“We’re all out of shape - very out of shape,” he said with a laugh.
Hancock County trailed the Shelby County boys 23-8 after the first quarter, but Hancock County never stopped trying to get back into things. And, after trailing 42-19 at halftime, Hancock County made it an even 24-24 second half.
New Palestine guard Solomon Haynes had 12 points. Mt. Vernon’s Caleb Deckard (eight points) and Alec Lohman (five points); Greenfield-Central’s Grant Gellert (six points) and Grant Wolfe (four points); and Eastern Hancock’s Isaiah McCormick (six points), Caleb Wallen (five points) and Garrett Hancock (two points) also contributed.
Southwestern’s Logan Laughlin (15 points) and Dalton Hudson (14 points) and TC’s Derek Way (13 points) combined for 10 3-pointers to lead the victors.
The local squads were coached by Eastern Hancock’s Aaron Spaulding (boys) and Jeremy Powers (girls). The rivals from Shelby County were led by Triton Central’s Cary Chandler (boys) and Southwestern’s Bill Taylor (girls).
Powers flashed a smile most of the night, as did all of the other participants. The scoreboard might have displayed a Hancock County loss. But it was a win for special needs kids.
Everyone involved in the event – coaches, players, scorekeepers, referees, concession workers – donated their time.
“It’s a great way to give back to the community, and that’s what this is really about,” Powers said. “For these (special needs) kids to be touched by a simple basketball. Seeing a couple of those kids out there shooting at the hoop afterwards … that’s what it’s about. It’s pretty cool.”
Shelby County 86, Hancock County 63
SCORE BY QUARTERS
SC 23 19 22 22 — 86
HC 8 11 21 23 — 63
SC — Laughlin 15, Hudson 14, Way 13, Reinbold 9, Garner 9, Munson 7, Shepherdson 6, Borders 5, Wooten 3, Clapp 3, Thomas 2.
HC — Roach 15, Haynes 12, Deckard 8, Gellert 6, McCormick 6, Wallen 5, Lohman 5, Wolfe 4, Hancock 2, Lytle 0, Davidson 0.
Shelby County 66, Hancock County 50
SCORE BY QUARTERS
SC 10 24 14 18 — 66
HC 10 17 12 11 — 50
SC — Shackelford 20, Thomas 13, Rogian 12, Schuneman 10, Gill 7, Pierce 4, Temple 0, Kistler 0, McKee 0, Stephens 0.
HC — Best 15, Nitschke 10, Harmon 8, Keele 6, Eischen 6, Schrope 3, Laughlin 2, Mench 0.