TERRE HAUTE — Through it all, Rachel Houck was there.
No matter the adversity faced by the Mt. Vernon girls basketball team this year — and the last four years — Houck has been a leadership anchor for the now-state champion Marauders.
Houck was recognized for her athletic ability and overall importance to the Marauders by being named the Class 3A Patricia L. Roy Mental Attitude Award winner Saturday after the Marauders’ 61-47 title win over Hamilton Heights.
“The heart and soul of our team,” said Mt. Vernon head coach Julie Shelton, describing Houck, a full-time varsity player as a freshman and a starter each of the last three years. “Can’t say enough about her. Very, very deserving of mental attitude. Very deserving of winning a state championship.
“Unbelievable player. She scored over 900 points. Great defensive player. Probably in our top five steals ever at Mt. Vernon.”
Shelton is also a former Mental Attitude Award winner. She claimed the honor in 1989 as a member of the Seymour volleyball team.
Houck, the only Marauder to start all 27 games this season as the team was decimated by injury, was presented with a souvenir check symbolizing the $1,000 scholarship that will be awarded to Mt. Vernon in Houck’s name.
Houck was one of three seniors on the Mt. Vernon squad, along with Krista Shockley and Ellie Balbach.
While Houck had nine points Saturday, Balbach scored six points and grabbed nine rebounds and Shockley had two points, making her only field goal attempt.
The seniors’ magical run was not about statistics, though. It was about friendship.
“I love Rachel,” Shockley commented. “I could not have done this whole basketball season without Rachel and Ellie. They’re awesome, and I wouldn’t have traded them for the world.”
That bond was evident post-game. Asked about winning the Mental Attitude Award, Houck was polite, but not expansive.
The guard — and two-time defending Hancock County Softball Player of the Year bound for the University of Louisville on a softball scholarship — lit up at the mention of Balbach, however.
Teammates on the softball field, shortstop Houck has watched Balbach, a pitcher, dominate opposing batters. It was not until Saturday that Balbach turned in perhaps her best hoops effort; the nine rebounds were a season-high and helped MV take a 38-22 rebounding edge over the Huskies.
“I’m really proud of Ellie, because the whole tournament she has stepped up and played awesome,” Houck said. “If she doesn’t play like that, we could have lost. I’m just really proud of her.”
The Marauders will likely enter the softball campaign later this month ranked in the top 10 in 3A, just as the basketball team was this winter.
“I hope so, that would be awesome,” Houck said of a possible softball state title. “But, you know how that goes. A lot of things have to go right. No matter what happens in softball, we’ve got this one.”