BEST GIRLS TEAM
BRIAN: Mt. Vernon basketball
Everything mentioned in the Best Coach (Julie Shelton) column applies here: the challenges this team faced would have sunk most groups of girls. But, thanks to the leadership of players such as seniors Rachel Houck, Ellie Balbach and Krista Shockley, the Marauders culminated the year with a 61-47 state finals win over Hamilton Heights on March 2, becoming the first Hancock County basketball team to win a championship. That same Huskies team beat MV 70-61 in a regular season game on Nov. 21. Notice that MV scored the same number of points in each game; it just allowed 23 fewer points on the biggest stage. Defense takes heart and unselfishness, and these Marauders had an abundance of both.
Runner-up: Greenfield-Central girls track wins county, finishes third at sectional, its best team placement in over a decade; Only Hancock County school to send two athletes to track State Finals.
GRANT: Eastern Hancock everything
The cross country team won the Mid-Hoosier Conference Meet in its first attempt and was the first squad in school history to compete at the semistate level. Led by county co-Players of the Year Jordian Eastes and Frannie Stephenson, the volleyball squad recorded a program-best 28 wins, captured its first sectional championship in nearly 30 years and its first-ever regional title. The girls track team also claimed blue ribbon honors in its inaugural MHC Meet, and wound up picking up four sectional wins and 11 regional qualifiers. Lastly, county co-Player of the Year Savannah Blevins and the softball unit won 24 games, the program’s second sectional title and its initial regional championship.
Runner-up: Greenfield-Central soccer snaps New Palestine’s six-year sectional winning streak with 2-0 shutout in championship game.
BEST MALE ATHLETE
BRIAN: G-C wrestler Josh Farrell
Student-athletes come and go. That’s not meant to be flippant, but each year an outstanding crop of male and female seniors move on to the next phase of their lives, and the next group of studs — nearly all of them well-spoken and polite individuals — take over. When it comes to Josh Farrell, though, he will not easily be replaced. The 152-pound undefeated state champion this winter, Farrell never met a stranger. He is just about the best dude a person could ever hope to meet. And, I’m not ashamed to say, he’ll be missed by this sportswriter.
Runner-up: Tyler Dicks, Mt. Vernon senior rushed for Hancock County-best 1,852 yards.
GRANT: New Pal wrestler CJ Red
I’ve been stationed nearly two years in Hancock County now, and Red was by far the most hyped freshman I’ve encountered. And boy, did Red back up the buildup — and then some. Ranked No. 1 in the state prior to the season, Red was dominant, finishing 48-0 and securing a state title in the 106-pound division. He won two of his state finals matches by pin and shut out East Noble’s Garrett Pepple 4-0 in the championship match.
Runner-up: Mouhamed Konate, Mt. Vernon junior forward earned county Player of the Year honors by scoring 24 goals, a single-season MV record. MoKo also had the deciding goal in the sectional final.
BEST FEMALE ATHLETE
BRIAN: MV forward Erica Moore
Erica Moore is unguardable one-on-one at the high school level. Moore, a junior forward in March when the Marauders won their state title, had the perfect teammate in sharp-shooting frosh Sydney Shelton. Moore pulled down 15 rebounds and registered 14 points in the 3A championship game while being smothered by multiple Hamilton Heights players and Shelton lit up the Huskies for 29 points, including five 3-pointers. They’re both future Division I players, and Shelton, in a tease of tomorrow’s Best in Show Part II, ran away with Best Debut.
Runner-up: Sammie McCoy, Greenfield-Central junior soccer forward led county in scoring with 27 goals and won the 100-meter dash at track sectional.
GRANT: EH's Kiersten Schrope
Schrope the point guard was first-team all-county, netting 14 points and a county-best six assists a game. Schrope the runner won the Mid-Hoosier cross country meet, took all four of her events at the MHC track competition and repeated as sectional champion in the 800 meters.
Runner-up: Rachel Houck, Mt. Vernon senior won a state title playing shooting guard and was county co-Player of the year at shortstop.
BEST BOYS TEAM
BRIAN: MV basketball
A 24-2 record, 17 straight wins, a sectional victory over the defending 3A state champ and the program’s first regional title since 1991 were all impressive. But it was the Marauders’ consistency I found remarkable. Teams simply could not score against the zone designed by head coach Steve Lynch. Before bowing out at semistate to eventual 3A state championship winner Greensburg, the Marauders did not allow an opponent to score more than 52 points all season. MV won the county tourney by giving up 59 points — total, in two games. Hamilton Southeastern, led by future Mr. Basketball Zak Irvin, was held to 49 points in a loss. All told, it was the best team defense I’ve seen in over a dozen years covering high school sports.
Runner-up: Mt. Vernon football, claimed an outright Hoosier Heritage Conference championship and the program’s first sectional crown in six seasons. The Marauders went 11-2, falling to eventual 4A state champion Cathedral in the regional championship.
GRANT: G-C baseball
The generally camouflage-clad Cougars announced their legitimacy when they battled 4A power Greenwood to a 10-inning tie at Victory Field in April, and the confidence gained from that game lasted until their regional semifinal defeat to Cathedral. Paced by the two-way dominance of Hancock Co-Player of the Year Curtiss Irving, G-C excelled on the mound (staff ERA of 2.50) and at the plate (.306 average with runners in scoring position). The strong numbers resulted in the program’s initial Hoosier Heritage Conference title and first sectional championship in seven years.
Runner-up: HHC champion Mt. Vernon boys soccer beats NP in OT for sectional title, nearly wins regional.
BRIAN: Julie Shelton, Mt. Vernon girls basketball
I’ve looked back on the MV girls’ run to the 3A state championship countless times, and it never ceases to amaze. Two of the Marauders’ best four players suffered knee injuries that required surgery, and one of the girls never made it back on the court. Another of the Marauders’ best players was a freshman who had to be eased into the lineup without disrupting chemistry. And several role players, virtually none of whom saw considerable playing time the previous season, had to be brought up to speed. Always competitive, Julie Shelton does some of her best coaching when adversity is strongest. This season, she rose to the biggest of challenges and came away on top.
Runner-up: Jack Heiden led Eastern Hancock softball to 24-7 mark with conference, sectional and regional titles.
GRANT: Brian Murphy, Greenfield-Central baseball
Murphy felt he needed to recharge after his resignation from Warren Central following the 2012 season. But, he couldn’t resist applying for the Greenfield-Central vacancy after Travis Keesling departed for Pendleton Heights. Opposing coaches often spoke of Murphy’s ability to balance getting the best out of his team while making the game fun for his players. Murphy had the perfect touch in 2013, sweeping Mt. Vernon and New Palestine while acquiring long-awaited conference and sectional crowns.
Runner-up: Doug Armstrong, coach of 11-2 Mt. Vernon football team.
BRIAN: NP's Schwartz wins county cross country meet
My story had basically been written, in my head anyway. As the Hancock County Cross Country Meet commenced last September at Brandywine Park in Greenfield, I was thinking, ‘After the race, talk to Schrope or Cook or Crosby or Purvis … whichever of those girls wins.’ Eastern Hancock’s Kiersten Schrope, Elizabeth Cook of Mt. Vernon, New Palestine’s Marissa Crosby and Greenfield-Central’s Kara Purvis were all decorated, veteran runners. And they were all defeated by Sarah Schwartz, a Dragons’ freshman who hadn’t even been quick enough to make her middle school varsity squad the previous fall. Her otherwordly improvement ruined the story I had cooking in my mind, but the Schwartz version turned out to be a much better tale.
Runner-up: Another freshman runner out of nowhere, Greenfield-Central’s Zach Bishop secured a fourth-place track regional qualifying spot in the 3200. Bishop finished ahead of a field that included decorated Hancock County runner Seth Eagleson.
GRANT: EH football routs Hagerstown
With a stout defense and a monster effort from a pair of offensive stalwarts, second-year coach Pat Echeverria earned Eastern Hancock’s first postseason win in six years with a stunning 42-14 Sectional 37 quarterfinal triumph over Hagerstown, which was 9-0 and ranked fifth in Class A before its fateful encounter with the Royals. Echeverria’s defense held a Tiger offense that was putting up 41 points every Friday night to its lowest output of the season. Sophomore quarterback Logan Splater (177 total yards, two touchdowns) and junior running back Spencer Gilbert (171 total yards, three touchdowns) delivered clutch performances offensively. EH, 4-5 heading into the contest, rode that momentum all the way to the sectional title game.
Runner-up: New Palestine boys basketball upsets undefeated 3A No. 1 Mt. Vernon 52-51 on February 15, ending the Marauders’ 17-game win streak to begin the season.
Wednesday, PART II: Best Game, Best Debut, Best Hire, Best Play, Best Athlete Twitter Account, Best Atmosphere/Venue, Best Quote and more!