FORTVILLE — Sydney Shelton was in the rare position of making it nearly all the way through her sophomore season without experiencing a “permanent” loss.
When Shelton’s Marauders walked off the court at the Spartan Bowl in Connersville on Feb. 15, their sectional championship loss to Anderson meant a second consecutive state title trophy would not grace the Mt. Vernon High School athletic entrance.
Shelton netted a game-high 19 points in the Marauders’ 43-41, season-ending loss. One year earlier, then-freshman Shelton scorched Hamilton Heights for 29 points, including a 3A State Finals record five 3-pointers, in a 61-47 MV victory.
Ending 2014 with a loss — at the sectional level, no less — took some getting used to.
“I was in a bad mood, because I was used to going to State,” Shelton said. “It was just really hard ending that one day and knowing that your friends that are still going on will be playing the next Saturday and you won’t be.”
Mt. Vernon had won three straight sectional titles, including a tourney run in 2012-13 that ended as the Class 3A state runner-up. The end of the championship streak coincided this season with their first foray into Class 4A, which will be their home for the foreseeable future.
Winning had become somewhat customary for the black-and-gold, who went more than four years without a Hoosier Heritage Conference loss before Greenfield-Central delivered a 47-38 stunner Jan. 24.
Four participants in that regular season classic are part of the Daily Reporter’s 2013-14 All-Hancock County Girls Basketball Team. In voting by coaches and media, Shelton edged G-C freshman Madison Wise for Player of the Year honors, and Shelton and Wise are joined on the squad of premier local talent by Eastern Hancock senior Kiersten Schrope, Mt. Vernon junior Olivia Coleman and Greenfield-Central junior Regan Lewis.
MV went on to beat Greenfield-Central in a sectional quarterfinal rematch and finished 17-5, sharing the conference crown with the Cougars and Pendleton Heights. Overall, it’s a season many programs would hold up as a beacon. For Shelton, the sectional title shortfall served as a wakeup call.
“I think that’s what I needed,” the 5-foot-7 guard said. “Because this year I was like, ‘Oh we went to state last year, we can do it again this year.’ But I guess I didn’t realize that we might lose.
“So I think that gives me more motivation for my junior year. Because now it’s going to be, ‘We want to get back to state like we did the first year and not my sophomore year.’”
Determined not to let her prep career highlight be from her rookie campaign, Shelton will enter this offseason bound to elevate her individual game, just as she did last offseason.
Shelton, who has already received 10 Division I basketball offers, led Hancock County in scoring for a second straight year, this season at 20.4 points per game (up from 18.6 as a frosh). She also averaged 5.1 rebounds (up from 4.0) and a team-best 3.2 assists (the same).
Shelton, who is just 50 points shy of 1,000 for her career, scorched the nets for 50 3-pointers as a freshman and 52 more this time around. Her coach implored Shelton to work on defense and rebounding as a sophomore, and the youngster came through.
“I think she improved in every area,” MV coach Julie Shelton (Sydney’s aunt) said. “There’s always room to improve more, but her rebounding was better. On defense, she played hard.
“Really, she’s just a phenomenal player who does everything pretty well.”
That talent has not gone unnoticed. Sydney has taken a number of unofficial college visits and has received offers from Indiana, Indiana State, Evansville, Butler, Dayton, Michigan State, Ohio State, Kentucky, St. John’s and Marquette.
Another offseason on the club circuit will likely elicit more attention.
“I’m trying to narrow them down, but right now I’m not ready to make a decision,” Sydney said. “I still have the rest of the summer to play, and I don’t know what’s going to happen and what’s going to come my way.
“I like all of the schools so far for a lot of different reasons. I think they’re all great options and I couldn’t be more blessed to have those options. I think when the time comes, you’ll just kind of know.”
Erica Moore, Shelton’s senior teammate, earned an Indiana All-Star nod earlier this week, two years after Jessica Brown became the Marauders’ first All-Star since 2000.
Moore and Brown were Junior All-Stars, as well, an accolade that is more than likely headed Shelton’s way next winter.
“It’s definitely one of my goals to be a Junior All-Star and Indiana All-Star, and one of my main goals is to be Indiana Miss Basketball,” she said. “But, the team comes first.
“It’s so much more important that we play as a team. That’s definitely more important than whatever you do individually.”
Greenfield Daily Reporter All-Hancock County 2013-14 Girls Basketball Team voting results. Head coaches Brian Kehrt (New Palestine), Doug Laker (Greenfield-Central), Jeremy Powers (Eastern Hancock) and Julie Shelton (Mt. Vernon) and media Brian Harmon (DR sports editor), Grant Freking (DR sportswriter) and Chris Lambert (HancockCountySports.com) voted for 10 players, beginning with best player. Top player listed on each ballot received 10 votes; No. 2, nine votes; and so on. Top overall vote getter is Player of the Year. No. 1 votes listed below in parentheses. Each voter also selected a Coach of the Year.
Sydney Shelton, MV (4) 67
Madison Wise, GC (2) 64
Olivia Coleman, MV 51
Kiersten Schrope, EH (1) 50
Regan Lewis, GC 38
Erica Moore, MV 21
Natalie Kehrt, NP 19
Shelby Oldham, GC 17
Hannah Best, EH 15
Haley Stratman, NP 13
All-County Honorable Mention: Ariana Sandefur (MV) 9, Savannah Girolami (GC) 7, Katie Helgason (GC) 6, Kristin Eischen (EH) 6, Shaely Duff (MV) 1, Darby Shaw (EH) 1
Player of the Year:
Sydney Shelton, Mt. Vernon
Coach of the Year:
Julie Shelton, Mt. Vernon
Shelton received three votes; Laker, two; Kehrt and Powers, one each