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TERRE HAUTE — When it comes to the diamond, Hancock County is no stranger to state championships.

New Palestine baseball and softball teams and the Mt. Vernon softball program have combined to win five Indiana High School Athletic Association titles, with all of those state championships coming since the spring of 2000.

Beyond the diamond, Greenfield-Central (1973) and Eastern Hancock (1985) proudly claim football state trophies. And a handful of wrestlers, cross country and track and field athletes have grabbed IHSAA individual championships for local schools.

Hancock County teams were not on the hallowed list of winners in Indiana’s most treasured pastime, though, until Saturday.

Mt. Vernon beat Hamilton Heights 61-47 to win the Class 3A girls basketball title. At the school for 16 years, MV assistant principal and girls athletic director Greg Roach was on hand for MV’s last and only team title: the 2000 softball team’s 2A championship.

“It is rare, there’s no question about that,” he said. “Our softball team won it and the next year we thought we would win it again and we got beat in the regional by Roncalli.

“And then we’ve had some girls (basketball) teams through the years we felt like really had a good chance and sometimes couldn’t even get out of the sectional, the other teams were so good.”

Roach was in his second year at Mt. Vernon when Julie Shelton took over the girls basketball program. Shelton was also the head volleyball coach at the time.

Long witness to Shelton’s leadership, Roach said the coach had one of her toughest challenges this season as the team dealt with injuries and other issues.

“This team, with all the adversity, you just kept wondering, would that be the thing that sets us back so we can’t get through? And, I tell you what … they fought through it. These kids are tough. They’re a reflection of their coach, definitely.

“Julie has expectations and she makes the kids meet those expectations. She doesn’t change them or lower them just because times get tough. It makes them better young ladies, but it also helps them be successful on the basketball court. When things get tough, they can persevere because they’re used to that high standard.  And they expect it of themselves; I truly believe that.”

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