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Young Cougars vow to learn from championship loss

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GREENFIELD — Greenfield-Central came up short in its bid to win the inaugural Lady Cougar Holiday tourney, but the host team felt like it came out ahead on the basketball learning curve.

A veteran Fishers squad defeated G-C 46-27 in the championship, outscoring the Cougars 28-7 from the middle of the third quarter.

Senior guard Alex Hochstedler, an All-Hoosier Crossroads Conference guard last season, led Class 4A Fishers (11-3) with 17 points, including 11 points over the pivotal final 12 minutes.

It was the second straight in-season tournament championship for the Tigers, who went 3-0 to capture the Rumble on the River in southern Indiana last week.

“It’s a seasoned team,” said G-C coach Doug Laker, whose squad countered with a pair of freshmen and a sophomore in its starting lineup. “Coach (Michael) Gaines does a great job and that’s why we wanted to get them on the schedule.

“If we want to compete at the big-school level, we’ve got to keep playing these kind of teams. Nothing to be ashamed about. We competed and we played hard.”

Gaines, Fishers’ eighth-year head coach (and a 1996 Greenfield-Central graduate) was forced to make adjustments to hold off the up-and-coming 4A Cougars (7-4).

Thanks to solid, physical defense on both sides, the early score didn’t reflect the quick nature of play. Greenfield-Central took a 16-14 lead into halftime and held a 20-18 advantage following a pair of Madison Wise free throws with four minutes, 21 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

Wise, the Cougars’ freshman five-foot-11 all-around talent, got plenty of good looks at the basket into the third quarter as her teammates took care of the basketball.

That’s when Gaines switched things up.

“The biggest thing was we actually stopped pressuring them so much,” said Gaines, who battled G-C as the Shelbyville head coach prior to taking over at Fishers. “We normally experience some pretty good success with pressuring teams, but their guards handled our pressure extremely well.

“So we told our kids in the second half … take a step back, stay in front of people and make them have to take more contested outside shots if at all possible, and then just block out and board.”

Following Wise’s free throws, the Cougars scored just seven points the rest of the evening. They trailed 30-24 to open the fourth quarter, then suffered a scoreless drought that extended until 59 seconds were left in the game.

Hochstedler added eight rebounds, part of the Tigers’ 29-18 advantage on the boards. Junior center Kara Gerka had 12 points and seven rebounds for Fishers, and junior guard Kara Sugg added 10 points.

Wise led G-C with 14 points and nine rebounds. No other Cougars registered more than four points. Overall, G-C went 10-of-38 from the field, including 1-of-11 from behind the 3-point line.

“We just didn’t shoot the ball well,” Laker said. “But that’s part of it, sometimes you’re going to shoot the ball well and sometimes you’re not.

“Our kids gave effort, they played hard, they bought in to what we’re trying to do. It’s a tough loss, but hopefully it’s an educational loss for us. You’re going to lose some games — you don’t want to, but hopefully we learn something out of it.”

The four-team tourney, which began with G-C’s 76-20 thumping of 2A Centerville (2-8) in the opening round Friday morning, replaced the now defunct Hancock County Tournament for the Cougars.

Laker was a proponent of squashing the county tourney after last season, in part because he didn’t want to face local foes up to three times a season (including the regular season, county tourney and postseason), and the Cougars’ coach wanted his team to see more action against different types of programs.

Gaines, for one, was impressed by what Laker and the Cougars have brewing.

“I know one thing, they’re extremely dangerous,” he said. “That’s the one thing we were constantly preaching to our team coming into this game. They’ve got Wise, who is obviously a tremendous basketball player, and the other kids compliment her game extremely well, because they have so many guards who can help spread the court around her.

“I think they’re a highly competitive team. And moving forward, the amount of varsity experience their group is getting right now … obviously they’re having a good season so far, but there are good things in their future as well.”

Double-digit first-rounders

Fishers took care of 4A Bloomington North 57-39 in the first round, led by 18 points apiece from Hochstedler and Gerka.

Bloomington North (5-9) went on to beat 2A Centerville 45-33 in the consolation.

Centerville’s day got off to a rough start. First, the Bulldogs’ bus broke down on U.S. 40 on the way to Greenfield, causing a delay in their arrival. When they showed up, Greenfield-Central jumped out to a 31-8 first-quarter lead in the game-day opener.

Wise (22 points), freshman Katie Helgason (17 points) and sophomore Savannah Girolami (eight points) led the blowout, which included 27 G-C steals and 32 Centerville turnovers.

Around the rim

Wise, Helgason and junior guard Shelby Oldham were selected for the All-Tourney Team for G-C; along with Fishers’ Hochstedler, Gerka, Sugg and Brooklyn Banks; Bloomington North’s Josie Staggs and Emma St. John; and Centerville’s Makayla McFarland. … Laker said he’d like to make this an eight-team tourney next season, probably over two days. … Fishers won the JV tourney title, defeating the Cougars 47-36 in the title game. G-C walloped Centerville 53-4 in the opening round. … The Cougars’ 76 points in the varsity opener marked their highest-scoring effort since a 78-47 win over Eastern Hancock on Dec. 27, 2011; and the 27-point championship output was the Cougars’ fewest since at least the 1999-2000 season (records weren’t immediately available for any further back).

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