Coach Dan Burkman has every reason to feel good about the sectional.
Yet for some reason, he doesn’t.
Never mind that the Indian Creek girls basketball team is 16-4. Or won eight of its final nine regular-season games. Or has the best record in the Class 3A Greencastle Sectional field.
None of it guarantees anything, Burkman insists, if the Braves don’t clean up a few sloppy areas — and get healthy by Friday’s semifinal showdown against defending champion Tri-West (15-6).
“Maybe I’m getting harder to please in my older age. We’re 16-4, so we’ve done something right this year, but I’m just not feeling as good as I probably should,” Burkman said. “I don’t know why. We haven’t been playing the greatest.
“We’ve had some people sick. It makes me a little nervous going into the sectional.”
Nervous, perhaps, but not discouraged.
Despite misgivings about shaky execution, Burkman is not down on the Braves. He applauds improvement in a former trouble spot (turnovers) and is confident the sectional title is theirs for the taking.
But he’s equally concerned consistency and chemistry could put it out of reach.
For example, the Braves were stronger in rebounding the first half the season than they have been the second half. Defense has been spotty, and their impressive record belies the fact two freshmen have been part of a starting lineup that has only one senior.
“We’re young. I play two freshmen quite a bit, and I think it’s taken some time to kind of integrate and build some chemistry with everybody out there,” said Burkman, who has guided the Braves to two sectional titles during his six seasons as coach. “We are taking care of the ball a little better, a lot better than last year.
“Compared to the start of the season, we’re doing a better job, and that’s probably the biggest thing.”
And that’s why Burkman is cautiously optimistic about the Braves’ chances of winning their first championship since 2013 — if they can strengthen their rebounding and defensive weaknesses.
Junior Candace Danz is a prolific scorer and one of the area’s top players. Freshman center Celina McElroy and freshman guard Addie Rund have enjoyed big scoring nights, as has senior point guard Alexis McGregor.
On the depth front, Indian Creek has a strong bench in senior Raven Danz and Cassie Smith, who each draw starting assignments depending on matchups, and senior Michaela Smith and freshman Lacie Tekulvie.
Seems the only missing element heading into the postseason is consistency — the element Burkman fears could be the Braves’ undoing.
“We’re definitely going to have to get back to where we’re rebounding the ball better and playing better defense,” Burkman said. “I think that’s where we’ve been suffering, and that’s probably where I’ve been frustrated. We’re giving too many teams too many chances to score.
“So we need to clamp down on defense and limit teams to one shot.”
If the Braves can do both, Burkman has an entirely different outlook on the sectional.
“Expectations are pretty high. I feel like we should win the sectional if we come out and play right,” he said. “I personally think that Danville and Indian Creek are probably the favorites, but I also think anybody in that sectional could win it. I do think it’s pretty wide open.
“You’ve got Tri-West, Beech Grove, Danville and us, all of who I think legitimately could win.”
2014-15 REGULAR-SEASON RESULTS
Nov. 14;at Knightstown;W 74-43
Nov. 15;Monrovia;W 57-32
Nov. 18; *at Whiteland;L 44-42
Nov. 22;(*) Ednburgh;W 64-23
Nov. 29;Eastern Hancock;W 68-42
Dec. 2;at Morristown;W 55-44
Dec. 6;Covenant Christian;W 63-56
Dec. 9;Hauser;W 70-36
Dec. 13;at Martinsville;L 54-43
Jan. 3;**at Franklin;L 66-51
Jan. 3;(**) Batesville;W 56-51
Jan. 7;Edinburgh;W 66-28
Jan. 10;at North Decatur;W 66-59
Jan. 15;at Edgewood;W 48-35
Jan. 17;Waldron;W 62-25
Jan. 23;at Southwestern (Shelby);W 74-57
Jan. 31;South Decatur;W 61-36
Feb. 3;Greenwood;L 70-53
Feb. 5;Brown County;W 62-52
*Johnson County Tournament
What: Class 3A girls basketball sectional
Admission: $6 per session; $10 for all games
Friday’s semifinals: 6 p.m., Indian Creek vs. Tri-West Hendricks; 7:30 p.m., Greencastle vs. winner Beech Grove-Danville
Saturday’s championship: 7:30 p.m.