Twice, Indian Creek’s season was on the brink of ending.
Twice, the Braves refused to let it happen.
So it’s no surprise they enter the next round of the girls basketball tournament, Saturday’s Class 3A Danville Regional, with the expectation of winning the championship.
True, the Braves aren’t the favorites. But they weren’t the favorites in the sectional field they hosted, either.
Yet they vanquished the two teams that were.
“We can’t look at who’s the favorite to win it or not, because clearly that doesn’t mean anything to us,” said Candace Danz, Indian Creek’s only senior. “If we put our hearts into it and play like we have been, we can be unstoppable.”
So far, the Braves have been unstoppable in the postseason because Danz has been, well, unstoppable.
In three sectional games, she scored a combined 81 points. She had 14 in a first-round blowout of Indianapolis Washington; 31 in a comeback win against favored Ritter; and 36 in an improbable victory against defending champion Danville in the title game.
In that showdown, Danz converted a three-point play in the final 1.4 seconds to lift Indian Creek to a 71-70 win.
But the best news for the Braves is, Danz hasn’t been a one-player show in the tournament. They have received meaningful contributions from every player who’s been on the floor, and that was especially true in the sectional final.
Danz scored the winning points. But the victory path was collectively blazed by a host of young teammates, including — but not limited to — sophomores Addie Rund and Celina McElroy, and freshman Katie Burkman.
Each had a big hand in a win that coach Dan Burkman regarded as a watershed moment for a tight-knit team that now turns its attention to the regional.
“It brought our team together in ways that you can’t measure, as far as team chemistry and bonding,” he said. “So I’m hoping that carries into Saturday, because that is such an important factor and intangible that goes into a team game like basketball.
“It just can’t be overstated how important it is.”
Especially in a regional field that includes 10th-ranked Lebanon (20-6) and Edgewood (17-9), the projected favorites heading in. They play each other in a noon semifinal. Indian Creek plays Brebeuf (8-15) in a 10 a.m. semifinal.
The winners meet for the championship at 8 p.m.
Indian Creek is bidding for what would be their first-ever regional title, and Burkman is confident the Braves’ tough sectional has prepared them for the challenge.
“I can’t think of a better sectional than what we just went through,” he said. “Lebanon is the obvious favorite going in. Edgewood’s a scrappy team that will give Lebanon everything it wants in that game. I feel pretty good about how we match up with Brebeuf.
“If we play our game, we should be OK. If we’re still kind of living in (the celebration) of last Saturday, then I think Brebeuf’s going to take care of us.”
Danz assures the Braves are looking forward, not backward.
“It was exciting, but there are bigger things ahead,” she said. “We have a tough matchup, but we’ve got to get through it.”
(All games Saturday)
At Columbus North
Center Grove (12-12) vs. Columbus North (24-1), 10 a.m.
Bedford North Lawrence (19-7) vs. Evansville Central (23-2), noon
Championship game, 8 p.m.
Brebeuf (8-15) vs. Indian Creek (20-4), 10 a.m.
Edgewood (17-9) vs. Lebanon (20-6), noon
Championship game, 8 p.m.
At Southwestern (Shelby)
Bloomfield (19-5) vs. Jac-Cen-Del (23-1), 10 a.m.
Indianapolis Tindley (23-2) vs. Edinburgh (10-14), noon
Championship game, 7:30 p.m.