For the third time in five years, the Indian Creek girls basketball team made it to the championship game of the Class 3A regional.
Unfortunately for the Braves, “3” wasn’t a magic number as an experienced Lebanon squad wore down Indian Creek in Saturday night’s final, 47-39.
The Tigers’ 2-3 zone and physical play was too much to overcome.
So was Lebanon’s Indiana Miss Basketball candidate, 5-foot-11 senior Kristen Spolyer.
Spolyer led all scorers with 29 points and finished with nine rebounds. She ended up fouling out with 39 seconds left in the game, but the Class 3A No. 10 Tigers had pretty much sealed their semistate berth.
Something also played out in the game that wasn’t in the Braves favor.
“I think experience played a big role,” Indian Creek coach Dan Burkman said. “You can’t replace that, but I prepared the girls all week for this. They took everything Lebanon threw at them.”
That preparation showed in the first quarter as the Braves took an 11-8 lead.
Lebanon (22-6) is known as a physical team, but Indian Creek would not be intimidated.
However, the Braves’ troubles were the ones they seemed to have all season, which is controlling the ball.
Indian Creek had 13 first-half turnovers (23 overall), mostly on errant passes.
Another mistake that won’t be registered in the stat sheet was missed opportunities in the form of missing the wide-open player.
Indian Creek on numerous offensive possessions didn’t see the open player alone camped in front of the basket that could have resulted in an easy basket.
The Braves trailed by only a point at halftime and three starting the fourth quarter, so there was plenty of time to exhibit some patience and make the proper play.
Lebanon’s second-half defense also proved to be a factor.
“We’ve been really working hard on our defense this year,” said Lebanon coach Beth DeVinney. “At times when we play really well it’s a thing of beauty, and at other times it’s ugly and it was pretty ugly in the first half.
“Then we started to get into the flow of things and it was fantastic.”
Indian Creek was limited to only nine fourth-quarter points.
Even with a minute to go and his team down by six, Burkman was positive something good could happen given Indian Creek’s flair for late-game dramatics this season.
“I thought for a moment we had a crack at it, but we just couldn’t get the ball to bounce our way,” Burkman said. “If we could have just gotten a basket, I thought we could have maybe changed the direction, but it didn’t happen.”
The loss ended the Braves season at 21-5, and also snapped a season-high 11-game win streak.
Indian Creek had not lost since Jan. 2, when Brownsburg stopped the Braves.
Senior Candace Danz ended her outstanding career with the Braves, leading them with 13 points. Celina McElroy added 11.
This Indian Creek squad won 21 games for the first time in program history, won its second straight outright Mid-Hoosier Conference title and garnered important wins over 4A rivals Greenwood and Martinsville.
The Braves earned the trip to Saturday night’s title contest with a big win over Brebeuf Jesuit in the morning semifinals, 65-53.
In that game, the Braves had held a 16-point lead, saw it fritter away to a tenuous six-point lead and held firm to beat Brebeuf.
Danz led the Braves in that contest with 23 points. Freshman Katie Burkman added 19, including five first-half 3-point shots.
Addie Rund added 12.