How Mackenzie Blazek feels about Cassidy Hardin’s talents on the basketball court can change quickly depending on whether or not the two are on the same team.
“It’s kind of annoying,” Blazek said, “because when we’re playing together I’m like, ‘Yeah, she just hit another 3!’ — and then when we’re not it’s like, ‘She just hit another 3.'”
The reverse is true as well — Hardin is more likely to appreciate Blazek’s shot-blocking abilities when she’s not on the receiving end.
“You might think you have a wide-open layup,” Hardin said, “and she’s like, ‘Nope.'”
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Over the past four years, the two best girls basketball players in Johnson County have developed a heated but friendly rivalry — and they finish their senior season sharing the Daily Journal’s Player of the Year honors.
Hardin has had the upper hand from a team standpoint — Center Grove has won county and sectional titles three times in her four seasons, including a run to the Class 4A regional final this year.
Blazek, though, became the face of Whiteland’s program, taking a team that went 1-20 the year before her arrival and leading it to 53 wins in four seasons, including a school-record 19 this winter.
Individually, both have put up some big numbers. Blazek finished her career with 1,536 points and 312 blocked shots, and her 1,165 rebounds rank her fifth in Indiana history. She is believed to be the 15th girl in the state to surpass both 1,000 points and 1,000 boards. Hardin, meanwhile, finishes eighth in state history with 260 3-pointers made, and her 96 makes this year were the fifth highest single-season total of all time statewide. She ranks second on the Trojans’ career scoring list with 1,306 points.
While they’ve had to battle with one another on the court throughout high school, Blazek and Hardin have also had plenty of experience playing together, spending two and a half years as teammates on the Indiana Flight Thunder AAU team. They’ll have one more chance to collaborate this summer as members of the Indiana All-Stars.
“She’s definitely the best shooter I’ve played with, which it’s awesome to play with,” Blazek said. “But now it’s going to be another four years of against.”
Like it would make sense any other way.
The next chapter in the rivalry will be written on the courts of the Big Ten — Blazek is playing her college ball at Illinois, while Hardin will be suiting up for Purdue.
About the only thing that will change is the uniforms.
“I think it’s going to be the exact same,” Hardin said.
Which means that for the next four years, the two will continue trying to destroy one another on the court — and then laugh about it together after the final buzzer sounds.
“The second time we played, I took her out,” Blazek recalled. “I was like, ‘Oh, are you okay?’ We’re super competitive on the court, but now we joke around every time we see each other.”
The 2017-18 All-Johnson County team for girls basketball:
Mackenzie Blazek, Whiteland junior: One of just 15 players in Indiana history with more than 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in her career. … Averaged 18.4 points, 14.2 boards, 4.0 blocks and 2.5 assists while helping Warriors win Mid-State Conference title and set school record for wins.
Cassidy Hardin, Center Grove junior: Purdue signee led the Trojans in scoring (17.5) and steals (2.9) and ranked among the state leaders with 96 3-pointers made and 17 charges taken. … Helped lead Center Grove to Class 4A regional final. … Ranks third on school’s career scoring list with 1,306 points.
Leah Moore, Greenwood senior: Multifaceted forward averaged team-high 14.9 points and 6.3 rebounds while helping Woodmen elevate win total from four to 11. … Also ranked second on team in steals and blocked shots.
Ella Thompson, Center Grove junior: Guard led the Trojans in rebounding (4.6 per game) and averaged 8.4 points and 3.0 assists. … Connected on 36 3-point shots and contributed 30 steals.
Emma Utterback, Center Grove junior: Disruptive on-the-ball defender who had 43 steals despite missing five games due to illness. … Averaged 8.9 points and a team-leading 3.1 assists.
Kyra Baker, Franklin; Sidney Beier, Edinburgh; Katie Burkman, Indian Creek; Amy Davis, Center Grove; Maya Elliott, Franklin; Karinna Frankel, Center Grove; Hannah Grider, Indian Creek; Megan Harlow, Whiteland; Toni Joyner, Whiteland; Alex Kincaid, Greenwood; Sarah Mangan, GCA; Celina McElroy, Indian Creek; Alexis Mead, GCA; Grace Peters, GCA; Destiney Ramey, Edinburgh; Izzy Reed, GCA; Hailee Robbins, Franklin; Addie Rund, Indian Creek; Caitlin Snyder, Indian Creek; Brooklyn Stubblefield, Greenwood; Natalie Stuck, Whiteland; Bailee Taft, Greenwood; Trinity Tatlock, Edinburgh