The 359 days that have passed since Indian Creek last played a girls basketball game at Beech Grove High School haven’t been a cure-all for what ails the Braves.
It’s lessened the sting but not removed it.
Since losing to Tri-West in overtime in last season’s Class 3A sectional championship game at Beech Grove, Indian Creek coach Dan Burkman sensed his program might get another opportunity to play the Bruins.
Tonight is the night as these teams, co-favorites at the six-team Beech Grove site with identical 16-5 records, square off at 7:30.
“When you think of the draw, you’re thinking of various situations, what could happen or couldn’t happen,” said Burkman, whose squad brings plenty of momentum to the rematch, having won eight of its final nine regular-season games. “I was happy with the way the draw came out. I wanted us to either play Tri-West in the first round or in the championship game.”
Burkman took his team to Beech Grove for a Saturday morning practice as a means to re-familiarize his players with the surroundings.
Understandably, those couple of hours proved eerie for Braves senior point guard Brooke Mathena, who suffered an ACL tear during the second quarter of last year’s 75-70 loss to Tri-West. Mathena bravely attempted to play some minutes in the second half but clearly was nowhere near 100 percent.
“I still think about that game every now and then,” said Mathena, a starter in all 21 games this season who averages 11.7 points, 3.6 assists and 2.4 steals. “I was pretty shocked when we drew Tri-West, but I was excited, too.”
Indian Creek’s other senior, 5-11 do-everything Ally Lehman, leads the Braves in scoring (25.4), rebounding (12.2), assists (5), steals (5.5) and blocks (1.6). Lost in hers and Mathena’s numbers are the leadership they’ve provided to what otherwise is a young ballclub.
“I am really happy where we are as a team. At the end of the regular season, your team is either ready to be done or is ready to do something,” said Burkman, noting the Braves most definitely fall into the latter category. “Brooke and Ally have been important in that. Where they’ve provided leadership this year is just the sense of belonging with everybody on the team.
“Brooke is kind of the calm, quiet kid. Whether things are bad or good, she’s always the same. Ally is a competitor once she hits the court, and the other kids see that.”
One of the beneficiaries is Candace Danz, a 5-9 freshman wing player who is second behind Lehman in scoring (12.1), rebounding (4.3) and steals (2.8). Sophomore Alexis McGregor (6.4 points per game), juniors Jessica Knight (4) and Kaylie Haste (1.8), and sophomore Raven Danz (1.1) are other players who have logged court time in every game this season.
Tri-West goes as guard Lauren DeSutter goes. The senior averages 22.7 points and is on a roll of late, having produced 30 or more points in three of the Bruins’ last five regular-season outings, including seven 3-pointers and a career-best 37 points in a 80-46 steamrolling of Danville on Jan. 25.
“Coach (Brad) Acton always seems to have some players, and they are very well-coached,” Burkman said.
Meanwhile, a neutral court with a heavy dose of history awaits.