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Rising hopes: Area teams building winning cultures


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Brooke Mathena was one of two seniors on the Class 3A sectional champion Indian Creek girls basketball team. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Brooke Mathena was one of two seniors on the Class 3A sectional champion Indian Creek girls basketball team. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Brooke Mathena was one of two seniors on the Class 3A sectional champion Indian Creek girls basketball team. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Brooke Mathena was one of two seniors on the Class 3A sectional champion Indian Creek girls basketball team. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Brooke Mathena was one of two seniors on the Class 3A sectional champion Indian Creek girls basketball team. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Brooke Mathena was one of two seniors on the Class 3A sectional champion Indian Creek girls basketball team. SUBMITTED PHOTO


The high school athletics spotlight recently turned in the direction of the Indian Creek and Greenwood girls basketball programs.

Since November 2009, coach Dan Burkman’s Braves have won 77 percent of their games (72-22). Along the way Indian Creek players cut down the nets after a pair of sectional titles and made it to a regional final in two different classes — 2A in 2011 and 3A last weekend.

Greenwood over the same span went 57-31 (65 percent), the past two seasons being particularly fruitful with the Woodmen going 38-8 and in 2012 picking up the program’s first sectional trophy.

Two nice runs. Two great stories.

Now what?

Burkman graduates senior starters and program cornerstones Ally Lehman and Brooke Mathena. Greenwood coach Debbie Guckenberger watches four-fifths of her starting lineup and a total of six seniors depart.

“I don’t think it’s going to be as difficult as one might think. It’s almost expected we win our sectional, and I think the change in the culture will help that process,” Burkman said. “Me, personally, as a coach, I think it’s important that our returning players work things out over the summer as far as defining roles for next season.”

The Indian Creek cupboard isn’t exactly collecting cobwebs. Candace Danz’s noteworthy freshman campaign, in which she finished tied with Mathena as the team’s second-leading scorer (12.2) and was runner-up to Lehman in rebounds at 6.5 boards per contest, makes for a sturdy building block regarding the next three basketball seasons.

Burkman, who took over as coach prior to Lehman and Mathena’s freshman season, likens Danz to Lehman in terms of leadership potential. The latter grew into the role, something Burkman feels Danz can do.

Swingman Alexis McGregor, a sophomore, averaged 6.9 points and 2.6 rebounds for the Braves. Junior guard Jessica Knight (3.8 ppg) and classmate Kaylie Haste (2.9 rpg), a starting post down the stretch this season, are likely to play more significant roles during the 2013-14 campaign.

Guckenberger’s challenge appears more daunting. Senior starters Kelsie Ratliff, Deauna Evans, Jordan Unversaw and Chloe Orvarr played a major role in helping plant seeds of expectation in a program that won only five of 40 games during their coach’s first two seasons (2003-04 and 2004-05).

Elsewhere, Center Grove is coming off a 15-6 season in which the Trojans placed second behind Lawrence North in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference standings with a 6-1 mark. Despite graduating guards Lauren Weidman and Shelby Shaffer, plenty of talent returns for coach Shawn Sanders in forwards Madison Kolthoff, Regan Wentland, Bri Gliesmann and Ali Line and guards Lauren Rau, Paige Anderson and Bobbie Clayton.

“I definitely felt we accomplished a lot of our goals this season. We were undefeated at home and were basically 60 seconds from being MIC champions,” said Center Grove coach Shawn Sanders, alluding to his team’s 62-57 overtime loss at LN on Jan. 25.

“All the way through this season I felt we got better and better as the season went on. It was probably one of the most enjoyable seasons as far as the players and the team chemistry we had. Just a lot of positives.”

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