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Andy Amey: Competing for a state championship -- or two

Feb. 8—Is North Central the next Linton?

Or would that be Parke Heritage?

Or are the Miners themselves waiting to take care of unfinished business?

All those questions might be answered at high school girls basketball regional games on Saturday, although the three teams mentioned all hope they won't be.

For historical reference, Linton won the Class 2A girls championship in both 2020 — barely beating the pandemic that a lot of folks in Greene County feel deprived the Miners of two state basketball championships that year — and 2021 (winning the championship games by 42 and 38 points). The second championship wasn't unexpected, because there were no seniors on the 2020 team.

North Central and Parke Heritage are both predominantly underclassmen, with maybe one senior starting between the two. So if either could win the state championship two weeks from now, they'd be in great shape to go back-to-back as well.

Linton has seniors — seniors who already have one gold medal and who would like to add a second. So they could bookend their high school basketball careers with those awards (and Bradie Chambers could catch up to her older sister Carsyn).

North Central is 17-10 and will play 18-5 Bethesda Christian at 7 p.m. Saturday in a Class A regional game at Greencastle.

It's the first sectional championship since 2020 for the Thunderbirds, but although this one has a different site (Southwestern Shelby four years ago) there's still something familiar about it: Bethesda Christian was North Central's victim in the first round of regional play that year (when it was still a four-team tournament) and was led by a shooting guard named Maddy Fulks.

This year, the Patriots are led by senior guard Kenzie Fulks, taking over for her older sister (and, incidentally, a future IU-South Bend teammate of Bradie Chambers according to many reports).

North Central won that game helped by a pair of clutch 3-pointers by Averi Davidson. Now Averi's sister Jalyn — who recently broke the school's assist record despite being the team's leading scorer the last three years — is one of the three three-year starters (the last seven good Thunderbird teams have come led by trios of classmates) along with Shelby Seay and Samantha Secrest.

"Happy to be back in the regionals," said coach Joey Davidson. "Fulks is a really nice player for them.

"We're gonna prepare hard this week and get after is Saturday," he added. "I'm proud of my kids."

Parke Heritage, 23-3, will be in the school's first-ever regional at 7 p.m. Saturday but in a gym they'll recognize. The Wolves play 23-1 Eastern Hancock — now the highest-ranked Class 2A team after top-ranked North Knox beat second-ranked South Knox before losing to Linton last Saturday — at Southmont, a place they visit at least every other year.

The Royals have, according to Parke Heritage coach Mark Harper, one of the top freshman guards in the state in McKenzie Koch plus two other double-figure scorers. (Harper didn't mention if Koch was as good as McCutcheon's Lillie Graves, another ninth-grader the Wolves have seen).

Parke Heritage has three-year starter, Junior All-Star candidate and perennial triple-double threat Emma Simpson, along with four other junior starters (twins Addilee and Addison Jenkins, Cate O'Brien and Andi Perkins) and senior sixth-person Reaghan Benjamin. The Wolves will be without junior Raegan Ramsay, their second-leading scorer before an injury (but if the situation comes up, I'm guessing she'll get her first gold medal too).

"I feel blessed and know that the help, guidance and confidence given to me and the kids in our program is really extraordinary," said Harper, praising his staff of Jordan Davies, Deb Mitchell, Jarred Russell and Kieran Clapp.

"The pressure Saturday night is on Eastern Hancock," the coach continued. "We look forward to competing, continuing to make history and to setting the bar high for the girls program, whose future is very bright."

Linton, 19-6, will play North Decatur, 18-6, in a Class 2A regional at West Washington at 4 p.m.

Bradie Chambers and Sydney Jerrells are the state-finals veterans for the Miners, who should be getting the respect they deserve (finally?) after winning the toughest sectional in the state.

The surest bet this weekend? North Decatur will find it hard to score. For all the star power the 2020 and 2021 Miners had (at least 10 college athletes), those teams were built on defense and coach Jared Rehmel will have something figured out.

Saturday's regionals are one-game affairs, with the four regional winners in each class meeting in all-day semistates the following week.

Yes, that might mean a Miners-Wolves game a week from now.

Andy Amey can be reached after 4 p.m. at 812-231-4276 or 812-231-4277; by email at andy.amey@tribstar.com; or by mail at P.O. Box 149, Terre Haute, IN, 47808. Follow TribStarAndy on Twitter/X.