TERRE HAUTE – Bring on the upgrade for Canterbury High School's girls basketball team.
Canterbury beat Vincennes Rivet 42-35 on Saturday at the Hulman Center to win its second straight Class A state championship and fifth in six seasons. With the win, the Cavaliers' Class A reign came to a close.
Canterbury will move up to Class 2A next season as required under the Indiana High School Athletic Association's new success rule.
That's cool with the Cavaliers.
“I can't wait,” sophomore point guard Darby Maggard said. “It's going to be great.”
Junior forward Kindell Fincher seconds that endorsement.
“We love challenges,” Fincher said. “I think we'll do great.”
More than likely, they will do great. The difference in girls hoops from Class A to Class 2A is not huge. While there's a stark contrast in speed and size between the teams of Class A and Class 4A, the lower two classes offer subtle differences.
Canterbury finished 25-3 and lost only to Class 4A schools South Side, Indianapolis Roncalli and Hamilton Southeastern. The Cavaliers were 6-3 versus Class 4A schools, 3-0 versus Class 3A schools and 2-0 versus Class 2A schools. So that track record says they're ready for the move.
Two other reasons they're ready: Maggard and Fincher.
These two are as dynamic as they come, savvy and skilled on the court, friendly and optimistic off the court. Maggard handles the ball as well as any player around. Despite her small stature (she's 5-foot-5), she can create her own shot driving in the paint and hit outside jumpers over taller players.
Fincher epitomizes relentlessness.
Fincher pulled down 19 rebounds (and scored 17 points) in the win over Vincennes Rivet, breaking the Class A rebound record of 17 set, and tied, by former Canterbury standout Tabitha Gerardot. Fincher has an uncanny nose for the ball, instinctively leaping to rebounds off shots. “My goal was 20 at the beginning of the game,” Fincher said. “So I went out and went for it.”
Both players possess that intangible winning attitude that is so crucial to Canterbury's recent success, first under coach Scott Kreiger and this season under his father, Wayne Kreiger.
When things soured for a spell Saturday, as Canterbury's 14-point halftime lead dwindled away, Maggard and Fincher remained upbeat with their words and body language.
Of course, Maggard and Fincher weren't the only pivotal players in this year's title win. Senior Bailey Farley came up big with a late coast-to-coast bucket that halted a Vincennes Rivet comeback. Another senior, Aaliyah Gaines, helped lead a key defensive switch late. Sophomore center Katherine Smith pulled down 10 rebounds.
Moving upward, however, it'll be Maggard and Fincher who set the tone for the potential Class 2A run next season.
Maggard is 2-for-2 in state titles so far.
“It's so much fun,” she said. “Both of them have been crazy and so exciting. I don't know if expectations go up, but they surely stay the same. We want to get back here (at state). That's our goal, no matter what.”
Kreiger's 43 years of coaching experience should be factored into predictors of success as Canterbury moves forward. There's nothing in basketball he hasn't seen and nothing he hasn't conquered now.
“We're going to lose two starters plus a nice substitute …Bailey and Aaliyah and Sarah Rice, we're going to miss obviously,” Kreiger said. “The people coming back now have a challenge ahead of them, moving up to 2A. It'll be a different look, from that standpoint. As far as our schedule, we'll continue to try to play the best we can.”
Canterbury's best has been awfully good the last six seasons. With Fincher and Maggard as the building blocks, next year should bring more of the same.