TERRE HAUTE – Call the move a nod of respect, and a winning one for the Heritage Christian High School's girls basketball team.
The Eagles played man-to-man defense all season and played it well, winning 26 of 27 games. But coach Rick Risinger looked at Canterbury's roster – especially Kindell Fincher and Darby Maggard – and decided something unorthodox was needed.
Heritage Christian went with a zone defense, and it helped proved just enough of an edge to give the Eagles a 64-61 win over Canterbury in the Class 2A state championship game Saturday at the Hulman Center. The loss was Canterbury's first in six state title appearances. The Cavaliers were 5-for-5 in Class A state games.
“My previous experience at the state championship level is that defense wins it,” Risinger said. “We played a match-up zone, and whenever there was an attack, we pinched it at all positions to try to clog up the middle. It worked pretty well.”
Canterbury, a strong shooting team, hit only 17 of 51 shots (33.3 percent) while Heritage Christian countered with 50 percent shooting (22 of 44). Canterbury had one more turnover and one more foul, and that was just about the margin of victory.
“They came out and they played really good defense,” Maggard said. “We weren't attacking. The second half, I felt like we attacked more and I felt like we really got some key steals and that's about it, really.”
Heritage Christian (27-2) focused intently on slowing Fincher and Maggard, which is almost impossible. Both players had tough shooting days – Fincher was 5-for-19 and Maggard 6-for-16 – but they still found ways to make things happen. Fincher finished with 24 points with 16 rebounds (she set the Class A record with 19 in last year's title win) and Maggard scored 20 with three assists and three steals.
After missing 5-of-7 free throws in the first half, Fincher adjusted her shot warming up for the second half and made all 10 of her free throws in the second.
The Cavaliers (20-5) had the game within one possession several times in the final two minutes, but couldn't break through. Canterbury's last lead, 29-27, came on a Maggard basket to end an 11-2 run to open the third quarter. Every time Heritage Christian threatened to pull way, Maggard would hit a shot or Katherine Smith (10 points, eight rebounds) would get a put-back basket or Fincher would find her way to the free-throw line.
“We battled back,” Maggard said. “We just didn't have enough time. I'm really proud of my team. It was a great game.”
Canterbury won the Class A title five of the last six seasons before moving up to Class 2A this season. The Cavaliers had to come back late to win the semistate last week and kept the pressure on Heritage Christian to the end Saturday.
“This team has no quit,” Kreiger said. “Absolutely none.”
Heritage Christian, led by Sydney Hall with 17 points, Tyasha Harris with 14 and Taylor Hall with 13, claimed the school's fifth Class 2A title.
The loss was quite a different experience for Canterbury since many of the players had won back-to-back titles the previous years.
“Usually we're all excited, watching our teammates cut down the nets,” senior Emma Hyndman said. “It's very depressing. It's like you're standing there sad, and no one's talking because we're all disappointed. It's very different. No so many smiles.”
HERITAGE CHRISTIAN 64, CANTERBURY 61
Heritage Christian 9 13 17 25 – 64
Canterbury 11 7 17 26 – 61
Heritage Christian: Fallis 3-5 0-0 , Foresman 1-2 2-2 4, Schofield 3-5 0-2 7, S. Hall 5-12 4-7 17, Harris 4-11 6-10 14, Pinkston 1-1 0-0 2, Orr 0-1 1-3 1, T. Hall 5-7 3-4 13. Totals 22-44 16-28 64.
Canterbury: Fincher 5-19 12-17 24, Smith 4-8 2-5 10, Hyndman 0-1 0-0 0, Maggard 6-16 5-5 20, VanHouten 1-3 1-2 4, Hoagburg 0-1 0-0 0, Habig 1-2 0-0 3, Haines 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-51 20-29 61.
Three-point goals: HC/4-12 (S. Hall 3-7, Schofield 1-1, Orr 0-1, T. Hall 0-1), C/7-22 (Maggard 3-10, Fincher 2-6, Habig 1-2, VanHouten 1-3, Hoagburg 0-1). Rebounds: HC/33 (S. Hall 5, Harris 5, Orr 5), C/35 (Fincher 16, Smith 8, VanHouten 5). Assists: HC/16 (Harris 7), C/9 (Maggard 3). Steals: HC/8, C/6 (Fincher 3, Maggard 3). Blocks: HC/6, C/2 (Smith 2). Turnovers: HC/12, C/13. Total fouls: HC/21, C/22. Fouled out: C/VanHouten, Habig.