SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Win and you get to cut down nets.
With a pair of victories on Saturday, the Winchester girls basketball team claimed its third regional title.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” sophomore Becca Chamberlin said. “We’ve worked so hard as a team to get here. It’s amazing.”
After beating Covenant Christian 49-32 in the morning, the fourth-ranked Golden Falcons bombed No. 8 Triton Central 56-32 in the championship contest of the Class 2A Speedway Regional.
“I’ve never had a group of kids like this,” Winchester Head Coach Holly Gutierrez said. “They just have a tight bond.”
Winchester (25-2) advances to the semi-state round to face No. 6 Paoli (21-5) in Jeffersonville next Saturday at 1 p.m. The Rams won at home 55-44 over South Ripley as they hosted the regional.
Ninth-ranked Central Noble (21-5) and No. 13 Frankton (23-5) meet in the other Class 2A semi-state in Logansport at 4 p.m.
The winners will square off in Indianapolis at Bankers Life in the state championship game at 12:45 p.m., on Saturday, Feb. 24.
Big Smiles This Time
There were smiles on the faces of the players this week after Winchester’s victory unlike after the sectional title.
“We could not celebrate a sectional championship after Shelby (Miller) went down the way she did,” Gutierrez said of her injured starter. “That made this week very difficult.”
The title contest began with the Golden Falcons hitting four 3-pointers to build a 12-0 advantage.
Hannah Graft hit a pair from long range, while Chamberlin and Maddie Lawrence each had one.
“That’s a time where we’re hitting on all cylinders,” Gutierrez said. “You’ve got to pick your poison. We were good tonight.”
Although Triton Central had some life left and closed the deficit to 18-9 at the end of the first period, the Tigers couldn’t find an antidote they would need by halftime.
With Winchester leading 18-15 at the 6:01 mark of the second quarter, the Golden Falcons virtually ended the game with a 15-3 run to finish the frame on top 33-18.
“We were super excited,” said Chamberlin, who nailed three treys to finish the outburst.
In the third quarter, Graft and Lawrence both hit 3-pointers in the opening minute as Winchester led 39-18 on its way to a 45-30 advantage at the end of the period.
As important as the offense was to the Golden Falcons, there was a twist on defense as Gutierrez deployed a triangle and two in both regional games.
“We do everything,” Gutierrez said. “My kids are so versatile and can switch on a dime. We haven’t done that all year. It was almost perfection. We executed it well.”
Lawrence led the way for the Golden Falcons with 21 points as she grabbed five rebounds. For the day, Lawrence had 45 points and 27 rebounds.
Chamberlin scored 15 points with five 3-pointers. Hannah Graft tossed in 15 points.
Kira Robinson had six points, six rebounds and three blocks. Brooklynn Hummell contributed seven rebounds.
Triton Central had just one player in double figures as Tenleigh Phelps led the Tigers with 12 points.
* Saturday’s regional title was the second for Gutierrez. She celebrated one as a player for Northeastern back in 1998 when the Knights ironically defeated Triton Central.
* Winchester’s other two regional titles came in 2010 and 2011 under coach Kirk Comer. The Golden Falcons fell to Brownstown Central in their first semi-state appearance and then to Austin the following year.
* The Golden Falcons scored their first 18 points on 3-pointers. Of the 33 points in the first half, 27 of them came from treys. Lawrence had a pair of two-point field goal and two free throws. Chamberlin hit the team’s 12th from behind the arc in the fourth quarter.