One last ride.
The four-year resurgence of the Shelbyville girls basketball program, sparked by seniors Kylee Edwards, Abby Brenner and Hailey Pogue, continues Friday at William L. Garrett Gymnasium when the Golden Bears (14-8) make their 2023 postseason debut against Columbus East (10-13).
“I have the most competitive senior class,” said Shelbyville head coach Becca Hoefler, 37-55 in her fourth season. “They really want to get past that first round. They want to be in that sectional championship game since we are hosting.”
Shelbyville has not won a sectional game since 2011 and the program’s last sectional championship came in 2004. The Golden Bears have already secured their first winning season since 2016 and four of its losses came by a combined 16 points.
“A couple of shots here or there,” agreed Hoefler. “In the last four years, nothing has been handed to us. It’s always a grind. Hopefully, we’re due. I think these girls can get it done.”
Edwards (photo), the program’s career scoring leader with 1,530 points, has luckily avoided two serious injuries this season. She injured a knee in a win over South Central (Union Mills) in the Valparaiso Tournament on Dec. 22 and severely sprained an ankle in a loss at Whiteland on Jan. 18.
The high-scoring guard (20 ppg, 8 rpg) missed the win over Delta but returned to the floor for a Senior Night victory over Hauser on Jan. 26. With another week to rest, Hoefler proclaims Edwards is at 100%.
Shelbyville will need Edwards at her best to overcome a Columbus East squad that features Indiana State commit and potential Indiana All-Star Saige Stahl (26 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 3.2 spg).
“She is one of the best we’ve seen,” admitted Hoefler.
The Golden Bears watched the Olympians, the only team in Sectional 14 with a losing record, eliminate East Central, a program Shelbyville is more familiar with, on Tuesday at Garrett Gymnasium.
“What was nice was watching them play live,” said Hoefler. “I definitely think the matchup is pretty good for us. We’re a little quicker but they’ve got size on us.”
Stahl, a six foot, one-inch senior, and Leah Bachman, a 6-0 senior that averages 9 ppg, 6.1 rpg and 1.8 bpg, gives Columbus East a formidable front line.
“If they miss (a shot), we have to guarantee it’s our ball,” said Hoefler emphasizing rebounding as a key to victory. “We won’t be able to use our normal defense. We will keep it packed in.”
That puts added pressure on Pogue and junior Ella Johnson to limit second-chance opportunities for Columbus East, who has not faced Shelbyville since the 2018 postseason. The last regular-season meeting came in 2013.
“Hailey and Ella have got to be on the boards,” said Hoefler (photo). “I don’t expect anything else from them but to get on the boards. We have to make them feel uncomfortable and be as physical as we can.”
Bachman finished with 11 points and six rebounds Tuesday. Maeleigh Roberts (four made 3s) added 14 points and three assists while Jenna Guse had 13 points and three steals.
Junior guard Ava Wilson (18.4 ppg) (main photo) gives Shelbyville an explosive 1-2 punch but the duo accounts for 70% of the Golden Bears’ scoring.
Brenner is the team’s third-leading scorer at 6 ppg.
“This is a big one,” said Hoefler of Friday’s game. “We dropped a couple of (Hoosier Heritage Conference) games that we’re so close. Our conference was so tough this year. This is the last goal (to win a sectional game) to hit. We wanted more than 11 wins – we got that. This just seems like the year (for more).”
The first semifinal game Friday at Garrett Gymnasium features Franklin (16-5) and Whiteland (12-10).
The sectional champion advances to a one-game regional at Bedford North Lawrence to face the Bloomington South Sectional champion. Still alive in Sectional 13 are No. 9 Center Grove (19-4), Bloomington North (17-6), Mooresville (18-6) and Martinsville (0-24).
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