TERRE HAUTE, Ind.
Sydney Shelton was an eighth-grader sitting in the stands as the Mt. Vernon High School girls basketball team lost to Fort Wayne Concordia in the Class 3A state final last year.
“I was just thinking, ‘Man, it’s going to be hard to get back here again,’ ” Shelton said. “But obviously we did it.”
Sydney, whose aunt is Marauders coach Julie Shelton, scored 29 points to lead Mt. Vernon to its first girls basketball state championship with a 61-47 victory over Hamilton Heights on Saturday at the Hulman Center.
“(Sydney’s) a gamer,” said Julie Shelton, whose team finished with a 23-4 record. “She likes the pressure. The bigger the stage, the better she does. She did a great job of handling the basketball and hitting the open shots.
“Occasionally she makes me nervous because she plays like it’s still the first quarter instead of slowing it down. Everything else is perfect. You couldn’t ask for a better guard.”
The 5-8 freshman sank 8-of-14 shots, including 5-of-9 from 3-point range, and was 8-of-9 from the free throw line.
“This one was so different because it was on a big stage in a big game,” she said. “You didn’t have time to think about it because you just keep going and you tried to push harder and harder.”
Sydney scored 17 points in the first half as Mt. Vernon led 32-20 at halftime. The Marauders’ largest lead was 24 with 5:10 to go.
Marauders senior guard Rachel Houck contributed nine points, hitting 3-of-4 3-point shots. Junior forward Erica Moore added 14 points and a 3A record 15 rebounds. Shelton said Moore was getting double- and triple-teamed, but that opened things up on the outside and on drives to the basket.
Mt. Vernon held a 38-22 rebounding edge. Shelton was especially pleased with her team’s defense. The Marauders limited the Huskies (23-3) to 34 percent shooting (17-of-50).
“We didn’t shoot the ball well at all, so we couldn’t get into our pressure defense like we would have liked to,” Huskies coach Tod Windlan said. “We just dug ourselves too big a hole to get out of to come back against a good team like Mt. Vernon.”
The Huskies’ top two scorers — Dakota Weatherford (4-of-14) and Haley Cook (2-of-15) — were a combined 6-of-29 from the field
Hamilton Heights got off to a hot start shooting in topping host Mt. Vernon 70-61 on Nov. 21.
“The first game, we gave them about 25 seconds to shoot any 3 they wanted to shoot,” Julie Shelton said. “When they have five shooters like that, it’s hard to talk and find the ball.”
So the Marauders practiced all week on that communication.
“They hit some 3s late, but early on we did an excellent job finding shooters,” Shelton said.