Players like Allison Boardman and Katee Kurtz are what make a championship roster.
Both have been go-to players for sectional-winning teams in other sports. Both have accepted their limited roles during basketball season. That sort of unselfishness is why McCutcheon still is practicing after winning its first sectional since 2012 last weekend.
“We’ve been playing together for so long, we don’t want it to be done,” said Boardman, a standout soccer player who averages 11 minutes a game. “You never want it to end because this is so much fun and we’ve gotten so close. We love playing together.”
That selfless attitude has been a mainstay for three seasons.
Coach Jeff Knoy went with a sophomore-heavy varsity team for the 2012-13 season. By the end of that year, the Mavericks were starting five sophomores and it showed on the scoreboard.
McCutcheon went 5-17 just a season removed from a third-straight sectional title.
“Two years ago, we would dread practices because we were sophomores and losing every game,” senior forward Hannah Burger said.
The group stayed the course, winning 11 games as juniors.
This season, McCutcheon won nine of its first 10 games — the only loss to Benton Central, which remains undefeated and ranked first in Class 3A.
Shortly after, however, things would take a nosedive.
From Dec. 27 to Jan. 24, McCutcheon went 2-6.
“We could’ve easily splintered into 100 different directions there. We didn’t,” Knoy said.
A group that sat together as seventh-graders and watched the Mavericks claim their first sectional title under Knoy, now in his 10th season, bonded, vowing to make their senior year last as long as possible.
In just 14 minutes a night, Burger averages 4.4 rebounds — second most on the team. Kurtz, a volleyball star for the Mavericks, has scored only 35 points all season but provides an unmatched quickness among the roster. At 6-foot-1, Claire Weideman was beaten up inside two years ago facing some of the state’s top post players during Hoosier Crossroads Conference play, but she now possesses a toughness needed to grab boards and block shots in the paint.
Boardman knows her job is to play defense and open other players up for easy buckets. In 16 of 26 games, she has not scored, yet has become one of the most relied upon players down the stretch, playing double-digit minutes in the last 12 contests.
Kerstyn Lowery, Becca Spitalniak and Gabby Gary are the big scorers. But others have stepped up to provide elements needed for success. McCutcheon’s hasn’t lost since Jan. 24 and takes a seven-game winning streak into the regional.
Well, sort of.
On Jan. 30, the Mavericks came back from a 12-point deficit in the third quarter to defeat Kokomo in overtime. The game was later forfeited because McCutcheon used an ineligible player.
It may be the best loss of Knoy’s career.
“That Kokomo game, it turned us around, even though we had to forfeit,” Spitalniak said. “We all came together. That’s when we everything happened, everything clicked. The motivation on to the next games helped lead us on to the sectional.”
After that, McCutcheon pounded North Montgomery by 30 points on senior night, ground out a road win at Anderson and found a way to win three games in five days, culminating with a win over Marion in the sectional championship that avenged a loss during the Mavericks’ midseason rough patch.
“We showed what we can do as a team. We came together and all played a role,” Weideman said. “We played very well and unselfish this past week to get that title and I think we are all excited for regionals now.”
Class 4A Regional
McCutcheon (18-8) vs. Noblesville (22-3)
Time: 10 a.m.
What’s next: The winner faces the winner of Fort Wayne Snider (21-4) and Homestead (23-2) in the 8 p.m. championship.
If you go: Memorial Gymnasium is at Apperson Way North and East Superior Street in Kokomo.