This year's girls basketball field is as deep as ever

This year's girls basketball field is as deep as ever


This year's girls basketball field is as deep as ever


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Carmel's Amy Dilk is among the top-rated juniors in the nation,

Carmel’s Amy Dilk is among the top-rated juniors in the nation,

Stephanie Mavunga, 2013 IndyStar Miss Basketball, remembers what it was like to play Ben Davis in high school.

“Back in the day when Ben Davis was at the top, not many people could touch them,” the former Brownsburg star said. “Everyone knew, ‘When I go to this game, I know Ben Davis is going to beat everybody.’”

For a while, they did. The Giants were undefeated in 2009 and 2010. Lost one game the next season. Made it to semistate the next. Dynasty stuff.

But not much fun, unless you’re a Ben Davis fan.

“It’s nice to never really know who’s going to win,” Mavunga said. “It makes things more fun to watch.”

This year? Different story.

In the week leading up to the beginning of the state tournament, two things are clear:

One, this is anyone’s tournament to win (with a caveat, but that comes later). Two, this might be the deepest girls basketball has ever been in Central Indiana.

Of the 10 teams atop the IGCSA poll, six of them (No. 1 North Central, No. 3 Zionsville, No. 4 Carmel, No. 5 Pike, No. 6 Hamilton Southeastern and No. 8 Ben Davis) are from the greater Indianapolis area. Lawrence North just dropped out this week after being ranked for most of the season.

In the national MaxPreps rankings, North Central is ranked fourth and Carmel is ranked twelfth. Oh yeah. That caveat? The Panthers. Nobody can figure out a way to beat them.

“We talk a lot about continuing a great foundation and a legacy. As successful as North Central basketball has been, this group made history in winning the Marion County tournament,” North Central coach DeeAnn Ramey said. “In some respects (that) is possibly tougher to win than a state tournament. To be able to do that this year is a testament to this group.”

IHSAA girls basketball draw: 5 things to watch

Seven of the eight teams in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference have winning records. The top three teams in the conference have 10 losses combined. But every team except North Central has at least two losses in conference play.

“The talent in the state of Indiana and especially in Marion County is unbelievable. It’s continuing to grow,” Ramey said. “You just like to see a good, competitive, fundamentally sound game. Because of the talent, the disparity amongst teams isn’t as great as it used to be.”

All three of Carmel’s losses (Lawrence North, North Central and Pike) have come against MIC opponents.

“This year has been a meat-grinder of a regular season schedule,” said Greyhounds coach Tod Windlan. “I firmly believe that’ll help when the state tournament gets here. Playing some of the teams within a 20-mile radius has prepared us for anything you’d want to get. It emphasizes how good basketball still is in Indiana.”

That “meat-grinder” of a schedule is preparation for the journey that begins next Tuesday with sectional play. While Windlan says rankings bring “the recognition to your program that you want younger kids to see to generate enthusiasm and excitement,” the only numbers that really matter are wins and losses in February.

“There’s teams that are fine with having winning seasons, but I gauge success on what you do in the postseason,” he said.

Roncalli girls basketball coach Stan Benge has 595 wins, third-most among current Indiana girls basketball coaches and fourth-most all-time. He led Ben Davis to four state titles and has been coaching for 30 years.

He’s not sure he’s ever seen talent like this in the Indianapolis area.

2017 IHSAA girls basketball tournament draw

“There’s a big difference in the talent right now,” he said. “It used to be up north when I first started coaching, but because of a lot of the offseason stuff the girls are doing in Central Indiana, I think they’ve sort of gone over the top.

“It’s just going to keep going, I think. You look at most of the good players and they’re still underclassmen.”

A look at the ESPN class-by-class rankings shows four Indiana players in the Class of 2017’s top 100 — Gary West’s Dana Evans (No. 7), Greenfield-Central’s Madison Wise (No. 45), Homestead’s Karissa McLaughlin (No. 61) and Fountain Central’s Macee Williams (No. 69). Three players — Heritage Christian’s Katlyn Gilbert (No. 24), Carmel’s Amy Dilk (No. 49) and Martinsville’s Kayana Traylor (No. 56) make the top 60 for next year’s class. For 2019? Warren Central’s Shaila Beeler is No. 14. North Central’s Rikki Harris is No. 17.

Harris knows she’s on this list — and doesn’t care.

“I just want to play basketball,” the North Central sophomore said. “I don’t care if I’m ranked 17th or 100th. I know how good I am and I know that I can change my team and change the game.”

She is good. That’s one reason why her team is the odds-on favorite to win a state title this year. But the competition assures it’ll be anything but easy.

“We love playing hard teams. It tells us that we have to bring our ‘A-game’ to win,” she said. “We know what they can do and what we have to do to win.”

Follow IndyStar sports reporter Matthew VanTryon on Twitter at @MVanTryon.


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