Some updates from the field.

My last three games, going back to the week of Christmas, have all been interesting and each related to the same school, IHS.

First I had their boys playing the #1 team in Class 3A. IHS fell behind 11-0 in the first 90 seconds and I was sure it was going to be just another blowout. IHS righted the ship, though, and got it down to four points before halftime. Their opponents extended again in the third quarter, but IHS got it back to three points. They were down five late in the game when their coach got T’d up and that ruined their last chance.1 They ended up losing by 15, but it felt closer and it was an easier game to write about that I first expected.

A week later I had them again, this time for a noon game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the home court of the Indiana Pacers. I did a game downtown the first year I worked for the paper, but not again since. That first trip was a bigger deal, probably because it was on a Saturday instead of a Thursday, and the crowds were bigger. But it was cool to sit court side on an NBA court, even if it was just for a high school game.

IHS was again playing an undefeated team, although this time it was a Class A team. I won’t say the quality of play was the best, but it was a terrifically exciting game. It was tied after the first quarter, at halftime, and at the end of the third quarter. Both teams had four point leads in there, but never more than that. It was still tied after IHS’ opponents drilled a 3-pointer with three minutes and change to play. But IHS went on a convenient 13-0 run to both put the game away and write my story for me.

So that was the boys side. Last Thursday I had IHS’ girls team, which features the best player in the county, a girl who is headed to a smaller D1 school next year. It was a sloppy game without many obvious story lines. Well except for the best player.

She had 20 points at halftime. She was at 35 early in the fourth quarter. With IHS up big, I kept expecting her to get subbed out early. But her coach kept her in. She hit a three and then another two. I double-checked my math and sure enough, she was at 40 points even. My first 40-point game as a reporter.

After the game I asked her if she had ever scored 40 points before. Her eyes got big, she got a huge grin on her face, and she said, “Oh my gosh, really?” When I confirmed it she just said, “That’s awesome! Thanks for telling me, I had no idea.” She completely charmed me with her attitude, saying all the right things about not caring about stats, just wanting to make her team better, etc. But she didn’t do it in a bored, practiced manner that a surprising number of high school kids use. She was honest, happy, and even a little goofy.

She’s the first really good player I’ve seen play for all four years of her career. When she was a freshman she took that last second shot, not her senior teammate who is the all-time leading scorer in the county, as IHS nearly knocked off the three-time defending state champs in sectionals. I’ve seen her dominate on both ends of the court. I don’t know how good of a college player she’ll be because of her size (5’11”) but it’s been a lot of fun to watch her grow up the last four years.

Updating my Total Margin Factor for the year, the last two games erased the deficit my teams had dug in early December. It stands at +19 right now. That could take a hit tonight as I watch the ECHS girls play.

  1. Bad time for a T, but it was one of those that had been building for the entire game and he just pushed it too far in the heat of crunch time.