GREENFIELD — Despite being underdogs in this sectional in the eyes of many, Pendleton Heights will be the hunted team in sectional nine. The Hoosier Heritage Conference champs will have to navigate a bracket littered with conference foes — including one with a formidable Miss Basketball candidate — to advance to regional for the first time since the Arabians won three straight from 2009-11. Here is a look at the six teams in this sectional looking to move on to Decatur Central for regional.
Connersville (10-13) — The Spartans have lost four in a row, including a 19-point loss at home to Pendleton Heights entering the tournament, but do boast a one-point win against New Castle, their opponent in the first round. Only senior Mikalia Taylor averages double-figure scoring at 10.5 points per game for a team that scores just 38 a game overall. Sophomore Maddie Gregory adds an inside presence, averaging 7.5 rebounds per game.
Greenfield Central (15-10) — The defending sectional champion Cougars will be considered the favorite in this sectional by some, and that’s hard to dispute. The Cougars have played a difficult schedule, which includes the Hall of Fame Classic in New Castle, which they won. They are led by Madison Wise, who is one of the best players in the state and will be playing next year at Iowa State. Wise averages 22.8 points, 10 rebounds, and 2.5 blocked shots per game and will likely be on the Indiana All-Star team that plays Kentucky. She is aided by the return from injury of senior Katie Helgason, who averages 10.3 points per game. The Cougars will play Richmond in the first-round Tuesday.
Mt. Vernon (6-16) — The Marauders drew a first-round bye and will play the Greenfield Central/Richmond winner in the second semifinal Friday evening. Mt. Vernon has lost three in a row to close the season, all to HHC foes and are led by senior Sophie Williams, who scores eight points per game and averages 8.1 rebounds per contest.
New Castle (13-9) — The Trojans have won three in a row since a one-point loss to the Cougars on Jan. 13. They are led by sophomore Cameron Tabor at 17.5 points per game and senior Olivia Porter, who scores 10.2 points per contest and averages 8.2 rebounds a game. The Trojans are an excellent free throw shooting team at 77 percent and average just 11 turnovers per game. They will attempt to avenge an earlier loss when they play Connersville Tuesday in the first round.
Pendleton Heights (19-4) — The HHC outright champs enter the tournament as one of the hottest teams around, winning 12 of their past 14, with their only losses at Pike and Noblesville. The Arabians score 60 points per game and have six different players who have led the team in scoring this season, making them tough to defend. Senior Sam Hammel joined the 1,000-point club this season and, with improvement in her perimeter shooting, has led the Arabians in scoring at 16.3 points per game. She also leads the team in steals (2.6 per game) and assists (3.3 per game). Leading rebounder, senior Adrienne Phillips (5.3 rpg) has been coming on offensively at the end of the season and averages 10.1 points per game. Senior Kelsey Burton scores 9.9 ppg and can be explosive from the perimeter and the interior.
Richmond (4-19) — The struggling Red Devils snapped a seven-game losing streak with a win against Union (Modoc) to close out the year. Junior Kalianna Lauderdale averages 12.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, but a first-round matchup with Greenfield-Central is likely to be too much for Richmond and their hopes for advancing.