The successful Canterbury girls basketball program will take on a new situation as it enters the Class 2A state finals.
The Cavaliers won five of the last six 1A state titles but will be the underdog to top-ranked Heritage Christian on Saturday in their first 2A state championship game.
That would be a positive for us from the standpoint we are the underdog, and we haven’t been in that role, Canterbury coach Wayne Kreiger said Monday by phone. It gives us a challenge to get ourselves ready to compete.
The Eagles (26-1) have been the top-ranked team in 2A all season and lost to only 3A semistate finalist Indianapolis Chatard 60-56. They have won 18 straight games since that defeat Dec. 13.
They have been the class of the class all year, Kreiger said. It’s an opportunity for us to step up and show what we can do. They have a very talented outfit. They have size, speed, shooters and defense. No one has really done much to slow them down. We will have to break it down and see what things we can try to take advantage of.
Where Canterbury (20-4) might have an advantage is state finals experience. The Cavaliers, who have won six straight games, have been in the state title game six of the last seven years.
Seniors Emma Hyndman and Kindell Fincher and juniors Darby Maggard and Katherine Smith all have experience at state.
The Eagles won four straight 2A state titles, but the last one was in 2009.
Only the coaching staff has prior experience of being at state before.
Heritage Christian was close last year, losing to eventual 2A state champion Evansville Mater Dei, which was bumped up to 3A this year, 56-49 in overtime in the semistate.
The experience is a factor, Kreiger said. It showed in the semistate final. Our kids were able to maintain an edge from having been there, having the experience on the big stage and went from there. It could be a big factor. Again it will depend on whether we can do some things to them that maybe to tighten it up a little bit so they are not as loose as they are in a normal game.
Canterbury faced a 55-45 third-quarter deficit to No. 5 Tipton on Saturday in the 2A semistate at Warsaw. The Cavaliers responded with a 34-10 run to finish the game and win 79-65.
The fact we have not been in that situation very often was something in itself, Kreiger said. We talked about the fact we had to practice hard because you never know when you are going to have to step up and get that extra energy. We did a good job of getting into our half-court trap, and then it turned to urgency, then it turned to momentum and then it changed to victory. It was a good process for us.