Making memories in Hoosier Gym


The West High School girls basketball team took a team photograph before Saturday’s game against Jackson at the famed Hoosier Gym.

Paul Boggs | Daily Times

KNIGHTSTOWN, Ind. — For the West Lady Senators, at least they have the memories —and they can tell their children and/or grandchildren one day about a special Saturday playing basketball.

That’s because the Lady Senators had the opportunity to play at the historic Hoosier Gym, where several and significant scenes were shot from the all-time classic basketball movie Hoosiers.

But West was, of course, trying for a win too on their adventure in Indiana —and unfortunately the Lady Senators did not accomplish that, falling to a good Jackson Ironladies team by a count of 59-45.

In a battle of two 2-0 teams, the early-season measuring-stick matchup for the new-look Lady Senators served as a business trip as well —all the while West was making memories along the way to the Hoosier State, and the gymnasium made famous from the fictional Hickory Huskers.

Hoosiers itself debuted 35 years ago, based on the true story of a tiny town and team winning the Indiana state championship in 1954.

The Lady Senators and undefeated Ironladies opened Saturday’s doubleheader between West and Jackson —as the boys teams played the back half, part of an agreed upon package deal with the two schools traveling to and playing in the Hoosier Gym.

As for the game itself, the Lady Senators did lead for the opening minute and 11 seconds —thanks to senior Kate Rollins raining in a three-point goal from the wing just 23 seconds in.

But the senior-laden Ironladies limited West to only 11 first-half field-goal attempts, forced 11 first-half turnovers, and scored six straight points after Rollins’ basket to take a lead they never relinquished —and only opened up.

Jackson led 12-8 after the opening stanza, doubled that advantage to 27-18 at halftime, and then swelled that margin to as large as 25 (56-31) with 3:50 remaining.

For West, second-year head coach Larry Howell was able to distinguish between a fun trip and experience to a historic basketball building —and the game on the court itself.

Howell said his close friend and West boys coach Caleb McClanahan had the largest hands in the heavy lifting, making sure both boys AND girls from the West side could travel — and play — and be part of the afternoon.

“Honestly, Coach McClanahan did a lot of the legwork with this. He came up with the idea last October (in 2022), made some phone calls, called Jackson’s boys coach (Max Morrow), and then he asked me if the girls would be interested in playing,” he said. “Playing in the Hoosier Gym is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I grew up on that movie (Hoosiers) and just being able to experience this gym and having these kids make some memories means the world.”

But, once the game tipped off on the smaller — actually even elementary-school size — court, West was up against an aggressive defense from the Ironladies and 12-year head coach Matt Walburn.

The Lady Senators were playing just their third game following the heavy graduation losses of five seniors —including (Ohio Prep Sports Writers Association) all-Southeast District Division III honorees Maelynn Howell (first team), Lexi Deaver (third team) and Charlie Jo Howard (Special Mention).

West went 25-2, captured its first-ever Southern Ohio Conference championship, and were the Division III Region 11 runner-up.

The Lady Senators still sport standout senior and all-Southeast District second-teamer Emma Sayre, arguably the top player in all of the newly-formed for basketball SOC III.

“We lost 80-percent of our scoring from last year, so that’s a big chunk we have to make up. Then we knew Jackson was going to be quick and athletic, and they were really aggressive defensively. Some of the passing lanes and driving lanes, especially with Emma, they closed up pretty quick. Some of that is a smaller court, but most of that is Coach (Matt) Walburn doing a very good job of teaching his kids proper defense and being in the right spots,” said Howell.

West senior Emma Sayre (21) looks to drive against Jackson defender T.J. Carpenter during Saturday’s non-league girls basketball game at The Hoosier Gym in Knightstown, Indiana.

Paul Boggs | Daily Times

Sayre scored 19 points to pace the Lady Senators —on six field goals and 7-of-9 free throws.

But no other Lady Senator scored more than six —as all of Allyson Buckner’s half-dozen markers came in the fourth frame, when West outscored Jackson 18-13, including 14-3 over the final 2:47 and against the Ironlady reserves.

The Lady Senators still trailed 6-5 and 8-7, as Hailey Carver connected on a three-point goal to keep it at 12-11 —only 32 seconds into the second stanza.

Sayre sliced and diced driving the lane, making it 15-14 two minutes later — but the Ironladies ended the final 4:38 on a 12-4 run, thanks to the coach’s daughter Mattie Walburn scoring five points in the final 1:22.

First, her three-ball off the wing made it 25-16.

Kamryn Spriggs scored for the Lady Senators, but Walburn went full shades of Hickory’s Jimmy Chitwood —the Huskers’ hero from the fictional 1952 state championship game, as he made the game-winning shot.

Walburn, with her feet just inside the three-point line but just outside and to the right of the free-throw circle, beat the first-half buzzer with a two-point jumper.

That made it 27-18, as Walburn ended with 18 points on eight total field goals.

“Jackson has some good offensive players too. They made timely shots. We thought our 1-3-1 (defense), with our size on the smaller court, could cause them some problems. But we had 11 turnovers in the first half, and if you’re giving the possessions away to a good offensive basketball team, that’s going to cost you in the long run,” said Howell. “When we were down seven (25-18) with that last possession, I felt if we could have got a stop there, we still stood a chance and would have had some momentum going into halftime. But she hit a nice pull-up shot from that exact same spot (as Chitwood did in movie). That shot was really big there, but that’s Mattie making a shot and being a really talented player who is a senior.”

Instead, the Ironladies carried that momentum over into the second half —scoring the first 10 points in a matter of three minutes and 17 seconds.

The final 15 minutes and 40 seconds saw West face a double-digit deficit, as its scoring drought spanned six seconds shy of five full minutes.

T.J. Carpenter canned two threes in the third for Jackson, as she tied Walburn with eight total field goals and two trifectas — and shot 6-of-9 at the stripe for a game-high pouring of 24 points.

“T.J. (Carpenter) was going to be a matchup problem for us, and she had a whale of a game,” said Howell. “That’s why we thought we would play a little bit of (1-3-1) zone against them.”

Her sister Sydney Carpenter chipped in eight points on three field goals and 2-of-2 free throws, Kenzie Davis scored seven second-half points, and Sydney Hughes had a third-quarter basket.

For the Lady Senators, they went 27-3 in their first 30 games under Howell —with a six-point (55-49) loss AT Division II Waverly and against Wheelersburg on a neutral floor in the Region 11 final before Jackson.

West freshman Hailey Carver (22) looks to pass the ball as Jackson’s Sydney Carpenter defends during Saturday’s non-league girls basketball game at The Hoosier Gym in Knightstown, Indiana.

Paul Boggs | Daily Times

But Sayre is this year’s only returning starter, and four freshmen are undertaking prominent role-player roles.

“We’re not the same team as last year. We lost five seniors, we play four freshmen. We just have to take it as a lesson to take better care of the ball. Our effort to rebound and play defense and communicate on the defensive end is there. We’ll get better offensively as the season goes,” said Howell. “These kids are trying to carry on the tradition from last year. We’re building something, and the girls are buying into the little things that multiply into bigger things.”

West senior Emily Moore (23) defends Jackson’s Sydney Carpenter during Saturday’s non-league girls basketball game at the historic Hoosier Gym.

Paul Boggs | Daily Times

As for Saturday, at the minimum, memories were made on the West side —from the Hoosier Gym.

“Today was early in the season, and we played a really good Division II team. We’ll play better basketball, but the most important thing from this trip is that we take these memories back home with us,” said Howell. “I think the girls really enjoyed the whole experience.”

* * *

Jackson 12 15 19 13 —59

West 8 10 9 18 — 45

JACKSON 59 (3-0)

Sydney Carpenter 3 2-2 8, T.J. Carpenter 8 6-9 24, Mattie Walburn 8 0-0 18, Lillian Mapes 0 0-0 0, Sydney Hughes 1 0-0 2, Kenzie Davis 2 3-4 7, Jaylynn Montgomery 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 22 11-12 59; Three-point goals: 4 (T.J. Carpenter and Mattie Walburn 2 apiece)

WEST 45 (2-1)

Macey Whisman 0 0-0 0, Allyson Buckner 2 1-1 6, Rileigh Miller 1 0-0 3, Adi Stephens 1 1-4 3, Kate Rollins 1 1-2 4, Kamryn Spriggs 1 0-0 2, Emma Sayre 6 7-9 19, Hailey Carver 1 0-0 3, Emily Moore 1 3-4 5, Myla Mead 0 0-0 0, Rylee McDermott 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 14 13-20 45; Three-point goals: 4 (Allyson Buckner, Rileigh Miller, Kate Rollins, Hailey Carver 1 apiece)

Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on X @paulboggssports © 2023 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

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