Cripe headlines All-RTC girls basketball team
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
The Pioneer girls basketball team one-upped themselves.
After winning the first semistate title in school history in 2020, they won their first state title in 2021, beating the same Loogootee squad in the state championship game that beat them in 2020.
The state title was only the second by any RTC area girls basketball team – Rochester won the 2A title in 2004 – but it was the second state championship for Pioneer this school year as Pioneer also won the 1A volleyball crown in November.
Given her role on a state championship team, our first ever pick for RTC girls basketball player of the year is Pioneer junior Hailey Cripe.
Scoring 19 points per game was impressive enough to earn recognition, but Cripe was also a defensive force, whether Pioneer was playing any of its various zone defenses or a stingy man-to-man.
But the top players were not limited to just Pioneer.
The quality of players and teams reached a new level this year. Rochester won back-to-back sectionals, Caston had their best season in decades, and Tippecanoe Valley and Winamac had another strong year.
Argos and Culver had losing records, but as one will see below, each had a player who could play for any team in the area.
As a result, picking an all-RTC team to join Cripe was hardly an easy task.
We would like to thank area coaches for their insights on the game and for answering all our questions. Still, this list is 100 percent ours, and we take full responsibility for it.
Hailey Cripe (Pioneer) – Cripe had a rough shooting game in a loss to North Judson, but then she went on a shooting hot streak like I have never seen, and Pioneer never lost again. She finished with 89 3-pointers, second most in the state. She also showed adaptability after the injury to Ashlynn Brooke as she had to play more of a ballhandling role.
Olivia Brooke (Pioneer) – Olivia Brooke took over the second half of the semistate against Northfield, and that performance alone would earn her a spot here. But she was also a prolific rebounder at 5-10, a great passer, an underrated shooter and the state mental attitude award winner.
Sidney Wagner (Tippecanoe Valley) – Wagner’s biggest weakness coming into the season was her outside shooting, but she worked on that and became a nightmare. Lay off her, and she will shoot the 3. Guard her tight, and she will drive right by you. And she’s a one-person press on defense and an excellent rebounding guard. She also earned Academic All-State honors.
Isabel Scales (Caston) – It can be difficult for a freshman to play varsity basketball. It can be especially difficult for a freshman point guard to play varsity basketball. Scales averaged 13 points and five rebounds per game, but she also was a reliable ballhandler and a top defender. Her outside shot could be a little inconsistent, but we’re just being nitpicky: Her future, and Caston’s, looks very bright.
Maggie Smith (Winamac) – Smith averaged seven points per game, but she was a dominant defender and she had the all-time Winamac rebounding record before the end of her junior year before averaging 12 more boards per game as a senior. She could also play on top of a fullcourt press.
Madison Blickenstaff (Pioneer) – Blickenstaff would be the go-to scorer on many teams in the area, but on Pioneer, she was a third option behind Cripe and Olivia Brooke. She was a strong finisher around the basket, a rugged rebounder and an underrated passer.
Lizzy Edmonds (Argos) – Edmonds is a force as a defender and shot blocker, and she was also Argos’ go-to scorer in the post, where she averaged 9.4 ppg.
Maddie Shedrow (Culver) – Shedrow didn’t quite get to 1,000 career points, and knee injuries and the pandemic likely had a hand in her not getting there. Still, she could play the point or shooting guard spots, and she was a very good rebounding guard.
Kaydence Mellott (Tippecanoe Valley) – Mellott ranked 12th in the state with 66 3-pointers. Mellott allowed Valley to spread the floor, and she worked with Wagner to find open spots on the floor.
Kaitlin Rogers (Rochester) – The first thing one thinks of with Kaitlin Rogers is “3-point shooter.” But she’s also a strong rebounder, long-armed defender in Rochester’s various zone defenses and underrated passer.
Ashlynn Brooke (Pioneer)
Kingsley Kroft (Winamac)
Mackenzie Walker (Pioneer)
Lexy Thomas (Rochester)
Madi VanDerWeele (Argos)
Addison Zimpleman (Caston)
Jordan Clingler (Caston)
Hayley Backus (Tippecanoe Valley)
Emma Dunlap (Argos)
Millie Scorsone (Rochester)
Emily Hughes (Rochester)
Emma Howdeshell (Rochester)
Baleigh Binkley (Culver)
Aubrey Gearhart (Winamac)
Maddi Smith (Caston)