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Ben Smith

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State finals
Today
At Indiana State, Terre Haute
Class A: Canterbury (24-3) vs. Vincennes Rivet (22-4), 10:30 a.m.
Class 2A: Eastern (Greentown) (22-3) vs. Evansville Mater Dei (27-2), 12:45 p.m.
Class 3A: Hamilton Heights (23-2) vs. Mount Vernon (Fortville) (22-4), 6 p.m.
Class 4A: South Side (24-3) vs. Bedford North Lawrence (27-0), 8:15 p.m.
Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Lakesha LaMaster-Stephens and South Side will make their first trip to the girls state finals today.

Archers, Cavs building their legacies

– They’ll stand as the bookends to this day, and that is as it should be. Is there anything more right than Canterbury at one end of the girls state finals and South Side at the other? Is there anything more … well, cosmic?

Here in the morning, the Cavaliers, who practically get their mail delivered in this place.

Here in the shank of the evening, your South Side Archers, newbies to the big stage, playing in the game that’s eluded them every year through the Oughts and the ’90s and the ’80s and all the way to 1976, when Gerald Ford was president and Warsaw and Judi Warren made their history.

Polar opposites, literally as well as figuratively. Same-old, same-old vs. a kid’s first Christmas, pretty much.

“It would be an honor and a joy to put on a blue ribbon,” South guard DeJoyah Johnson says.

“It would be real nice coming back to Fort Wayne (with a state title),” fellow guard Lakyn Gulley says.

That you expect, considering everything. What you don’t expect is to go out to Canterbury, seeking its fifth state title in six years, and hear much the same thing.

“So is it an advantage having been here so many times, or is there a tendency to take it for granted?” sophomore Darby Maggard is asked.

She looks at you like you’ve got three heads.

“Oh, it’s a definite advantage,” she says. “I don’t think Canterbury’s ever gone to a state championship (game) and lost. So I feel like we want to go there and win to keep that going. It’s motivation.”

Of course, there’s motivation and motivation, and one is different than the other. Canterbury, as Maggard suggests, is looking at this through the lens of a history already formed and expectant. South is looking at it as an opportunity to create history – not to say prove that the 24-point loss a month ago to 4A opponent Bedford North Lawrence was not a true a measure of who it is.

“We definitely want to redeem ourselves,” forward Bittni Clopton says.

Out at Canterbury, meanwhile, it’s not about redemption. It’s about legacy and how you respond to that legacy.

“We’ve been very specific about the fact that we have to bring our ‘A’ game, because we are the team that people want to beat,” Canterbury coach Wayne Kreiger said last week, after Canterbury brushed aside Lafayette Central Catholic in the semistate. “We always leave the locker room indicating that we can’t win the state tournament tonight, but we can lose it.”

South, too, must bring its “A” game, of course. But for very different reasons, considering the opponent and what’s at stake, literally for the first time.

“We started this season with a hope and a goal, and we have fulfilled it to this point,” is how Johnson puts it. “We are as hungry as any other team that is in the state finals.”

Almost all of that is because, unlike Canterbury, few observers outside the Archers’ own circle had them in Terre Haute today.

“Everyone didn’t believe we could be here at all,” Clopton says. “We made it this far because we are this kind of team. It is an absolute great feeling, and we have set a precedent for the future and the South Siders to come.”

Out at Canterbury, meanwhile, Darby Maggard grins and says this: “Winning is a great feeling.”

Common ground at last, for the polar opposites.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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