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High Schools

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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Katherine Smith showed what she could do in the postseason and will be relied upon to help Canterbury as the team moves to Class 2A.

Canterbury counting on experience

Many back as team makes move to 2A

Canterbury girls coach Wayne Kreiger begins with the losses, which is irony squared. What about all those banners and team photos stretching back six years now makes anyone dwell on the losses first?

And yet …

“We did lose two starters who provided about 30-plus for us each game,” Kreiger says as Canterbury moves up to Class 2A this year after winning five of the last six 1A state titles. “And we will miss those kids, obviously.”

And so a fond farewell to Bailey Farley (19.8 points per game) and Aaliyah Gaines (11.2), who helped the Cavaliers storm through 1A last year, going 25-3 and winning seven tournament games by an average margin of 36 points. And say hello one more time to Darby Maggard (19.8 ppg, 3.1 apg), Kindell Fincher (19.1 ppg, 10.8 rpg), Emma Hyndman (2.4 ppg) and Katherine Smith, who played only in the tournament but showed herself to be an emerging inside force by averaging 9.3 points and 5.6 rebounds in six games.

That’s some nucleus for a Cavaliers program that never seems to be in rebuilding mode and rarely seems to be reloading.

“We do have a combination of experience and firepower coming back,” says Kreiger, who won his first state title last year after 34 seasons as a coach. “But we obviously have to find some players who will be able to fill in those spots and at the same time some of the roles of the returnees are gonna change a little bit.”

Which means Maggard and Fincher are going to likely be asked to score more, as will last year’s fifth starter, Hyndman, and Smith. And they’ll do it in a new class against a beefed-up schedule that includes Marion, Gary West, Bishop Luers and 2013 3A champ Mount Vernon.

All of them no doubt would love to take down the Cavaliers.

“I think everybody tries to bring their best just from standpoint that we have been so successful and it would be obviously something a lot of people would relish to be able to beat Canterbury,” Kreiger says.

Michelle Harter may have a little of that, too, at Warsaw.

If Canterbury set the standard for region girls programs last year, the Tigers were right behind. They went 24-2 and didn’t stop playing until the 4A semistate, when South Side finally knocked them out 47-44.

Leading scorer Jennifer Walker-Crawford, top 3-point shooter Lindsay Baker and Melanie Holliday are gone from that team. But Harter still has 6-foot-1 center Nikki Gross, a Junior All-Star, point guard Eryn Leek and fellow senior Brooklyn Harrison to build around.

Gross averaged 11.8 points and 9.5 rebounds last year and went for 20 and 13 in the semistate loss.

“Last year was a tremendous season, and the girls just worked so hard to accomplish everything we accomplished,” Harter says. “I think the thing they can take away from that is how hard they had to work each and every practice to continue to get better and not be satisfied. And then how it takes all five players out on floor to be successful. It’s a complete team effort.”