TERRE HAUTE – Scott Kreiger seemed reluctant to crack a smile.
The Canterbury girls basketball team had just defeated Northeast Dubois 64-54 Saturday for its fourth Class A state championship in five years, but its coach was stoic. Even as the postgame news conference got under way inside Indiana State’s Hulman Center, Kreiger solemnly looked over the box score.
“At the beginning of the season, they were good basketball players, but they weren’t a very good basketball team,” said Kreiger, whose team won its 20th straight game. “In December, we worked through some tough times … even though we were winning games, we weren’t winning games that would manifest themselves into championships down the line.
“In January and February, they figured it out and became a very good basketball team. You don’t win basketball games against good teams when you are a fractured group.”
Canterbury (25-2) won three state titles from 2008 to 2010 but lost in the semistate last year. Fifth-ranked Northeast Dubois (23-4) was the Class A state runner-up in 2005.
Freshman Darby Maggard led the Cavaliers with 17 points, while sophomore Kindell Fincher and junior Bailey Farley added 15 each. Aaliyah Gaines chipped in 10 points. Fincher had 15 rebounds, 12 in the first half.
Canterbury will lose only one starter to graduation in senior Matte Troxel.
“Being on the last state championship (2010) was a good experience, but getting the playing time and getting to know these girls, it is a really good way to go out my senior year,” Troxel said.
“We were jelling, and it was a great way to end the season,” Maggard said.
The Cavaliers’ high-scoring offense met its most formidable defense in the Jeeps.
Canterbury made only 23 of 55 shots (42 percent) and was held 18 points below its state-best average.
“They defended us as well as anybody has all year,” Kreiger said. “They really made it tough to get the ball where we wanted it go and to get the shots we wanted.”
The Cavaliers averaged 79.2 points, just missing out on the state-record of 80.4. It didn’t help that Canterbury struggled early, including missing four straight layup attempts at one point in the first half.
Northeast Dubois outrebounded Canterbury 43-29, with 16 offensive rebounds.
Every time the Jeeps got close, the Cavs had an answer.
“We were ready to go,” Troxel said. “They just came at us, and we fought it off like we have the last few games.”
Canterbury led 38-25 in the third when Northeast Dubois went on a 12-0 run to cut the lead to one at 38-37.
The Cavaliers went on a 14-3 run to get the lead to 11 at 52-41.
“It is great how we can keep our heads up and keep playing together,” Fincher said.
The teams exchanged mini-runs the rest of the game.
“When this place got rocking, our kids didn’t bat an eye,” Kreiger said. “We didn’t have to hold their hand through it. They knew what needed to be done, and just like that the lead was back up to double digits.”
Northeast Dubois’ Rachel Breitwieser had 15 points and 17 rebounds, tying the Class A state record held by former Cavalier standout Tabitha Gerardot. Nicole Dodd led the Jeeps with 20 points.