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Girls basketball city strength

Baker

The Summit City is again making its mark on the girls basketball postseason.

A year after putting three Fort Wayne teams into the 2012 state finals, there are four northeast Indiana teams – Warsaw, South Side, Bishop Luers and Canterbury – still alive this season for a chance to go to Terre Haute next week and play for a title.

One commonality among the four teams is the summer work on the AAU circuit with the Fort Wayne-based Spiece GymRats programs.

Five senior members of the 2013 GymRats team are playing in the semistate – South Side’s Ariana Simmons, Britni Clopton and DeJoyah Johnson, Warsaw’s Lindsay Baker and Canterbury’s Bailey Farley. Not to feel left out, the 2014 GymRats team has three Luers players in juniors Addie Reimbold and twins Allison and Erin Butler, as well as Canterbury sophomore Katherine Smith.

Fort Wayne, which played host to the state finals in 2010 and 2011, has long been known as a hub of girls basketball in northeast Indiana and the state.

“I would put the Fort Wayne area as far as girls basketball against any other part of the state,” GymRats 2013 coach Gil Farley said. “The results speak for themselves, not only the teams still left in the state tournament, but where these girls are going to go above and beyond from a basketball and educational perspective.”

Farley’s AAU team helped produce eight Division I players and one Division II player, plus one player who could have been a Division I player if it wasn’t for two knee surgeries over the last year.

“The competition that they play against in the summer, not only against other teams, but the way they work against each other in practice, really elevates their game and translates very well to the high school level,” Farley said.

It’s part of the reason that Baker chose to play AAU basketball in Fort Wayne over other opportunities.

“For me, I wanted to get the best exposure I could get,” Baker said. “I had two teams I could play for, and I chose Fort Wayne because it is a little closer to my house, and I was getting ready to start driving. … I don’t think I could have made a better decision.”

Baker said it isn’t by accident that Fort Wayne generates some of the top girls basketball players and teams in the state.

“I don’t think there is a coincidence,” she said. “They come from an area where they have great facilities and great people to help them out, with so many talented coaches. That’s a huge part of Fort Wayne basketball, which is very comparable to Indy basketball.”

Two of the teams, Warsaw and South Side, will play against each other in a Class 4A semistate. That leaves former AAU teammates on opposite sides of the semistate Saturday.

“They will still be my teammates forever, and I will love them to death,” Baker said. “But when you come out on the court in opposite colors you have to play.”

Greg Jones is the high school sports editor for The Journal Gazette and has been covering sports in the Fort Wayne area since 1998. He can be reached by email gjones@jg.net; phone, 461-8224; or fax 461-8648.

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