ZCHS Girls Basketball Caps Incredible Season As Class 4A State Runner-Up
Writer: Jon Shoulders
Photographer: Tom Marron Photography
When Zionsville High School girls varsity basketball coach Andy Maguire looks back on the successes his team achieved this season, including an impressive run to the Indiana Class 4A state championship game, his gratification lies not just in knowing what his team accomplished but also the adversity they overcame to accomplish it.
After all, beginning the year without two previous starters, and losing a third starter just four games into the season, might cast doubt in the minds of any basketball squad.
“We had a couple junior starters last year who didn’t come back this year as seniors, and then we lost Gabby Woodworth, another starter, in the fourth game of the year to an ACL tear,” Maguire says. “I don’t think any of us at the beginning of the season imagined that we would get to the state tournament. But that was what was really neat about it – we pulled together and accomplished some really great things.”
After Woodworth’s injury the Eagles lost their next two games, leaving them with a 3-3 record and in need of some major adjustments. Many teams would have written the season off as hopeless, but through a collective resilience, and leadership from players like junior Maddie Nolan, who averaged 21.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists this season, the team pulled together and found their stride. Maguire says he saw improvements at practices on an almost daily basis.
“Gabby was also a big part of how we turned things around, and she became the team’s biggest supporter after her injury, not only on the bench but at practice every day,” Maguire says. “She did whatever she could to help her teammates. I’ve had kids get injured before and they just kind of disappear, but she became a leader.”
The team went on to win 12 of its next 13 games, and entered post-season play with renewed focus. The season’s challenges were far from over, however, as the regional tournament rolled around and the Eagles found themselves against a Carmel team that had beaten them by at least 16 points in both of the teams’ previous meetings. Coach Maguire made some defensive adjustments, and Zionsville pulled out a five-point win.
“Those two previous losses to Carmel were definitely the fire in our bellies to make us want to win more,” says junior forward Delaney Richason. “We knew we would have to play good defense and keep them under a certain amount of points.”
Victories over Fort Wayne South in the regional championship and Penn at semi-state set the stage for a Class 4A state championship matchup with Warren Central that came down to the final minutes. In the end, Warren’s tight defense carried the day, as the Warriors held Zionsville to 33 percent shooting and 20 points below their season point average for a 50-46 victory.
“It was a tough loss at the championship, but we don’t have any regrets as far as how we played at any point during post-season,” says Maguire, a Boone County native and Purdue grad whose father coached the Zionsville boys varsity basketball team from 1970 through 1976.
“Penn was probably the best defensive team in the state, and I’m proud of how tough we were against them,” he adds. “The game against Warren was back-and-forth the whole way, and I think it came down to the fact that we just missed some shots.”
Richason says late-season improvements from her freshman sister Katey as well as juniors Sarah Howell and Megan Sheridan helped the Eagles through its post-season challenges.
“We had so many players step up, and it makes me excited to be even better next year, with Gabby back from her injury and having us all playing together this summer,” says Richason, who already has scholarship offers from a couple Division II colleges.
Maguire also feels next season holds massive promise for the Eagles, and he’ll only lose two players – seniors Kaylee Riggins, who plans to play lacrosse at LIU-Brooklyn, and Annie Tokarek, who’ll attend Indiana State and play softball. He feels the Richasons, both of whom were key offensive contributors this season, will improve on both ends of the court, while Nolan will continue to be a team leader.
“We talked about unfinished business at the end of the championship game, and we have an opportunity next year to be better,” he says. “As we saw this year, every season presents its own challenges, but that’s the exciting part about coaching, figuring out how to roll with things and getting the kids to play the best they can.”