With its roster finally at full strength, the Mechanicsburg High School girls basketball team is ready to make a run at an elusive Ohio Heritage Conference championship.
The Indians, the 14th-ranked Division IV team in the state, are 11-1 — the program’s best start since coach Christie Dodane took over the program a decade ago, she said. They’re 7-0 in the OHC North Division and are tied with D-III 13th-ranked West Liberty-Salem (9-1, 7-0). Since joining the league in 2001, Mechanicsburg has yet to win a conference or division title.
On Saturday, the Indians beat OHC South Division rival Catholic Central (8-2, 7-1) 49-41, thanks to their defensive effort, Dodane said. They’re allowing 30.2 points per game.
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“We’re just flat getting after people,” she said. “We didn’t shoot well (at Catholic Central) but we continued to play defense. We felt like that’s why we were successful because Catholic Central is a good team. Every kid has bought in. Every kid works hard in practice every day and they’re pushing each other to be better.”
Last season, the Indians went 16-9 and 11-5 in the division. They played nearly the entire season without Kasey Schipfer, who tore her ACL in the offseason. Two years ago, Schipfer was the OHC North Division Player of the Year as a sophomore.
This year, she’s back at full strength and doing it all on the floor for the Indians. She’s averaging 17.3 points per game while shooting 48.9 percent from the field. Defensively, she leads the conference with 6.2 steals per game.
“She’s better than ever now,” Dodane said.
Junior guard Grace Forrest is averaging 13.8 points and 2.8 steals per game. Dodane challenged her players to make 10,000 shots during the offseason and Forrest was the only one to accomplish the task, she said.
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“In all my years of coaching, that kid has probably worked harder than anybody I’ve ever coached,” Dodane said. “She’s been in the weight room working and working and working. She works on her game. She comes in before school every day and shoots. Her game has improved tremendously because she’s worked her tail off.”
The Indians have two big games coming up against West Liberty-Salem, the two-time defending OHC North Division champions.
“They have very good athletes, a good coach and a very good team. They’ve got good tradition,” Dodane said.
Mechanicsburg dropped its first game on Tuesday night, falling at D-II seventh-ranked Jonathan Alder 54-43.
The Indians beefed up their schedule this season to prepare themselves for the postseason. The Southwest District includes five state-ranked teams — No. 1 Fort Loramie, No. 6, No. 7 Tri-Village, Mechanisburg and No. 19 Franklin-Monroe.
“This is a very tough region,” Dodane said. “The better competition you have, it makes you better and it makes your kids learn to play better.”
The tough schedule will allow them to be ready for the tight games they’ll play in the postseason, she said.
“You have to play in close games to be able to win close games,” Dodane said. “When you get to tournament time, as you win, you’re going to play tougher teams. You have to have confidence in yourself that you’ve been in close games to be able to win them.”
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