Indian Creek girls basketball coach Jamie Cook remembers a dozen years ago when the Eagles had just opened the doors to their brand-new high school in Crownsville, and the fledgling basketball program he headed was the cupcake on everyone’s schedule.
“We lost one game 98-2,” said Cook, recalling the early years. “Those were some harsh days.”
Those days seem further away than ever now that the Eagles are IAAM C Conference champions.
Indian Creek achieved that feat at Stevenson University on Sunday, knocking off two-time defending C Conference champion Garrison Forest 43-36 to finish the season 22-3 and win the program’s first IAAM championship.
Twenty-two points and seven rebounds by Christina McPhail, 14 points and six boards by Maddie Evans and six points and four rebounds by Aysia Ferguson highlighted the title-winning day for the Eagles, who staved off every Garrison Forest rally in a game that was tight throughout.
McPhail said the team never lost its confidence as the game hung in the balance throughout a close second half.
“We’re super confident,” said McPhail. “Coach has confidence in us, we instill confidence in ourselves, and we just got it done. I don’t know how to explain it, it’s just, when you have a good season like we had, it’s hard to not have confidence. We’ve played so well, and to make it here and win it, it’s just amazing.”
The Eagles got out on the right foot, getting layups by McPhail and Evans, a jumper by Ferguson, a 3-pointer by McPhail and a putback by Evans to lead 11-5.
Employing a quick-rotating zone defense with starters McPhail, Evans, Ferguson, Kara Matthews and Delaney Dignam, Indian Creek held Garrison Forest to just six points in the second quarter. Reserve Niya Harden had a block and two rebounds, and Parker Booth had a steal to help snuff out any potential Garrison momentum, and Indian Creek led 19-17 at halftime.
Garrison took a 24-22 lead in the third quarter, but a rebound and putback by Evans tied the game, and two 3-pointers in the quarter by McPhail allowed Indian Creek to lead 31-26 entering the fourth.
The Grizzlies continued to fight, as senior Marina Lazarides scored to pull her side within one point at 31-30, but Evans made a steal and passed to teammate Paige Wells, who dished it back to Evans for a layup and a 33-30 lead. Between Indian Creek free throws, Lazarides first hit a 3-pointer, then a layup that made the lead just two at 38-36.
McPhail made perhaps the play of the game with 1 minute, 31 seconds left, driving into the lane and scoring with her left hand to make it a 40-36 game. Evans made a layup off a fast break, then a steal and a free throw to ice the win and bring on a jubilant celebration by the Eagles at center court.
Indian Creek’s championship celebrations may never have occurred if not for its massive comeback win over Oldfields in the conference semifinals on February 16. The Eagles trailed by as many as 18 points in the second half of that game but rallied behind Evans’ game-high 25 points—18 in the second half—to pull out an astonishing 58-55 victory.
According to both Cook and Evans, an impassioned speech at halftime of the semifinals by Medea Jackson—a senior who took the unusual step of ceding the team to its talented sophomore class to take on the unique role this winter of captain/team manager—was the season’s moment of truth.
“Medea stood up and she gave us this speech that I think really won the game for us,” said Evans. “We all had our heads down. We were all sitting there like, ‘Man, we might’ve just blown it.’ And she gave this speech that was just pretty amazing, and it made us feel like, ‘We’ve got this.’ We came out and just took off from there."
The Eagles rallied to defeat Oldfields, then carried the momentum right into Sunday’s win at Stevenson.
“This is really awesome,” said Evans. “Last year we thought we could win it, and we lost to Garrison in the semis. This year we just came out with a fire to make up for when we ended last year, and we did it. It felt awesome out there on the court.”
Cook, who is also the Athletic Director at Indian Creek, said the program has grown right along with the school, and he’s proud of how he’s built his team, coaching up the girls already at the school.
“It’s awesome. I’ve been patient and tried not to do it the wrong way and recruit and get transfers in,” said Cook. “We try to get good, quality kids. This group we have now is a group from our middle school. Four of them attended our middle school. It’s been home grown. We’ve been trying to do it the right way, and it’s special.”
With the starting five of McPhail, Evans, Ferguson, Matthews and Dignam as well as top reserves Wells and Booth all sophomores, it appears the Eagles’ stay at the top could be just beginning.
“We’re hoping that over time we can replenish the cabinet by bringing in one or two freshmen every other year so that they can feed off this group,” said Cook. “This group was a great group of freshmen when they came in. They were a little shellshocked last year when we lost in the semifinals to Garrison Forest, but this year they looked like they were really ready to step it up.”
McPhail said the team’s play is a direct outgrowth of its tight bond as friends and family, not just as teammates.
“The chemistry off the floor is amazing,” said McPhail. “Of course we have drama, but there’s drama when you have family. We’re just such great friends off the floor, and we love each other unconditionally, and it carries over to the floor. We’re all friends, we all love each other, and it’s easy to play when you all love each other like family.”
The Indian Creek girls basketball team is Christina McPhail, Maddie Evans, Aysia Ferguson, Kara Matthews, Delaney Dignam, Paige Wells, Niya Harden, Parker Booth, Jaylin Johnson, Laterra Galloway, Sydney Williams, Taylor McCuiston, Hayley Albert, senior captain/manager Medea Jackson and manager Sophia Wells. The team is coached by head coach Jamie Cook and assistant coach Thomas Hawkins.
Video by Colin Murphy