Lanesville Girls reach 1A Mountain Top
Before Angie Hinton took over the girls basketball program at Lanesville five seasons ago, championship banners were literally nonexistent inside the Harrison County school’s modest gymnasium.
Held without a sectional title in program history until 2019, and a first-time state finalist entering Saturday’s 48th annual Indiana High School Athletic Association’s girls basketball state finals in downtown Indianapolis, the Eagles will soon raise the largest of banners.
Ranked first in the state prior to the state finals, the Class 1A Eagles (28-2) completed their five-year quest at immortality with a dominating performance by defeating No. 7 Bethany Christian, 60-41, inside Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
“This is something that we’ve worked for since (coach Hinton) got here really. We had always fallen short at regional, and this year, we finally got past that wall, and we were able to just keep going,” Lanesville senior Linzie Wernert said. “We worked for it since the buzzer sounded last year, and we lost to the eventual state champion (Tecumseh). We’ve been hungry for it and worked for it. Now, we got it.”
The Eagles’ journey began with one sectional title, then five consecutive (2019-23) before their breakthrough this postseason, which netted both a program regional and semi-state championship.
Lanesville came up short, 47-46, against Tecumseh in the regional final in 2021-22, but that was the past, much like the program’s culture of losing.
When Hinton stepped in as head coach at Lanesville, the Eagles had endured 12 straight losing campaigns, but then the switch flipped for the team, resulting in 116 wins and only 19 losses since.
“We did have to change the culture. They’re good kids and I knew they had some skills, but we really didn’t know what we could build. (My husband) Joe (Hinton) and I, we talked about it, but we knew we could make the program better. That was our goal,” said Angie Hinton, who also guided New Albany to a 4A state title in 1999.
“We started to set the goal for them to win more games than you did last year, and as we won more games we started making history and won conference. They had no banners up on the walls, so they wanted to get banners.”
The pieces were there for a run in 2022-23 with an abundance of height inside, youthful defensive prowess on the perimeter and steadfast leadership from Wernert.
All three played crucial roles from the opening tip against Bethany Christian (24-4), as the Eagles ran out to a 10-point lead by the end of the first quarter and touched 22 points by the third.
Wernert had 13 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two steals. Morgan Sonner, a 6-foot-1 senior, scored a game-high 18 points with four rebounds, two blocked shots, a rare 3-pointer and two assists.
Sophomore Hadley Crosier finished with nine points, four steals and five assists. Sophomore Shelby Allen, who stands 6-1, provided 11 points and five rebounds.
The Eagles put together a 14-3 run in the second quarter to establish a 34-18 halftime advantage before a 6-0 run to open the third increased the lead to 40-18.
“We got off to an amazing start. The kind of start we wanted to get off to hit a couple of shots and it loosened the kids up. Our defensive pressure is what we worked on. It’s what we’ve done all year, trying to pick people up and making them uncomfortable,” Hinton said. “Give them speed that they probably don’t want to play and make all the passing lanes difficult. I thought we did that and then we went inside.”
Lanesville won the turnover battle through the first half with one compared to Bethany Christian’s seven. The Eagles finished the game with eight steals as a team and forced 11 Bruins’ turnovers.
Bethany Christian cut the deficit to seven points early in the second quarter and later 13 points in the second half behind a late 13-4 run, but the Eagles never wavered.
“This run to the state finals has been quite remarkable for our team and our community. It’s such a joy to just be a part of this journey these kids have taken us on as a coaching staff and a community,” Bruins head coach Krysten Parson said. “Obviously, you want to be wearing blue ribbons, but at the end of the day, these kids have been making history all year.”
Bethany Christian set new program standards this season by claiming its first sectional title since 2016 and third all-time while also capturing its first regional and semistate championships.
For Hinton, her Eagles’ state championship run marked the second in her career as a coach. She is the third coach in state history to lead two different schools to state titles, joining Donna Cheatham and Kathie Layden.
“This is truly amazing. It does bring tears to my eyes because who could have thought it? You just don’t think about those things, at least I don’t. But when someone brought that up to me it kind of brought me to tears that we were even here,” Hinton said.
“What great company you’re in. Donna Cheatham, I played against her when I was in high school. And I coached against her. She’s a legend in our area, so it makes it feel special for the girls and the game that women’s basketball has come so far, and I’ve been a part of it a lot of years. That makes me feel really good.”
Hinton played at North Harrison High School from 1978-82 before embarking on a 16-year coaching career with 11 seasons at New Albany (1990-2001) and the past five at Lanesville. Her career record holds at 289-92.
Win No. 289 won’t soon be forgotten at Lanesville, a small southeastern school with an enrollment of 243.
“I’m a Harrison County kid. I live in Harrison County now, and I’m coaching a Harrison County team and bringing home a state championship for our entire community,” Hinton said. “I always say you have to give back. People gave to me when I was younger. They coached me, taught me and I try to take what they’ve done for me and give back to the game.”
Class 1A Records Set
Lanesville's Linzie Wernert earns Roy Mental Attitude Award
Following the game, members of the IHSAA Executive Committee named Linzie Wernert of Lanesville Jr.-Sr. High School as the winner of the Patricia L. Roy Mental Attitude Award in Class 1A Girls Basketball.
The award is presented annually to a senior participant in each classification who was nominated by her principal and coach and has demonstrated excellence in mental attitude, scholarship, leadership and athletic ability.
A member school since 1939, Linzie becomes the first student in school history to receive an IHSAA mental attitude award.
Academically, Linzie carries a 3.9 GPA placing her third in her senior class of 50 students. She is a member of the National Honor Society, serves as senior class president with the Student Council and is a student chairperson with the Principal's Leadership Committee.
Linzie is a four-year letterwinner and four-year all-conference player in basketball where she helped the Eagles reach their first state championship game today capping a career that also included four sectional titles and four conference titles. Wernert was also a four-year letterwinner and all-conference player with the volleyball team where she captained the Eagles to two straight sectional titles in 2021 and 2022.
She is the daughter of Jon and Michelle Wernert of Corydon, IN and plans to attend Indiana University Southeast to study Nursing.
The Indiana Fever and Indiana Pacers, the presenting sponsors of the IHSAA Girls Basketball State Tournament, presented a $1,000 scholarship to the general scholarship fund at Lanesville Jr.-Sr. High School in the name of Linzie Wernert.
The award is named in honor of the late former IHSAA assistant commissioner Patricia L. Roy, who oversaw the girls basketball state tournament from its inception in 1976 until her retirement in 1999.