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Three-Pointers, Late Defense lead Gibson Southern to Program’s First IHSAA Championship

Anna Kayser, Special to
Posted: February 24, 2024
2023-24 3A GBB Photo 2
Photo Credit: Double Edge Media @demllc

INDIANAPOLIS - Behind a record-breaking performance by Chloey Graham from beyond the three-point line and key defense to stave off a late comeback, the Gibson Southern Titans defeated the Norwell Knights on Saturday night at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, 63-60, to bring home their first girls basketball IHSAA state title in program history.

“Obviously a little bit of anxiety there in the second half, but at the end of the day there’s excitement, pride, joy, just all kinds of adjectives we could use right now to describe with these girls have done,” Gibson Southern head coach Kyle Brasher said. “I’m just so happy and excited and proud of them and their accomplishments because I know a lot of the work they put in.”

The promise of a high-scoring battle between the third and fourth highest-scoring teams in the state delivered, with Graham’s six three-pointers in nine attempts breaking the 3A record of five set in 2013 by Mt. Vernon’s Sydney Shelton. Graham, a senior, entered the contest with 81 three-pointers this season, good for sixth-most in the state. As a unit, the Titans’ 11 three-pointers made set the IHSAA state finals record regardless of class, besting the record of 10 set by 4A Lawrence North in 2020.

After a commanding first half by the Titans’ tandem Graham and point guard Gabby Spink, Graham’s scoring took off in the third quarter to build a lead Gibson Southern would need as Norwell control the narrative for most of the final 12 minutes. Four of her six three-pointers came in the penultimate quarter, including consecutive splashes in 18 seconds to stretch her team’s lead to a team-high 19 points.

“I think we just got too disconnected from Graham there for a while,” Norwell head coach Eric Thornton said. “We can’t let her grab and shoot as much as she did.”

Then, Norwell flipped the script and used a multitude of turnovers to its advantage. Gibson Southern turned the ball over 25 times, 14 of those coming in the second half for 17 Norwell points, allowing the Knights to tighten the deficit to as low as one. Norwell’s Kennedy Fuelling had seven steals in the game, tying two others for the 3A state finals record.

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Gibson Southern's Chloey Graham tied the overall state finals record with six three point field goals (Photo credit: Double Edge Media @demllc).


Following Graham’s final two threes, Norwell used three minutes of ball control to go on a 12-0 run courtesy of five turnovers. In just shy of eight minutes of game time, the Knights outscored the Titans 23-5, tightening the score to 59-58 with four minutes left to play.

“Our start was good, and then obviously they made some adjustments on their end,” Brasher said. We were trying to think of things we could do to put Chloey in the middle, just try to spice it up some. I thought our girls defensively did a lot of good things. Obviously, we built that 19-point lead, but Norwell’s a great team, senior led, and we knew they were going to make a run.”

As the game winded down, defense was key for both teams in keeping the score lose. With the score at 62-60 and a minute of clock control with Norwell trying to get the ball back, a travel by Graham handed the Knights the ball with a chance to either tie or take the lead.

Senior Ally Malone, who had a big three-pointer earlier in the quarter to break up Norwell’s scoring runs, induced a turnover with less than 15 seconds left to keep the lead at two.

“I saw the ball was loose out there and I knew we needed it,” Malone said. “I just jumped out on it and was diving for it and I ended up with the ball in my hands. I was just super grateful to be able to get that steal for my teammates.”

One made free-throw extended the lead to three, giving Fuelling the ball back for a chance to tie the game at the buzzer with Gibson Southern’s defense focusing on the arch. Fuelling broke away from a pair of defenders for a three-point jump shot that landed just wide.

“We ran a play called ‘Hawkeye,’ I don’t think we’ve run it all year long. It’s something we’ve just practice and that was the right moment for that,” Thornton said. “As [Kennedy] has throughout her career, she was looking to shoot the ball and they had a defender there and shot faked and just got her feet set, got a really good look at it. That was the look we were wanting right there and if it goes in, we’re playing for four more minutes.”

In the fourth quarter, Norwell held Gibson Southern to just seven points.

Graham finished as the game’s leading scorer with 22 points, with Spink trailing her with 17 points. Norwell’s Mackenzie Guess had 16 points, Fuelling had 15 and Vanessa Rosswurm had 14. All five of the game’s leading scorers played all 32 minutes.

Gibson Southern’s first championship comes over 20 years after their last trip to the finals game, coming in 2002 when they finished runner-up.


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Kennedy Fuelling (10) of Norwell shooting over Gibson Southern's Chloey Graham (41) (Photo credit: Double Edge Media @demllc).


Class 3A State Championship Records

Most 3FG Made by a Team: (Also Overall Record) 11 by Gibson Southern

Most 3FG Made by an Individual: (Tied Overall Record) 6 by Chloey Graham, Gibson Southern

Most Steals: (Tied) 7 by Kennedy Fuelling, Norwell

Gibson Southern's Ally Malone earns Roy Mental Attitude Award

Following the game, members of the IHSAA Executive Committee named Ally Malone of Gibson Southern High School as the Patricia L. Roy Mental Attitude Award winner in Class 3A 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.

Ally has maintained a 4.0 GPA putting her atop her high school senior class. She also serves as the Junior/Senior class president, is involved in the Student Council, and is in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Malone is three-year letter winner, two-year starter, and two-time team captain for the girls basketball team. She also plays softball and has been a four-year starter for the Titans. 

She is the daughter of Sean and Heather Malone of Fort Branch, IN, and is interested in medical studies but is undecided on her college choice.

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 Gibson Southern High School in the name of Ally Malone.

The award is named in honor of the late former IHSAA assistant commissioner Patricia L. Roy, who administered the girls basketball state tournament from its inception in 1976 until her retirement in 1999.

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Ally Malone of Gibson Southern was named the recipient of the Patricia L. Roy Mental Attitude Award (Photo credit: Double Edge Media @demllc).