Over the past dozen years, Rivet has built a reputation as one of the best Class A girls basketball programs in the state. As the Patriots prepare to go for their 13th straight season with at least 17 wins and their fifth straight sectional title, a new question looms: Can Rivet become one of the best girls basketball teams in 2A?
It’s a question that Grace Waggoner hoped to answer during her four-year career. She won’t get the chance, as Knox County’s all-time leading scorer is continuing her hoops career at Indiana, but she helped give her teammates that opportunity a season ago as the Patriots earn their second consecutive State runner-up finish. Those two trips move Rivet up to 2A due to the IHSAA success factor.
“I just know that we play a tremendous schedule to try and prepare the girls,” said Patriots coach Rick Marshall, who’s guided the team to a 55-4 mark in his two seasons in charge. “We beefed up our schedule. We added some 3A and 4A schools, and we dropped some 1A schools. Obviously if you can survive it from an injury standpoint, when you’re playing more physical teams like that, it’s going to prepare you.
“When you beef up your schedule like we did, the chances of winning every game are not very likely. But the experience they get along the way gives them a chance at a successful tournament run. There’s a different level of physicality in 2A. We just have to prepare as best as we can for the challenge when we get there.”
It’s difficult for the Patriots to replace Waggoner, who played a major role in the team winning a state-best 103 games over the past four seasons, but with six returning who played at least three minutes in last year’s state championship game, Rivet has no plans of fading any time soon.
Senior Tia Tolbert is expected to pick up the scoring lost from Waggoner’s 21.4 points per game last year, but she has some help from classmates Caroline Herman and Macee Hamilton, especially when it comes to leadership.
The 5-10 Tolbert stuffed the stat sheets a year ago with 12.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.9 steals, and she was an ICGSA third-team all-state pick. Herman (6.8 ppg) is a 6-0 point guard who should also provide an uptick in scoring, while the 5-3 Hamilton (3.4) is a pest on the defensive end, and Marshall said her 3-point shooting has improved as well.
The senior trio had the chance to hone their leadership skills this fall, with Tolbert and Herman leading the soccer Patriots to a sectional title and Hamilton aiding Rivet volleyball to its first winning campaign in several years.
“They talk and they’re confident. They pull the team together and let them know what’s going on. That’s a plus having those three,” Marshall said. “Macee leads more by example, but it’s easy to see their leadership skills come out. Also, they’ve had some great examples in the past.
“I used to always use Bird or Magic as an example, but I guess I’ll say (Tolbert) is kind of like the LeBron of our team,” he said. “She makes everyone around her better. She draws so much attention, but she sees the floor and she’s a great passer. Obviously she’s going to have to pick up her scoring. If she’s scoring 12 a game we probably won’t be successful unless we have five in double figures. But she can make that happen, and she can be a clutch shooter down the stretch too.”
Others returning with State Finals experience are 6-2 junior Lauren Carie (2.7) and sophomores 5-8 Maddisyn Halter (3.3) and 6-0 Meredith Weiss (2.3). Rounding out the varsity roster are 5-11 junior Kathryn Herman, 5-7 sophomore Elise Lowe and 5-4 freshman Kenadee Frey. Herman and Lowe both appeared in the waning seconds at the State Finals.
Marshall said that Frey was a surprise over the summer and that the freshman is a strong shooter and plays fearless despite her size. He added that Halter had the chance to be the team’s best outside shooter and that fans will be surprised with Carie’s offseason development. Weiss is dealing with a lingering knee injury from soccer, but Marshall has high expectations for the sophomore big if she can stay on the floor.
The coach is most pleased with his team’s defense at this point.
“About all of these kids can score, and that’s a plus. Defensively they understand the concepts of how we want to play, and that’s a strength,” he said. “We’re a pressing team, and with the quickness and size we have we’ll cause some people some heartache. They talk so well defensively, and some may not understand how important that is. It’s a huge strength, and a lot of that credit goes to their previous coaches.
“This team knows that if they’re going to be successful, they’re going to have to do it together. It can’t just be one, two or three of them. Togetherness is a strength. When teams are together, they have a chance to excel.”
The main schedule changes are the addition of Evansville Harrison and Northview, and 4A No. 10 Bedford North Lawrence replaces Castle. The only non-conference Class A teams still on the slate are No. 2 Tecumseh and honorable mention Bloomfield.
The schedule will be important come February when Rivet faces the toughest sectional field its ever seen. County foes North Knox and South Knox have combined to win the last four 2A sectionals, and fellow newcomer Paoli won a regional in 2018 before falling in the overtime in last year’s sectional to Eastern Pekin, which took out the Spartans in the regional.
And that’s not even considering the biggest threat, Linton. The Miners are No. 2 in the preseason coaches’ poll and nearly upset the Patriots during their unbeaten regular-season run a year ago.
“If you look at that sectional, it’s got to be one of the strongest in 2A in the state,” Marshall said. “It’s probably one of the most balanced too. With seven teams, you’re probably going to have to win three games to get out of it, and those are some awful good teams. Obviously it’s going to be quite the challenge for us.”
Loogootee, another team that nearly knocked off Rivet last season, poses the biggest threat in the Blue Chip Conference, but Marshall knows the county teams are in the mix too.
“North Knox is young, but talented, and South Knox has a veteran ball club coming back. They have a lot of potential,” he said. “Loogootee is very good, Barr-Reeve is improved, and Wood Memorial has one of the better point guards in the conference. It’s going to be interesting to see who pulls it out.”
No. |Name |Pos. |Ht. |Yr.
2 |Carmen Creech |G |5-9 |10
3 |Katie McGuire |F |5-9 |9
5 |Macee Hamilton |G |5-3 |12
10 |Tia Tolbert |G |5-10 |12
11 |Lauren Carie |C |6-2 |11
12 |Meredith Weiss |F |6-0 |10
15 |Gracie Winegar |G |5-0 |10
20 |Cadence Mills |F |5-10 |9
21 |Kenadee Frey |G |5-4 |9
22 |Maddisyn Halter |G |5-8 |10
23 |Kathryn Herman |C |5-11 |11
25 |Kenzie Willis |G |5-4 |9
30 |Alicia McGuire |C |5-10 |10
34 |Elise Lowe |G |5-7 |10
35 |Emma Spurgeon |F |5-7 |10
42 |Caroline Herman |G |6-0 |12
Coach: Rick Marshall
Assistants: Sheila Herman, Larry Knight, Molly Weiss, Mike Mills
DATE |OPPONENT |TIME
Nov. 9 |EV. HARRISON |8
Nov. 12 |Bedford N. Lawrence |7:30
Nov. 16 |WOOD MEMORIAL |8
Nov. 21 |NORTH KNOX |7:30
Nov. 23 |NORTH POSEY |6:30
Nov. 25 |Shoals |7:30
Nov. 27 |Washington Cath. |7:30
Dec. 5 |Bloomfield |7:30
Dec. 7 |Casey Co. (Ky.) |3:30
Dec. 12 |SOUTH KNOX |7:30
Dec. 14 |Princeton |1:30
Dec. 19 |EV. MEMORIAL |8
Dec. 27-28 |NIEHAUS CLASSIC
Jan. 4 |Northview |7:30
Jan. 9 |Linton |7:30
Jan. 11 |BARR-REEVE |1:30
Jan. 16 |Loogootee |7:30
Jan. 21 |Tecumseh |8
Jan. 23 |Washington |7:30
Jan. 28 |Lawrenceville (Ill.) |8
Jan. 30 |NE DUBOIS |7:30
Home games in CAPS
All times p.m. unless noted