Sectional Champs: The Chesterton girls basketball team
picked up its first Sectional title since 1994 with a 50-43 upset over No. 9
Merrillville Saturday night at Valparaiso High School. The Trojans will face
No. 1 South Bend Washington in the first game of Regionals next Saturday at
9:30 a.m. at Valparaiso. Pictured are, front row (l to r), Kelly Peller,
Rachel Hargarten, Molly Rau, Katie Stahura and Katie Talbert. Second row (l
to r) are Abby Skube, Angela Richardson, Katrina Pradziad, Kristin Kalita,
Kate Bement, Maddie Wilk, Katie Schneckenberger and Stacy Stawitcke. Back
row (l to r) are Athletic Director Garry Nallenweg, Principal James Goetz,
Assistant Coach Fred Mitchell, Head Coach Jack Campbell, Assistant Coach
Tracie Mezera, Trainer Nancy Furcsik and Assistant Coach Gary Richardson.
(Tribune photo by Dana Gilbertson)
By TR HARLAN
The quintet of seniors on the Chesterton girls basketball team probably
don’t remember Villanova-Georgetown, but the adults in the crowd Saturday
night at Valparaiso High School might have remembered.
The Trojans vanquished memories of a 10-point and 18-point loss during the
regular season by topping the Merrillville Pirates 50-43 in the Sectional
“We talked about being against all odds,” Chesterton coach Jack Campbell
said after his team won its first Sectional title since 1994. “What a great
effort by everybody. It’s just a great win.”
Chesterton tried to start the game in a stall to hold the score down, but
turned the ball over on its first three possessions and fell behind 4-0.
“Unfortunately it didn’t work and we just had to play them,” Campbell said
of the game plan. “The girls weren’t worried early, but the rest of us on
the bench were like, well, that’s not working.”
Katrina Pradziad scored on a 15-footer, but Merrillville answered with six
more points and 10-2 lead. Kelly Peller scored eight first quarter points
for the Trojans on her way to 29, but the Pirates held a 17-10 lead after
the first stanza.
“We ask Kelly to do an awful lot,” Campbell said. “For three games, she came
up with passes when we needed them. Tonight we needed her to score 29
points, so she did.”
“Did we panic? Maybe a little,” Peller said of the slow start. There’s
always intimidation when they’ve got two 6-3 girls. We realized that you
have to go back to what works. I thought we executed real well against their
speed and quickness.”
Those two 6-3 girls, Sharon Houston and Brittney Moore, dominated the
interior most of the night. Houston, headed to Old Dominion, finished with
19 points and 15 rebounds, while Moore, a Xavier-signee, had 10 points and
“We tried to put as much pressure on them as we could,” Pradziad said.
“Coach has been working with us every day since the last time we played
them. He taught us our footwork and everything and it paid off today.”
Pradziad and Peller combined for a 6-0 run early in the second quarter
pulling the Trojans within 19-16. Katie Stahura’s 3-pointer with 2:26 to
play in the half made it 24-23.
“I’m so lucky to be on a team that gets along so well and everybody’s in it
for the right reasons,” Peller said. “I love them to death and I can’t
imagine next year without them.”
Both defenses locked up in the third quarter as the Pirates outscored
Chesterton 6-4 for a 34-29 lead with eight minutes to play.
Peller hit a pair of free throws that cut the lead to 34-31 with 6:57 to
play and it was purely a sign of things to come. Peller hit 13-of-14 free
throws in the fourth quarter.
“When you go to the foul line, it’s all about rhythm,” Peller said. “I felt
great up there. I just knew if I made them it was two more points for my
“I was more calm than anything. I’m surprised, but I just felt like that was
where I was supposed to be right then.”
Two more free throws by Peller tied the game for the first time at 39-all
with 3:00 to play. It was the start of an 8-0 run. Rachel Hargarten’s runner
on the baseline 41 seconds later gave the Trojans their first lead.
“We had a lot of kids make big baskets,” Campbell said. “Rachel, we ran a
special play, it didn’t work. She picked it up and scored. Maddie (Wilk)
made a critical basket. Kat (Pradziad) fought through being sick the last
“It’s just a great win for this group of kids.” Houston scored with just
under a minute to go, but Peller hit five-of-six free throws in the final
52.9 seconds for the victory.
“Everybody spends a lot of time in the offseason and summer,” Campbell said.
“But, I’ve never had a group of seniors that committed that much time to
“We talked about the journey becoming more important than the destination.
This one game wasn’t going to make of break the season. It’s just icing on
Katie Stahura 1 2-2 5, Rachel Hargarten 3 0-0 6, Kelly Peller 5 17-19 29,
Maddie Wilk 1 0-2 2, Katrina Pradziad 3 2-2 8, Katie Talbert 0 0-0 0, Abby
Skube 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 21-25 50.
Britney Cruse 0 0-0 0, Angela East 1 0-0 2, Sharon Houston 8 3-4 19, Gina
Howard 3 0-0 6, Brittney Moore 3 4-7 10, Jamesha Harris 2 0-0 4, Chrissy
Lobodinski 0 0-0 0, Britney Curry 1 0-0 2. Totals 18 7-11 43.
3-point field goals: Stahura, Peller 2 (C).
Rebounds: Peller 7 (C); Houston 15 (M).
Assists: Stahura 2 (C); Moore 3 (M).
Steals: Peller 3 (C); Cruse 2, Harris 2 (M).