2012 was ‘amazing dream’ for Dubois teamJune 15, 2020
BY COREY STOLZENBACH
Northeast Dubois saw its 2004-05 girls basketball season end in heart break, losing to Tri-Central, 47-46, in the Class 1A state championship game. But young girls looked up to that team, and drew inspiration from the players on that squad.
Nicole (Dodd) Rodrick established a close relationship with Leigh Ann Kluesner from that 2005 team, and used to be baby-sat by Kluesner’s mother when she was younger. The two of them remain close to this day.
“I was around her all the time, so I definitely idolized her and looked up to her,” Rodrick said. “I thought it was so cool sitting in the stands and being like, ‘Oh, I know her and she’s very good out there playing,’ and I wanted to be just like her.”
Mariah (Seng) Spayd remembers being one of the girls who idolized that 2005 group, and saw them as role models when she played.
“I just remember watching those girls and just thinking of how good they were and how cool they seemed because they could go to state,” Spayd said.
Spayd entered her senior year in 2011-12 as a three-time sectional champion. The Jeeps had won their sectional every year dating back to 2003, but Spayd did not know what a regional championship felt like. Dubois had been bounced in each of her first three years of high school in the regional tournament.
She remembers being at camp at Vincennes University in the summer of 2011, thinking her senior year could be different with how well the team jived.
“We were beating teams that, in the years past, we would’ve gotten creamed by,” she said. “When we came home from camp, I just remember thinking to myself, ‘Wow. We are going to have a good year in the fall.’”
Rodrick and Spayd were among the key returners that season, having averaged 12.9 and 6.0 points per game, respectively, the previous year. Rodrick would have to take on more of the production after the graduation of MacKenzi Dorsam, who averaged 13.2 points.
Someone who figured her way into more of a contributing role that season was sophomore center Rachel Breitwieser, who stood at 5-feet-11 tall. Breitwieser remembers spending much of her weekends practicing off the court, and the need to keep up with her teammates.
“I was pretty nervous going into everything because I was one of the younger people starting out,” Breitwieser said.
Breitwieser, Rodrick, Spayd and the rest of the Jeeps got off to a 6-0 start in their 2011-12 campaign. They had a chemistry and performance going for them that got them to No. 5 in the Class 1A rankings, and squared off against Class 2A No. 5 Southridge on Jan. 10, 2012. Rodrick scored 12 points and Spayd totaled eight to help Northeast Dubois squeak by Southridge, 41-36.
Northeast Dubois entered the 2012 sectional in pursuit of a 10th straight sectional championship with a 16-4 record. The Jeeps had no trouble against Washington with a 66-45 win, but Orleans would make a run for an upset.
The Bulldogs led the Jeeps at halftime, and also had a two-point lead in the fourth quarter. Spayd told her teammates that they cannot screw things up after the program had won nine straight sectionals. She reminded them a lot of people were counting on them, and the Jeeps went on an 11-0 run at one point in the fourth quarter to help come away with a 49-40 win.
They then made it 10 in a row with a 55-44 victory against Springs Valley in the championship, overcoming the pressure the team felt to keep the sectional streak going.
“We just tried not to think about it,” Breitwieser said. “We just kept practicing. We never thought about as a team of, ‘Oh, we have to win sectional.’ It was always, ‘Let’s just play our best. Don’t get too far into your head, just play your best,’ and we always kind of just talked each other up.”
To win a regional for the first time since 2008, however, required some rallying and also defensive performance out of the man-to-man defense the Jeeps ran. They encountered a challenge against Tecumseh in the regional tournament. Northeast Dubois won, 45-38, on Dec. 17 in the regular season, but found itself in a nine-point deficit in the regional.
“I think we kind of went in with a mindset of, ‘Oh, we beat them before, we can do this,’ but then yet we weren’t too overconfident because obviously, it’s regional and not everybody makes it there and we kind of played them kind of earlier in the year,” Rodrick said. “So, I think it was just important for us to kind of just take a deep breath and be like, ‘Okay, they’re a different team than when we played them last. We’re different. We’ve got to kind of adapt and adjust to what they’re doing now because they were doing some different things — like some other players were scoring that we weren’t used to and just adapt and work from there.’”
There was the prospect that Northeast Dubois could have met undefeated No. 2 Barr-Reeve in the regional championship, but the Vikings were upset by Borden, 29-28, and both Rodrick and Spayd thought things were going to go their team’s way following this upset.
“As soon as we noticed, had seen that Borden had beat Barr-Reeve, I think there was a general sense of calm over us. But by the same token, I also remember feeling a little bit apprehensive because I knew that we were all going to go into the game too relaxed, maybe because we knew Borden wasn’t particularly as strong of a team as Barr-Reeve was,” Spayd said.
“I was like, ‘Holy Cow, this is going to work out in our favor,’” Rodrick said.
Rodrick was right. It did work out in their favor, but Borden made them sweat for a bit in that regional championship game, breathing down their necks in the second half. The Jeeps held a 10-point lead at one point, but Borden trimmed the lead to 33-31 with 54 seconds to go.
It wasn’t until 2.9 seconds left that Spayd put the game on ice with a pair of free throws for a 35-31 win.
“That was probably pure luck,” she said. “We did this drill in practice and we just rotated through. We had six goals up at the high school that we’d rotate through and shoot free throws, and if we didn’t make both of the free throws, we had to do pushups. We had to do pushups for each one we missed, and I had to do a lot of pushups, I remember, throughout those drills.”
Spayd wasn’t sure just how far the team could go, though, even after breaking through to win the regional. She knew they had a good, athletic team, but also knew Northeast Dubois had to have some luck on its side, and she wondered just how much more luck the team could have.
“Personally, I would never have dreamed that we could go to state,” Spayd said. “Did I think we had a great team to get there? Yes, but just the reality to go to state, you never think, ‘Oh, we’ll actually get there.’”
The Jeeps, again, met adversity in semistate against Southwestern (Shelbyville). Breitwieser ran into foul trouble, accumulating four fouls by the third quarter of play, which she thinks could’ve been a matter of excitement.
“Sometimes, I don’t have my head where it needs to be, and that was definitely a problem there,” Breitwieser said. “I think I got a little too handsy and I didn’t know when to stop.”
Still, Breitwieser finished with 12 points and 11 boards in spite of the foul trouble, but the Spartans made a push toward the Jeeps, who led by five with 1:20 to go in the game. Southwestern led Northeast Dubois by two with 24 seconds to go in the game.
Rodrick had long been established as a scorer for the team. Now, it was time for her to score some of the biggest points of her career with the Jeeps in a 51-49 deficit. She took the ball to the hole, coming near Southwestern’s Oda Shackelford, who stood -feet-1 tall, and blocked three shots in that game. Shackelford wouldn’t get a fourth rejection, as Rodrick got the bucket and the foul, completing the three-point play. The Spartans threw the ball away, and the Jeeps escaped with a 54-51 win to return to state.
“I knew it was just seconds on the clock, and I was like, ‘We have got to score,’” said Rodrick, who scored 25 points. “It was just kind of in my mind. I didn’t know how it was going to happen. I was just going to let it come, but I was like, ‘I know I have to score,’ so I just took it from coast to coast and I think (Shackelford) was on the other block and she came over to help because she was guarding someone else and she bodied me and I just went up strong, and thank goodness I made it.”
Northeast Dubois earned the right to play top-ranked Fort Wayne Canterbury at the Hulman Center in Terre Haute for the Class 1A state championship, and the community threw its support behind the Jeeps, as there was a wave of excitement flowing about.
“Our fans are so great,” Rodrick said. “That’s one of the things I miss the most, honestly, from high school basketball is our following, and our fans — they were just always there. There were signs up downtown, all around town. We had signs up at school. People were always talking about it in restaurants or the school announcements. Everybody’s telling you good luck. Everybody knows the game’s this weekend, and if we win, the fire trucks come out. It’s just really amazing, the support they give us.”
“We had a very small community, but just to see how many people filled up the stands for the little town of Dubois was huge,” Breitwieser said.
The Jeeps were perceived as underdogs, and early on, they lived up to such a billing, trailing the Cavaliers, 17-6, and later 38-25. Canterbury had posted an explosive offense that year at 81.5 points per game.
“We knew they were good, but I think we went in not really understanding how good they were,” Breitwieser said. “I think once we figured out what we needed to do — we needed to rebound more, we needed to get under the goal. They were making a lot of shots. We needed to help out people a lot more than we were used to because they were a lot faster than a lot of teams that we played.”
Basketball’s a game of runs, though, and Northeast Dubois adjusted accordingly when trailing, 38-25. The Jeeps went on a 12-0 run to trail 38-37, after Breitwieser completed a three-point play.
One might think the game turned out in favor of the Jeeps, considering they won on the boards, 43-29, Rodrick had scored a game-high 20 points and Breitwieser scored 15 points and added another 17 rebounds. But that was not the case. The Cavaliers turned their defense into points, and was back up by double digits in the fourth quarter.
Spayd made a couple of shots that pulled the Jeeps back within five, but they just could not complete the comeback and win state. The 64-54 game was the fourth state championship in five years for the Cavaliers, who added a fifth title in six years in 2013.
“I think that we just started to get tired again,” Spayd said. “We had all the energy coming out at halftime, and then we just kind of started to tucker out there towards the end and we’re losing our momentum, I think, just due to exhaustion.”
“I think if we just could’ve gotten over that hump or kept going on that momentum and built that lead a little more, I think it would’ve been a totally different ballgame going into that fourth quarter,” Rodrick said. “I think they would’ve been a little nervous because they’re not usually in that position. They’re used to winning by a lot and they’re a very good team, and I think if we just could’ve gotten over that, it would’ve been totally different.”
The Jeeps may have left Terre Haute as state runners-up, but Spayd went back to Dubois with some hardware. She received the Patricia L. Roy Mental Attitude Award after the game.
“That was a very, very exciting moment,” she said. “I do remember them calling my name and my little sister (Morgan) actually dressed for the state game, and she turned around and she looked at me. Her jaw was wide open and she just embraces me in a hug, and I think we both were tearing up a little bit. I think it was just a proud little sis moment, and of course, the team was all really proud of me. Of course, I couldn’t even have gotten, even recognized at all for that had it not been for the great team we had together that year.”
“The whole experience felt like a dream,” Breitwieser said. “The whole game felt like a dream until it was over and we lost and we were all depressed, but it definitely was like an amazing dream. I never expected that to ever happen to me in high school.”
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