BY MATTHEW CRESS
Vincennes Rivet has the resume to intimidate almost any team it faces, particularly in the postseason.
But Borden has been down this road before, and has no fear of the Patriots.
The pair will meet at 10 on Saturday morning in the first game of the Class A West Washington Regional, with Wood Memorial (14-9) and Trinity Lutheran (18-4) meeting in the second semifinal at about noon. The winners will face off at 8 on Saturday evening for the right to advance to the Class A semistate.
The regional opener is an intriguing clash between teams with plenty of postseason experience.
Class A No. 9 Borden (17-2) comes in having played in three of the last four regional rounds, but has found the going tough. The Braves advanced past the semifinal game just once — in 2012 — where they suffered a 35-31 loss to eventual state runner-up Northeast Dubois.
Still, there will be nothing new about the bright lights of a regional.
“It’s always a great experience,” said Borden forward Carson Casey, who will lead the team’s four seniors into their final opportunity at the regional. “It’s fun to feed off the crowd’s energy. We can’t wait to get out there.”
While Borden’s enthusiasm is obvious, Vincennes Rivet is a daunting opponent indeed, and can match Borden’s recent success every step of the way.
The Patriots have advanced to the regionals six of the past seven seasons, and have become just as much a fixture at the state finals. Rivet saw a streak of three straight Class A state appearances end in 2012, but captured the crown in 2011, where it toppled Turkey Run 49-40 after dropping two close state-title games to Fort Wayne Canterbury. Rivet likewise made an appearance in last season’s Class A final, again falling to Canterbury 42-35.
And the season has brought no indication of a letdown.
Class A No. 4 Rivet enters the regional at 19-4, with all those losses to teams in Class 2A or above, and have beaten nine opponents in a higher class. All four Patriot losses came to some of the state’s best, including Class 3A No. 1 Princeton, Class 3A No. 2 Evansville Mater Dei and Class 2A No. 1 Heritage Christian. The Patriots have not been beaten by a Class A opponent this season and blitzed the Loogootee Sectional, where they thumped Shoals in the semifinals (67-19) and Barr-Reeve in the championship (59-46).
It’s a tremendous run of success, but not one that Borden feels it can’t match.
“They’re pretty proven,” said Borden coach Terry Rademacher. “They’re pretty good, but we feel like we’re pretty good.”
It’s hard to argue with the longtime Borden boss.
The Braves have likewise not lost to a Class A team, going 12-0 this season. The two losses came to Class 4A Seymour and Class 3A Salem, and both those games came down to the wire. Similar to Rivet, the Braves ran almost untouched through the New Washington Sectional, beating Lanesville by 31 in the semifinals and dispatching the host Mustangs 57-43 in the finals.
The personnel looks much the same as well.
Like Borden, which features sophomore Natalie Ruedinger as its top scorer, Rivet’s top scorer is 5-foot-9 sophomore Kelsey Ivers, who put up 15 points in each of the Patriots’ sectional contests.
Ivers is joined in the Rivet frontcourt by 5-9 senior Bailey Niehaus and 5-11 senior Lauren Herman, a do-eveything center who provides steals and blocks, and rebounds well.
Bailey Dreiman, a senior guard, is Rivet’s top defender, while sharpshooter Katie Donovan joins her in the Patriot backcourt. Carly Waggoner, a 3-point specialist, is usually the first player off the Rivet bench, while 6-1 freshman Meg Herman is a tall, athletic backup center.
“All of their players can score,” said Rademacher. “They’re a very well-rounded team.”
It’s a statement that could also be made about the Braves, who always seem to bring a balanced attack where players — and points — seem interchangeable.
“All of our players can score,” Rademacher said. “Kristen Nestor was our leading scorer in the sectional, because that’s what we had to work with. We feel like we can take advantage of what they give us.”
What the Braves lack in size [Casey and Abby Ellis, at 5-9, are the tallest players on the roster], they make up with speed and a lineup of players that can handle the ball in equal measure.
Nestor is the point guard, but Ellis and Shelby Kirchgessner also will touch the ball on nearly offensive possession. Casey and Ruedinger round out the starting lineup and promise to make the Patriots work on defense.
“[Rademacher] expects us all to handle and shoot,” Casey said. “It’s been like that since I was a freshman, so I’ve had four years of it.”
It all adds up to two similar forces meeting in a familiar place. And the Braves have come to far — too often — to feel the pressure of a higher-ranked opponent.
“The strategy doesn’t change,” Rademacher said. “We need to take good shots, defend and rebound.”
Vincennes Rivet (19-4)
G — Katie Donovan, 5-8, So.
G — Bailey Driman, 5-4, Sr.
F — Kelsey Ivers, 5-9, So.
F — Bailey Niehaus, 5-9, Sr.
C — Lauren Herman, 5-11, Sr.
Borden Braves (17-2)
G — Kristen Nestor, 5-4, Jr.
G — Abby Ellis, 5-9, Sr.
F — Shelby Kirchgessner, 5-6, Sr.
F — Carson Casey, 5-9, Sr.
C — Natalie Ruedinger, 5-8, So.