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A fun last ride: Hanover Central girls hoops loving some serious Senioritis with Govert

Class 3A Jimtown Regional

Hanover Central (17-7) vs. Bremen (14-11), 3 p.m.

New Prairie (20-5) vs. NorthWood (19-6), 6 p.m.


By STEVE HANLON

 

CEDAR LAKE – Two years ago Kaitlin Duffy was done playing basketball. The joy and passion had evaporated.

Poof, it was gone.

After two lackluster years playing guard for the Hanover Central Wildcats, all the air had blown out of the balloon.

Then, Larry Govert was hired to lead the program.

The change, she said, was instant.

“He brought back a love of the game I hadn’t had since I was a little kid,” Duffy said Tuesday. “He’s done a great job with team chemistry. We play together. He has a contagious personality and he cares about each of us. It’s great to see what has happened in two years here.”

On Saturday night at the Class 3A Highland Sectional, Duffy, one of six seniors on the team, was walking around and “reading the room,” as she said. She saw something that hadn’t been seen in awhile in Cedar Lake in February.

Postseason success.

The Wildcats hadn’t won a sectional since 2015. What followed after wasn’t fun. A 60-13 loss to Andrean in the 2017 sectional. A 53-33 loss to Knox in ‘18. Then, a 50-13 loss to Knox in ‘19. A 57-25 loss to Knox in ‘20. And a 49-24 loss to Kankakee Valley in ‘21.

Not even close.

But in Govert’s two seasons in charge, Hanover has made the sectional championship game both years and beat host Highland 36-33 on Saturday to get the rust off the program’s scissors.

“I knew from the start, in the locker room, we were going to win the game,” Duffy recalled. “The vibe of the team was great.”

Duffy is one of six seniors on the roster – Savannah Sheppard, Gabrielle Comia, Skylar Ferry, Teylor Stilley and Emmi Doty.

The Wildcats (17-7) will play Bremen (14-11) on Saturday in the Jimtown Regional. They are one win from advancing to the program’s first semistate.

“The first thing I thought when I got the job was, ‘What did I get myself into?’” joked Govert, who is on many pages of Region hoops history. He was on Lake Central’s 1984 Final Four boys basketball team. He was the head coach of Hanover’s boys team for seven years in the 1990s. Then, he coached Hanover’s girls for one season and also coached two years for Hammond Gavit’s girls program.

His daughter Allison was a guard on Crown Point’s 2021 state championship team.

“I knew most of the girls from class,” Govert said. “I liked their attitude. I knew we had some athletes. I could see they wanted to play.

“We’ve all learned a lot together over the last two years.”

Much of the team are soccer and softball players. Basketball is a secondary diversion. Until now.

“When (Govert) showed up, it was so different,” Comia said. “It’s been amazing to watch the program he’s built. When he came in, we started getting better wins. We fought harder. We started trusting in each other. He’s changed everything on and off the court.”

The girls have team dinners. They watch a lot of film together. Walking down the hallways during school hours are just as big as the moments pregame in the locker rooms.

“The way people treated each other changed,” Sheppard said. “Our chemistry became really good and everyone got along.”

“I played with these girls all of my life,” Ferry said. “The environment changed with coach and this staff. It started off the court but all the change carried over into our play. He is a lot more positive. We have less fighting. Everyone gets along.”

“It was a little rough early getting used to a new coach,” Doty said. “But the spark was coming. When we beat Portage this year we knew we could do this."

The Wildcats trailed Highland 17-12 at halftime Saturday. No shots were falling but Govert wasn’t overly concerned. He liberally played nine the entire game and they all have one thing in common.

“We may not have basketball players but we’ve got a lot of athletes,” Govert laughed.

Hanover wore the Trojans down, then started hitting some shots and what few thought was possible a few years back was now gold.

“It was so exciting,” Stilley said. “Because we had never done anything like that before.”

Govert said that Bremen is a very fundamentally sound team, with three very talented guards. And like many teams out in the cornfields, they’ve got shooters.

Plenty of them.

“We’ve got to box out and try to push the ball,” Govert said. “We’ve got to pass the ball and take the good shots. I’d love to keep winning. This is a great group of girls and it would be fun to play another week.”


Hanover Central's six seniors helped coach Larry Govert's Wildcats win their first girls basketball sectional in nine years. (Photo by Steve Hanlon)

 

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