INDIANAPOLIS — Vincennes Rivet coach Rick Marshall said that when he took over the Patriots this season, he didn't "rock the boat too much."
With 20 years of head coaching experience at North Knox behind him, Marshall was hired to helm Rivet this season after the team lost its coach in May following a loss in the regional final.
The Patriots returned three starters, and a young core of the team that this season bounced past the regional final and reached the Class A state championship game against Marquette Catholic.
"To get to this level you have to play good defense," Marshall said Monday as the state-bound teams gathered at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. "Until (the semistate), we were allowing an average of 29 points per game through the tournament. When our offense isn't playing good, we rely on our defense."
The Patriots (26-2) are ranked 42nd in the state in defensive scoring average, allowing 37.5 points per game this season; Marquette Catholic is ranked fifth (30.96).
"Luckily, we've played a lot of different defenses this year," Marquette Catholic coach Katie Collignon said. "That has opened our kids' eyes to a lot of different things that we can run."
Grace Waggoner, a 6-foot-1 sophomore forward, leads Rivet offensively with 20.1 points per game. She also nabs 9.9 rebounds to lead the Patriots in both categories.
Sophomore forward Tia Tolbert (5-10), picks up 14.1 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.
Though Rivet has two inside players that lead the offense, they don't have the height advantage that Marquette Catholic boasts. With 6-1 twins Emma and Sophia Nolan leading the Blazers, Marquette is 21st in the state in scoring average (60.5) with Rivet 42nd (58.2).
"We have played a lot of teams this season with good size in the post," Marshall said. "Most recently Trinity Lutheran had players 6-1 and 5-11."
Rivet beat Trinity Lutheran 52-36 in the regional final at West Washington.
Collignon said that the Patriots look a lot like the Blazers (26-2) on the court.
"The thing our schedule really helped was that we saw a lot of teams we were unfamiliar with," the Marquette coach said. "It was a lot of teams that we hadn't played before, so they had to rely on tape, rely on our coaching notes and our game plan before they went out on the floor."
This is the first season that this group of Blazers that didn't play in a conference, having left the Greater South Shore Conference before the season started.
Rivet is part of the Blue Chip Conference, finishing 7-1 in a three-way tie at the top with Loogootee and North Knox.