Miller Time: The Miller girls basketball team beats Franklin to win the 2022 IHSAA title behind a state-record 31 points from Ashlynn Shade


Ava Shoemaker (left), Ashlynn Shade (middle), Brooklyn Smitherman (Right) Dani Mendez (Far Right) prepare to celebrate as the clock ticks down during the State Championship Game. The Millers defeated Franklin Community 76-52.

Ian Pigors, Parker Mutter, and Gabe Fryling

With about four and a half minutes to go in Saturday’s IHSAA girls state championship game, Noblesville head coach Donna Buckley remained calm inside the huddle. “Hold the ball, if you get in trouble, call a timeout,” she told her team. The Millers had just gone on a 13-2 run, bringing their lead to 66-45. Buckley looked around the bench to her players, the five starters the Millers had relied on all season. They nodded. The sentiment was clear: “Hold onto the ball, and we’re state champions.”


Four and a half minutes later, the buzzer sounded. And for the first time since 1987, the Noblesville Millers were sitting at the peak of the state tournament, they were state champions. 


It wasn’t a season without its tribulations. The Millers finished 4th of eight schools in Hoosier Crossroads conference play with a 4-3 record.  But the team overcame trials all year and throughout the tournament. Saturday night was no exception. 


“All of the adversity we fought, now to be standing here as state champions. It really is an unreal feeling,” junior Ashylnn Shade said.


Shade was the headliner for this group, as she often is. The 5’9” University of Connecticut commit for the class of 2023 had one of the best statistical seasons in Miller history, and tonight she matched those averages and then some, tying an Indiana state championship record with 31 points on 59% shooting from the field. 


When speaking to the press after the game, Shade gave credit to her teammates for the record breaking performance.


“I just play as hard as I can, I wasn’t really thinking about [my performance]. My teammates were passing me the ball so it’s all on them,” Shade said. 


Shade’s humble attitude sums up the theme the Millers have lived by all season. “Team, team, team” is the phrase heard most consistently from this group. And even after an individual performance for the record books, the players joyfully recalled the special bond they have. 


“It feels awesome. It doesn’t even feel real, it just feels awesome, and especially to do it with such wonderful people,” junior Dani Mendez said about the state title and what it means to the team.


The game didn’t start out perfectly for the Millers. A slow start allowed Franklin to jump out to a lead at the beginning of the first quarter. But sophomore Reagan Wilson responded with a pair of threes that gave the Millers a lead that they never relinquished. 


“[Making those shots] boosted everyone’s confidence. When you see the ball go through the basket, it helps a ton. We started inside and worked outside, which was huge as well. We knew from the beginning that this was gonna be our game,” Wilson said.


Mendez grabbed a set of big offensive rebounds that led to second chance points in that second quarter, and said that focusing on what the coaching staff had taught them allowed the Millers to surge ahead and never look back.


“We calmed down and got ourselves back together. [The big thing] was focusing on the fundamentals and the little things,” Mendez said 


Once the early Franklin lead dissolved, the Millers never looked back. With a halftime lead of 47-28, the Millers began to feel it. And by the final buzzer, the scoreboard read 76-52 and a Miller state championship. 


“[It’s] so surreal. I’m so proud of our kids, our community. It’s just a great feeling,” Buckley said about the win. 


Wilson offered a similar sentiment. 


“You can’t describe it, you can only experience it. There’s no words to describe it,” the sophomore guard said. 


Buckley has seen a lot in her 22 years of coaching at the high school level, and she says of all the teams she’s worked with, this one had it all.


“This group just figured some things out, little things that were able to put us over the top. We’re really talented as well, we’re just so talented. Ashlynn Shade is one of the best players in the country [with] so much talent around her, and we played really well. That combination wins you a lot of games,” Buckley said 


The players were thrilled for their coach and what getting this win for her means to them. 


“It’s amazing, and I’m so happy we accomplished this for her. She has wanted this [championship] for us for so long and so bad. I’m just so happy for her,” Shade said.


Noblesville’s tournament run wasn’t just impressive, it was statistically dominant. The Millers won their last four tournament games by an average of more than 15 points, including wins over the #1 ranked team in the state, Ft. Wayne Homestead, and last year’s 4A champion Crown Point. Shade and the team received praise from people all over the state, with Shade even getting a shoutout from Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton on Twitter. 


“Ashlynn Shade is nice!” Haliburton tweeted. 


With no seniors on the roster, every player is set to be back to don Miller black and gold next fall. And while the confetti fell, the long awaited state championship is still fresh, talks of a repeat championship are heard throughout the team.


Shade was understandably coy on the prospects of talking about a repeat so early after such a big win, but cracked a smile when asked about running everything back next year.


“You know what?” the junior said with a pause and a laugh, “I certainly hope so. We have the team to do it.”