Being a really tall teenage girl has its challenges.
Just ask Eve Fiala and Katie Kovalchick, seniors on the Indiana girls basketball team.
Fiala stands 6 feet 5 and Kovalchick is 6-3.
“Everybody is watching you all the time,” Fiala said.
Added Kovalchick, “You can’t find pants that fit you.”
But the duo has fit in perfectly at Indiana, where they make up one of the tallest frontcourts in WPIAL girls basketball history. However, the two aren’t just tall, they’re talented. Both average close to a double-double, and each of them will play college basketball — Fiala at Dayton and Kovalchick at Washington & Jefferson.
“There’s not too many teams that can guard both of them. If one has an off night, the other is going to pick it up,” Indiana coach Otto Peterson said.
Peterson is in his third season as head coach but has been on the Indiana staff for close to three decades. This is the tallest set of post players Peterson has had, with Fiala being the tallest player he has coached. The abundance of height leads to some interesting situations, one coming Thursday at Woodland Hills when Fiala tried dunking prior to the game, which could have resulted in a technical foul.
“The ref said at halftime, ‘You might want to warn her that she can’t be trying to dunk the ball in warmups,’” Peterson recalls. “When I told her she can’t dunk, he said, ‘Well, she had her hand up over [the rim] and slapped it and grabbed it.’ Then he goes, ‘I’m not going to call it because I could never do it.’”
No, Fiala can’t dunk … at least not yet. She’s been able to slam a tennis ball and mini basketball, so it’s not out of the question that she throws one down with a regulation ball in the not-so-distant future.
These “twin towers” have made it a struggle for opponents. Indiana is 9-4 overall and sits in first place in Class 5A Section 1 with a 5-0 record. Last season, the Little Indians went 20-4, won the section title and advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals.
Kovalchick averages a team-best 15.9 points to go along with 6.7 rebounds. She scored a season-high 24 points against Penn Hills and produced double-doubles against Penn Hills (24 and 12) and Peters Township (18 and 10). Kovalchick, who has scored in double figures in all but two games, is shooting 52.9% from the field and has shown a nice touch from the perimeter, making seven 3-pointers.
Her sidekick, Fiala, is averaging 12.1 points and a team-high 8.9 rebounds. She’s shooting 50.4% from the field and has a team-high 21 blocked shots. Fiala tallied a season-high 24 points against Hempfield and had double-doubles against Knoch (12 and 14), Kiski Area (10 and 11), Hempfield (24 and 10) and Franklin Regional (17 and 11).
“Eve is just intimidation in there,” Peterson said. “Anybody that comes in there to drive, as soon as they see her, they’re throwing it up. They’re not taking their normal shot. And she just keeps getting better and better. When she gets the ball, she looks for Katie, she looks for somebody else. She’s very unselfish. She doesn’t care if she scores 10 or 20.
“Katie is the exact same way, but Katie can step out and hit the 3s. Katie is a really good outside shooter. If you sag off her and she’s outside, she’ll shoot it and you’ve still got Eve on the inside to rebound and our guards will crash the boards and rebound. They’re like two bookends. They do a great job.”
These two bookends hope to lead Indiana to a storybook season, but it’s not all about wins for this talented twosome.
“It’s nice to have another tall girl to rebound and just have fun with out there. We like to have fun on the blocks,” Kovalchick said.
Kovalchick is a four-year starter and Fiala a three-year starter. Fiala attended Pine-Richland her sophomore year but did not play basketball that season. She returned to Indiana for her junior year and went on to average 12.8 points per game on her way to all-section honors. Fiala, who is home-schooled, was heavily recruited, her first scholarship offer coming from Ohio State at the end of her freshman year. Her offers included Maryland, Louisville, Pitt and Penn State. She eventually committed to Dayton in October.
Playing without Fiala for that one season was weird, Kovalchick said. But that’s in the past, and Fiala is now back. That continues to be a problem for Indiana’s foes.
“Nobody can stop us,” Fiala said. “We’re too tall.”
Fiala smiled when asked what it’s like to play with Kovalchick before saying, “It’s exhilarating.”
Fiala and Kovalchick are among just three seniors on this Indiana team, one that features a promising freshman in guard Jayla Peterson, the daughter of assistant coach Jessica Peterson and granddaughter of head coach Otto Peterson. This group will try to help the Little Indians win their first WPIAL title.
“It would mean a lot. It would be fun to close out our senior seasons like that,” Kovalchick said.
Along the way, Indiana’s vertically gifted duo will likely be asked to perform certain other tasks.
“When the ball gets stuck in the rim, they both take turns trying to unjam it,” Otto Peterson said.
And when Fiala does, she always tries to avoid another one of the biggest challenges of being tall — smacking your head.
Said Fiala, “That’s the worst.”