Athletics & Recreation
Lisa Winter Finn
Rick Winter had a problem; the youth-league basketball team he was coaching was short on players. He needed to find someone to fill out the roster, so he turned to his daughter, Lisa, who was a second-grader at the time. It was her first time playing in a real game, but it gave her a taste of competition.
Ten years later, Lisa Winter was the top high school senior girls basketball player in the state of Indiana, leading a Huntington North team that she helped become one of the best prep programs in the country. Her playing career segued into a coaching career, most recently at Indianapolis Cathedral High School, where she followed in her father’s footsteps by coaching her own daughter, Mia. Her storied basketball journey came full circle in 2020, as Winter’s Cathedral team faced off against Huntington North on the same North Arena floor that had been the site of so many triumphs for Winter and the Lady Vikings.
Surprisingly, the Winter family did not have a basketball hoop in their driveway when Lisa and her two brothers were growing up. But there was one down the block at the home of Jenny Eckert, who was the first Huntington North girls player to be named an Indiana All-Star and the first of many girls basketball players who influenced Winter. She looked up to Heidi Hosler, who played for the Lady Vikings in the late 1980s. HNHS teams that reached the state finals in back-to-back years, winning the state title in 1990. From that team, Winter was a fan of Kim Keefer, who flashed the same slashing style Winter would later be known for. And she also admired Marcy Hiner, the point guard on the title team. Hiner coached Winter during summer basketball camps, and stressed the importance intelligence played in success on the court.
Winter incorporated all she had learned into her own game. She joined Coach Fred Fields’ program in 1992, and by her sophomore season, she was the team’s starting point guard and leader. On the offensive end of the floor, she could drive past defenders for layups or spot up for a momentum-changing three-pointer, and she showed and extraordinary vision to spot a teammate for an open shot. She was the first line of a smothering Huntington North defense that often overwhelmed opponents.
During Winter’s junior season in 1994-95, the Lady Vikings ran through the regular season, losing just once. A team laden with depth of talent, they reached the state finals, where Winter’s skills shined brightest on the biggest stage. She had a game-high 20 points in a semifinal win over Lake Central, then led the Vikes with 14 points and 9 rebounds in Huntington North’s 43-39 victory over Carmel in the state championship game. For her efforts, Winter was named the tournament’s most outstanding player.
The following season, Huntington North was ranked No. 1 all season and reached No. 3 in a national poll. The Lady Vikings ran their winning streak to 44 games before they were denied a chance at a repeat championship with an upset loss to Kokomo in the semistate. Over Winter’s final two seasons, Huntington North compiled a 53-2 record. As a senior, her versatility and court awareness showed as she started at four different positions throughout the year, averaging 19.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists. She finished with a four-year total of 1,235 points, 419 rebounds and 282 assists, and in her 104 games, Huntington North won 87 times.
Named first-team All-State by the Associated Press and the Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association, Winter was the overwhelming choice as Indiana’s Miss Basketball, the award presented annually to the top senior player in the state, allowing her to wear the coveted No. 1 jersey in the Indiana-Kentucky All-Star series.
The Indiana All-Star team, coached by Fields, swept Kentucky in the two-game series. In the final game of her high school career, Winter rallied the Indiana squad from 14 points behind. She scored 13 of her 20 points in the second half, hitting back-to-back three-pointers to put Indiana in the lead for good.
Winter went on to play at Ball State for one season before transferring to Valparaiso University. In her final season with the Crusaders, Winter was named team captain and most valuable player. She remains among the career leaders in assists at the school.
Following her playing days, Winter earned a degree in sports management and then a master’s degree in elementary education. She began a coaching career that took her first to Ben Davis High School and later to her current position as head coach at Indianapolis Cathedral.
She is married to Billy Finn, who also was a standout athlete at Andrean High School and Valparaiso University. The couple has three children, and they both have been active volunteers with sports camps, in their community, and with their church.
The Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame honored Winter in 2021 with her selection to its Silver Anniversary Team.