By Chris Reed
WINAMAC — Continuing its historic season, the Central Noble girls basketball team took the regional crown, Saturday, defeating Delphi 63-40.
The Cougars reached the title match in the wake of a hard-fought 34-33 victory over South Adams.
While the win over the Starfires was not exactly pretty, it was exactly what head coach Josh Treesh expected.
“I told them coming in, the first game is going to be the hardest. We’ve had a week to prepare for them, but they have had a week to prepare for us too,” said Treesh.
“The second game, no one had a chance to prepare, it’s a shootout.”
And shoot the Cougars did, led by sophomore point guard Sydney Freeman’s five threes. Freeman scored 25 in the game, followed closely by 24 from Meleah Leatherman.
“You don’t expect that out of sophomores,” Treesh said.
That’s a credit to how hard they have worked. I’m extremely pleased with how they have performed right now.”
Katherine Long led the charge for Delphi, scoring 11 points on the night. Bailey Gasser added nine, followed by Rylee Lane (8) and Emily Jakes (7).
The Oracles began the night hot, jumping out to a quick 7-2 lead as the Cougars looked sluggish.
That changed in a hurry, though, as Freeman and Calista Rice both knocked down threes to retake the lead.
Leatherman finished the quarter with a bucket, giving the Cougars a 10-7 lead after one.
Leatherman gave the fans an encore in the ensuing period, scoring 10 points in the second quarter.
Leatherman and Freeman combined for 23 points in the half, which Central Noble led 30-15.
Central Noble led by as many as 25 in a second half in which the team simply imposed its will on the reeling Oracles.
Freeman knocked tossed in 14 more points in the half, and the Cougar defense suffocated Delphi’s offense in route to the win.
The win marks another check in historical accomplishments for the Cougars’ program this season, as well as the first for Treesh.
But for the coach, it is this special group of girls that makes the trip so memorable.
“These girls, the sacrifices they make for this team, that’s what makes them so special,” Treesh said.
“They don’t care who gets the credit, they just do what is asked of them. That’s not easy in today’s athletic world.”
The Cougars will face off against the Oak Hill Golden Eagles (26-1) in Saturday’s state semifinal contest.
Earlier in the day:
Central Noble 34, South Adams 33
It was sloppy, messy, and as unappealing a win as one could imagine, but Central Noble made the plays down the stretch to defeat the South Adams Starfires.
Turnovers and missed opportunities on both ends of the floor plagued the Cougars to begin the contest.
The two teams tied twice in the opening quarter, at four just a minute in, and at 10 to end the first. A drive and dish from Sydney Freeman to sister Courtney, followed by a silky smooth jumper from the elder Freemen, gave the Cougars and Starfires the 10-10 tie.
Meleah Leatherman hit the back end of a one-and-one to give Central Noble its first lead, 13-12, in nearly five minutes of game time early in the second.
South Adams retook the edge, 14-13, with three minutes to go, and never caught fire.
The Starfires ended the first half on a 9-0 run, and led 23-14 at the half.
Then came the patented second half Cougar comeback.
Central Noble outscored South Adams 13-2 in the third quarter. A steal and finish from Katie Vice gave the advantage back to the Cougars with four minutes left in the period.
Central Noble led 27-25 going into the fourth.
Fast forward, and Central Noble gained a 34-33 lead with 1:17 remaining. With just 6 seconds to play, Sydney Freeman missed the front end of a one-and-one, putting the ball back in possession of the Starfires.
The Cougar defense held, as Central Noble escaped with the regional semifinal win.