KPC NEWS SERVICE
NORTH JUDSON — This time, the shot didn’t fall.
Central Noble’s postseason run began with a thrilling buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Mason Smith, and it ended with Smith’s last second heave clanking off the rim in Saturday’s 41-38 loss to Gary Roosevelt in the opening round of the North Judson Regional.
The Cougars found themselves down three, with just four seconds remaining after Roosevelt missed the back end of a one-and-one.
The team needed another miracle.
“It was that old play where Indiana beat Kentucky,” Central Noble head coach John Bodey said of his team’s last second attempt at the win. “Reeve’s gonna drive to the basket in the lane, and Mason’s gonna trail behind for a three.”
That three just didn’t fall, closing the curtains on Central Noble’s season, which ended with a 14-13 record.
Zolman led the team, tying the game-high with 14 points. Smith added nine, while Ridley Zolman and Trey Phillips both contributed five for the Cougars.
Roosevelt’s Tucker matched Zolman’s 14 points to lead the Panthers. Markee Lunn added 12, and Dion Moore 11 in the win.
The game began well for the Cougars, which came out of the gates hot, with both Zolmans scoring five points in the opening period. Smith added two to make it a 12-9 game after one stanza.
Central Noble led by as many as six in the ensuing quarter, once off a and-one by Smith to begin the quarter, and again when Smith drilled a pair of free throws to end it, giving the Cougars a 27-21 lead at the half.
A 4-0 Roosevelt run brought the contest within two, 27-25, to begin second half play.
The Cougars maintained their lead throughout, until Lunn drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it a tie game, at 33 apiece, entering the fourth quarter.
Central Noble regained the lead on a jumper from Ridley Zolman to start the game’s final period.
The Cougars clung to their edge, weathering a vicious Roosevelt storm, until the Panthers finally retook the advantage, 40-38, when Moore drilled a three with 90 seconds to play.
It was the first Roosevelt lead since 1-0 in the first quarter.
Central Noble had their chances late, with Lunn missing several key free throw attempts, but it was not meant to be, as the Cougars couldn’t make the plays down the stretch.
Despite the tough loss, Bodey insisted that this season was anything but a disappointment.
“This was a successful season,” he said “It’s the fifth winning season in 25 years, the first regional in 14 years, and we improved from start to finish.”
The lessons learned on the court extend far beyond the game of basketball as well.
“The kids learned how to handle the peaks and valleys in a game, just like there are peaks and valleys in life,” Bodey said. “These kids don’t play basketball to learn life lessons, but basketball teaches life lessons. They learn them whether they want to or not.”
Moving forward, the Cougars return several key pieces of their rotation — including Ridley Zolman, Phillips, Zach Brazel and Lucas Deck.
Bodey expects Saturday’s experience to only help those younger players in the years to come.
“There’s no guarantees, but several young players got to play a lot of minutes. I expect them to learn from it, and we will move forward as a team from there,” said Bodey.
Gary Roosevelt lost to Marquette Catholic high school 67-65 in the regional championship game.
Gary Roosevelt 41, Central Noble 38
Roosevelt 9 12 12 8 — 41
Central Noble 12 15 6 5 — 38
Roosevelt: McFerson 0 0-0 0, Moore 4 0-0 11, Jamison 0 0-0 0, Williams 1 0-0 2, Tucker 5 4-7 14, Hunter 0 0-0 0, Lunn 5 0-0 12, Smith 1 0-0 2, Totals: 16 4-7 41.
Central Noble: Deck 1 0-0 3, Re. Zolman 6 2-3 14, Brazel 1 0-0 2, Smith 2 5-6 9, Phillips 2 1-1 5, Hunter 0 0-0 0, Ri. Zolman 2 0-0 5, Totals: 14 8-10 38.