Central Noble uses tempo, defense to win first-ever girls’ basketball state title

Members of the Central Noble girls basketball team hold aloft the Class 2A state championship trophy following Saturday's win over Winchester at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. (By Justin Kenny of news-sentinel.com)
Central Noble poses for a team picture after its 46-42 victory over Winchester in the Class 2A state title game on Saturday in Indianapolis. (By Justin Kenny of news-sentinel.com)
Central Noble junior Sydney Freeman calls out a play during the first half of Saturday's Class 2A state title game against Winchester. (By Justin Kenny of news-sentinel.com)
Central Noble junior Meleah Leatherman looks for position near the basket as Winchester sophomore Becca Chamberlin defends during Saturday's Class 2A state title game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. (By Justin Kenny of news-sentinel.com)
Sophomore Sam Brumbaugh of Central Noble looks to get a shot up as Winchester junior Kira Robinson defends during Saturday's Class 2A state title game in Indianapolis. (By Justin Kenny of news-sentinel.com)
Central Noble senior Calista Rice puts up a shot over a pair of Winchester defenders during the Class 2A state title game in Indianapolis on Saturday. (By Justin Kenny of news-sentinel.com)

INDIANAPOLIS — Central Noble coach Josh Treesh was fretting about quite a bit entering Saturday’s Class 2A state title game against Winchester.

He was concerned about Winchester’s size, with three girls in the rotation at 6-foot and above.

He was worried about the versatility and big-play ability of Winchester sophomore Maddie Lawrence.

But perhaps his greatest source of nervousness were timeouts.

It’s true.

With built-in media timeouts disrupting the game’s flow, a factor not present in the regular season, Treesh wondered if his team that excels in transition could push the tempo and wear down the Golden Falcons.

Turns out they could.

The Cougars were able to use their high-energy defensive pressure and convert key transition opportunities, capturing the program’s first-ever state championship in a 46-42 victory in the Class 2A state title game.

“With all of those 90-second timeouts we weren’t sure we would be able to (run),” Treesh said. “What happened (early) was we got caught up in the stoppage of play.”

It was Winchester’s size that gave Central Noble (23-5) the most trouble in the first half. The combination of Maddie Lawrence, Shelby Miller and Kira Robinson, all listed at 6-foot and above, made it extremely difficult on the Cougars’ offense.

At half, Central Noble had just 19 points and was shooting 29 percent from the field while trailing by six.

“They are huge, a lot bigger in person than on film,” Treesh said.

In the third quarter, Central Noble not only began to play more of its style, it also took advantage of some Winchester issues. Robinson was the Golden Falcons’ leading rebounder in the first half, but foul issues and a couple defensive breakdowns relegated her to the bench for most of the final two quarters.

But the bigger hit for Winchester (26-3) was Maddie Lawrence suffering a right knee injury in the third. While she did not miss any time, it visibly affected her cutting ability. While she finished with 20 points on 7-of-24 shooting, she never was able to hurt Central Noble consistently enough.

As Winchester dealt with its issues in the second half, the Cougars fixed theirs.

“We basically just said to keep going to the basket because those girls weren’t going to move,” Treesh said. “We wanted to create as much movement as we could.”

Central Noble trailed by two early in the fourth, but an 8-0 run gave the Cougars the lead for good. Even Lawrence’s seven points over the final 4:46 of the game wasn’t enough, although the Golden Falcons kept up the pressure.

When Sydney Freeman connected on a short leaner on the baseline off of a blocked pass with 26 seconds left, the Cougars could finally exhale.

“I was looking to pass it out (initially),” said Freeman about the play. “When I got it back, I shot it and said a prayer.”

Central Noble’s ability to adjust its game says a lot about the maturity of a squad that has just one senior on the roster.

Turns out even a young squad can allay the fears of its coach.

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