PREP HOOPS: Central Noble preps for its clone in Class 2A state title game
After 22 victories and the program’s first-ever semi-state championship, the Central Noble girls basketball team is preparing for the Class 2A title game against…itself.
The Cougars and Saturday’s foe Winchester (26-2) are near mirror images of each other.
Both offenses are led by an exceptional point guard – sophomore Maddie Lawrence (19.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, 6.9 assists per game) for Winchester and junior Sydney Freeman (17.4 ppt, 5.6 rpg, 4.9 apt) of Central Noble.
Both rely on talented bigs in the post – juniors Kira Robinson and Shelby Miller for Winchester and junior Meleah Leatherman for Central Noble (22-5).
Neither are senior dominated, with the two teams sporting a total of just two seniors on the roster averaging a combined 5.1 points a contest.
And both are entering unfamiliar territory, with the Cougars and Golden Falcons each making their initial foray into the state championship round.
Even the coaches sound alike.
“This is something new for us,” Central Noble coach Jeff Treesh said.
“It’s a very different game for us,” echoed Winchester coach Holly Gutierrez.
The approach by each team to combat the other’s stars will be key in Saturday’s showdown. While Central Noble has dealt with plenty of box-and-one and triangle-and-two defenses this season against Freeman and Leatherman, the postseason has largely seen teams play the Cougars straight up, which has been just fine with Treesh.
“It has been mind-boggling to me,” said Treesh about the approach some teams have taken to slow down the Central Noble duo that combines for 60 percent of the team’s scoring. “It has been good because we have been able to come down (offensively) and do our stuff, which is to establish Meleah.”
Gutierrez looks at the challenges that Central Noble presents and sees opportunity. For one, her team can largely focus on limiting just two players. Easier said than done, but a reasonable goal nonetheless. Coach Gutierrez also expects the 6-foot-3 Robinson to be a key cog on both ends, particularly with Miller, who is second on the team in scoring at 12.1 points per game, playing with a torn ACL suffered in the sectional championship game.
“Their post player (Leatherman) doesn’t have a lot of weight on her, and that will be to Kira’s advantage,” Gutierrez said. “(Kira) doesn’t like playing against kids much bigger than her.”
Both teams also like to use the press to force turnovers and get transition buckets. Whichever team is able to frustrate the opposing guards into making mistakes may have the edge. Central Noble is coming off an exceptional defensive performance in which it held Frankton over 15 points below its scoring average in a 52-44 victory at semistate.
In games of this magnitude between near-equal opponents, the play of the supporting cast can prove to be the difference. For the Cougars, senior Calista Rice will have to play a big role. Rice was able to slow down Frankton’s top scorer Sydney Tucker last week and may very well get the assignment on Lawrence.
Winchester will look to guards Hannah Graft (9.5 ppt) and Becca Chamberlin (8.5 ppg) to take some of the scoring pressure off of its top offensive talent. Graft and Chamberlin lead the team in three-point shooting percentage.
The opening few minutes will be huge for both teams. Central Noble got off to a slow start in last week’s game, but played good enough on the defensive end to keep the game close until the offense got into a groove. Gutierrez admits that her team is “lucky to be here” after struggling mightily against Paoli in a 49-47 overtime win last Saturday.
For Treesh and the Cougars, it’s all about approaching this week the same, even against a team that appears to be its clone.
“We have a basic idea how they are going to defend us,” Treesh said. “It is still going to come down to playmakers and making plays.
Tip is scheduled for approximately 12:45 p.m. Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
TALE OF THE TAPE
CENTRAL NOBLE COUGARS
Superintendent: Troy Gaff
Principals: Greg Moe and Shawn Hoover
Athletic Director: Tyler Schuller
Head Coach: Josh Treesh
Assistant Coaches: Shawn Kimmel, Tim
Andrews, Todd Freeman, Erin Simon,
Student Managers: Gabby Steele
School Colors: Burgundy and White
Conference: Northeast Corner
Starters Returning From Last Year: 3
Last Year’s Final Won-Loss Record: 27-3
CENTRAL NOBLE IN THE TOURNAMENT
Central Noble Sectional
2/2 Prairie Heights W 68-18
2/3 Bremen W 55-29
2/10 Bluffton W 47-35
2/10 Hammond Knoll W 48-36
2/17 Frankton W 52-44
WINCHESTER GOLDEN FALCONS
Superintendent: Mr. Rolland Abraham
Principal: Mr. Charles J. Miller
Athletic Director: Mr. Scott Hargrave
Head Coach: Holly Gutierrez
Assistant Coaches: Jim Hollinger, Joe
Younts, Gene Cullers
Student Managers:TJ Lovell
School Colors: Black, Gold, White
Starters Returning From Last Year: 3
Last Year’s Final Won-Loss Record: 20-6
WINCHESTER IN THE TOURNAMENT
1/30 Centerville W 79-28
2/2 Union County W 55-25
2/3 Cambridge City Lincoln W 63-36
2/10 Covenant Christian W 49-32
2/10 Triton Central W 56-32
2/17 Paoli (OT) W 49-47
CENTRAL NOBLE PROJECTED STARTERS
Junior, Guard — 5’7″
Statline: 17.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg,
4.9 apg, 4.9 spg
Shooter’s take: Freeman is as crafty as any guard in this area. Once she heats up, keeping her from the basket is unlikely.
Junior, Forward — 6’1″
Statline: 14.4 ppg, 9.9 rpg
Shooter’s take: She can take over games very easily and will have to be confident going up against bigger bodies. She should just play like she did versus Frankton.
Senior Guard — 5’5″
Statline: 4.3 ppg, 38% FG
Shooter’s take: Rice’s defensive consistency has been a strong note. She is as tough and gritty as anyone on the roster.
Freshman, Guard — 5’5″
Statline: 4.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg
Shooter’s take: This frog loves Gray’s determination and skyrocketing confidence. Willingness to shoot could use some work, but her ballhandling is excellent.
Sophomore, Forward — 5’7″
Statline: 4.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg
Shooter’s take: Brumbaugh has experience and if she stays out of foul trouble, can be a valuable option when she is confident.
WINCHESTER PROJECTED STARTERS
Sophomore, Guard, 6’0″
Statline: 19.4 ppg, 9 rpg,
Of note: 13 20-plus point games
Sophomore, Guard, 5’6″
Statline: 8.5 ppg, 42% FG
Of note: 21 points vs. Jay County
Junior, Center, 6’3″
Statline: 10.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg
Of note: 21 points vs. Herron
Junior, Guard, 5’2″
Statline: 9.5 ppg, 3 apg
Of note: 20 points vs. Cambridge City Lincoln
Junior, Forward, 6’0″
Statline: 12.1 ppg, 8 rpg
Of note: Will play on torn ACL suffered in Sectional final