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The Journal Gazette

Friday, February 01, 2019 9:20 pm

Central Noble girls cruise to win

VICTORIA JACOBSEN | The Journal Gazette

ALBION – If there was any question if undefeated Central Noble would come out ready to play in its first-round sectional matchup, if the Cougars might be sluggish after a week out of school or overconfident from two earlier wins over Westview this season, Bridgette Gray immediately put that to rest.

The Central Noble sophomore guard sunk a 3-pointer, wrestled for a loose ball and then had to temporarily leave the game with a bloody nose – all within the first 41 seconds of an eventual 57-25 win Friday in the Class 2A Central Noble Sectional. 

"I've actually been sick this week, so I fell on the ground, and she hit me in the nose, and I went, 'Oh no!,'" Gray said.

Luckily for the Cougars (23-0), Gray soon returned and scored three more points in first quarter as Central Noble built an 18-4 lead. She finished with 14 points. 

"I think what's even more impressive about that is that she practiced Saturday and hadn't practiced until Thursday, because she got the flu bug a little bit," Central Noble coach Josh Treesh said. "Bridgette knows, just like all the other girls, if you're going to play, you've got to give everything you've got."

Central Noble, which beat Westview 72-26 in December and 50-40 in the NECC tournament in January, immediately applied a full-court press that forced the Warriors (14-9) into mistake after mistake. The Cougars, who lead 37-12 at halftime, racked up 32 forced turnovers, including a stretch in the first quarter when Sydney Freeman and Meleah Leatherman picked off Westview passes, preventing the Warriors from passing halfcourt on consecutive possessions.

While Central Noble effectively shut down all Westview players except for Ashya Klopfenstein, a 6-foot-1 post player, the Cougars were equally dangerous on offense early on, hitting seven of 10 shots from the field during the second quarter. Klopfenstein finished with 13 points, still below her season average of 17. 

"I think we handled Ashya a lot better than what I was thinking, because she's a great post player," junior forward Samantha Brumbaugh said. "Thirteen's below her average, so I think we did a really good job."

Treesh called a timeout to try to reinvigorate his team during the third quarter, in which the Cougars were actually outscored 8-6.

"I think it starts with us defensively; if we can get stops, it's a lot easier for us to get out in transition," Treesh said. "On the other end, I was getting frustrated with them because they were taking quick shots. And we're up 26 points, we don't have to be taking those shots. Let's make them have to come out and defend us a little bit longer. And I think once we got that rhythm back offensively, we regained control."

After missing her first two shots, Freeman was her usual disruptive, dominant self, leading the Cougars with 20 points. Leatherman scored 14. 

The Cougars will now face Whitko (5-17) in the sectional semifinals today, with the finals on Monday. 

"Our next team isn't the strongest, but I still think that they're going to give us the best they have, because they have really strong seniors," Brumbaugh said. "We'll probably see Bremen in the championship, and that's where we'll have to stay focused. They have good guards and a good big who's really tall. So I think if we really prepare the next couple days, we can get it done."