UNION TOWNSHIP | Bishop Noll waited until the last five minutes of the ballgame to do what it does best: drive the lane.
Larry Crisler scored six points on layups and made it to the free-throw line two more times in those decisive minutes as the Warriors pulled away for a 62-51 victory over host Wheeler in the Greater South Shore Conference semifinals.
Bishop Noll remains unbeaten at 12-0 and will play in its third straight conference tournament championship.
"(Larry) was settling for jumpers in the first half and we told him to take it to the hole," Noll coach Drew Trost said. "He took over the game. He answered the bell in the fourth quarter. That's what you want your best player to do."
Crisler scored 10 points in the fourth quarter and finished with 19 points. He was held to two points in the first half.
"We didn't take care of the ball late in the game and they kicked it into fifth gear," Wheeler coach Tom Johnson said. "But I thought our effort and execution was outstanding."
Wheeler (7-5) didn't seem to mind that Class 2A and Times No. 3 Bishop Noll jumped out to a 9-0 start and opened the second quarter with a 17-8 lead.
The Bearcats outhustled Noll on the offensive boards and packed it in the paint on defense. It made a difference as Wheeler chipped away in the second quarter and took a 21-20 lead with 2:45 left after Trost earned a technical foul.
"You can't spot a good team nine points," Johnson said. "But it was really a matter of us getting baskets to fall."
Kevin Barnes led the second-quarter charge with five points and a rebound. The Bearcats trimmed Noll's lead to 27-25 at the half.
"Wheeler did a nice job," Trost said. "They sagged in on defense and played a good game. We knew they'd be fired up. At times it looked like they wanted it more."
Crisler responded in the third quarter, scoring seven points, including two baskets on driving layups.
But Wheeler would not relent. Bearcats star Jeremy Truchan opened the fourth with three straight baskets as Wheeler took a 44-41 lead. He finished with 23 points.
Marquis Tarver then stepped up for the Warriors with two steals that led to two trips to the free-throw line resulting in three points. He then scored as Tyreon Gates found him wide open under the basket, giving Noll a 54-44 lead and some breathing room with 2:40 left in the game.
"They played us tough tonight," Crisler said. "Tomorrow will be a tough one, too."