HAMMOND | Andrean and Bishop Noll took their new basketball teams for a test drive earlier this season and ruled the streets.
Times No. 4 Andrean started off 11-0, No. 8 Noll 14-0.
Then both hit some potholes with Andrean losing two of its last four games and Noll three of its last six heading into Friday night's bragging rights showdown between the parochial powers.
Fortunately, senior forward Skyler Moss grabbed the wheel for 19 points, Sam Toporski had 13 and Nick Davidson added 12 to go with a bloody nose in the final seconds of Andrean's 61-47 win.
"I was telling the kids to go 17-and-3 with our type of schedule ..." coach Carson Cunningham said afterward. "Seven teams in the top 50. We won four of those. We lost a couple of really tight ones against Penn and Munster.
"That's quite an accomplishment."
But Cunningham stressed there's still much to do.
"You got to get better tomorrow so you can rock and roll in the playoffs," he said.
Toporski said the key this season is the team's experience and maturity.
"We have a lot of seniors and we're used to this kind of environment," Toporski said of the packed Noll fieldhouse. "We really know each other well. We know what each other is going to do at every point of the game."
After his two quick baskets in the second quarter, Toporski backpedaled up the court doing his Joakim Noah "Smoking Six-Shooter" routine and then stuffing both into his imaginary holster.
"It was the first time I had done that," he said, smiling. "That's just improvising. With this big a crowd, you got to show 'em something."
Andrean certainly showed who had the better team, leading Noll (17-4) by as many as 14 points in the third quarter and not letting the hosts get any closer than nine in the fourth.
Larry Crisler's 20 points led Bishop Noll but he hurried several shots while teammates were either open or simply watching him. Matt Sandoval, the lone senior, had 13 and Tyreon Gates 12.
"Our shot selection wasn't great," coach Drew Trost had to admit. "Larry's a great player but he gets frustrated sometimes and feels he needs to take it all on his shoulders.
"We need other guys to step up."
Trost said he needs Crisler, Gates and Sandoval "to create" for the younger players when sectionals begin.
Much like last weekend's Munster-Andrean thriller, Noll's fieldhouse was packed even before the JV game with no room for a dust bunny.
The 59ers trailed most of the reserve game before winning on a shot at the buzzer and that only worked the crowd into a bigger lather for the main event.