MERRILLVILLE | Ken Markfull stared at the ground, stared at a gum wrapper and occasionally glanced at the sparsely populated bleachers across from the benches at Andrean.
When he met a friendly, familiar face, their eye contact begat handshakes, smiles and reminiscence.
None of this would have been noteworthy a year ago when Markfull was in his 14th season as Andrean’s head girls basketball coach.
Saturday, however, he was wearing a Hobart pullover as the assistant coach helped the Brickies hold off a resilient Andrean club, 48-41, in Northwest Crossroads Conference action.
“Nice to see you again” was the refrain among many of the friends Markfull made in his 18 seasons, including four as an assistant, at Andrean, where he won 185 games, four sectional titles and a regional crown but struggled to compete in the last few seasons.
First-year Andrean coach Tony Scheub had another competitive game but, in the end, another close loss.
Madison Lesch, moments after having the wind knocked out of her by a driving offensive player under the basket, hit a 3-pointer with 1:10 to play to cut Hobart’s game-long lead to 43-41.
Had Andrean not missed 12 of its first 13 shots in the game -- or traveled twice and air-balled a 3-point attempt in the final 35 seconds -- the Brickies might not have won their fourth game in a row and improved to 4-0 in the NCC.
Grayce Roach made sure the Times No. 6 Brickies (8-2, 4-0) stayed ahead. The 5-foot-8 junior guard hit five of her six free-throw attempts in the final 50 seconds following Lesch’s dramatic 3.
Roach had 11 points, and Morgan Flaharty scored all of her game-high 15 in the second and third quarters.
Andrean junior Lauren Stazinski overcame a slow start to lead the 59ers (2-6, 1-2) with 12 points and six rebounds. Lesch had seven points, with four assists and four steals.
Hobart struggled to find a mid-range game, and when Flaharty, Zoe Wilson and Caitlin Leath weren’t getting open looks in the paint the Brickies were frustrated by the 59er guards. Hobart only led 11-7 after a quarter despite Andrean’s shooting woes.
As the 59ers rallied in the fourth, having entered the quarter down 37-28, too many defensive lapses in the paint cost them a chance to take their first lead of the game.