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Basketball stock

John Watkins, File | The Times

WINAMAC — Several hours after pulling off one of the biggest upsets in school history, the Bishop Noll girls basketball team ran into a brick wall on Saturday night.

The Warriors fell behind by 12 points early in the Class 2A regional championship game against Central Noble and could never find enough offense to overtake the Cougars, falling 48-36 at Winamac High School.

Bishop Noll finished the season at 18-10 and lost in the regional championship for the second time in three years.

“They couldn’t miss and we couldn’t hit,” Bishop Noll coach Vanita Golston said. “It’s never that simple.”

The Warriors, who jumped out to a 12-3 lead in the semifinal shocker over North Judson, fell behind 14-2 early as the Cougars knocked down nearly every shot they attempted in the early going. By the time Central Noble’s offense cooled down in the second quarter, the Warriors were so disorientated from seeing shot after shot rim out.

Bishop Noll shot 21.6 percent from the field (13 of 60) and 15.4 percent from the 3-point line (4 of 26). The Cougars shot 43 percent from the floor (18 of 41) and nearly 60 percent from inside the arc.

“It’s a game of momentum,” Golston said. “It swung their way and it swung our way. It just swung their way a bit more.”

Trailing 16-8 at the end of the first quarter, the Warriors scored five points less than a minute into the second quarter to cut the deficit to one possession, but Bishop Noll wouldn’t connect on another field goal for the rest of the half. The Warriors missed 26 of their 31 shots in the first half.

“I wasn’t concerned with us being too comfortable (after winning against North Judson),” Golston said. “I was actually proud to see how the younger kids were able to settle into the feel of a big regional championship moment.”

Bishop Noll’s freshmen, which were the engine of the team during Saturday afternoon’s win over the Bluejays, struggled against the more-experienced Cougars in the title game. Courtney Blakley led Warriors with 12 points, but the point guard missed 13 3-pointers before fouling out late in the fourth quarter. Rose Fuentes once again chased the opposition’s best player all around the court, but the freshman guard was held to four points, missing all five of her 3-point attempts.

“It’s all growth,” Golston said. “A loss is a loss if we can’t take a lesson away from it.”

The Warriors battled valiantly to the end as Blakely knocked down her third 3-pointer of the night late in the third quarter to bring Bishop Noll within 32-28, but it was the closet the score would be the rest of the night. Central Noble’s Lydia Andrews buried a 3-pointer just before the buzzer and the Cougars (21-5) scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter to clinch their second straight regional title.

The defeat brought an end to the careers of four seniors, including Paris Harris, who led the Warriors with eight rebounds, and Kristian Steele, who added seven points and six rebounds off the bench. The senior class won four sectional championships and played for a regional title on two different occasions.

“It’s bittersweet for me personally,” Golston said. “Just seeing their growth and for them to overcome everything they’ve had to deal with. It speaks to their character.”