NEW CASTLE — It was in the last person's hands you'd want the ball in at the end of the game from an E.C. Central perspective.

But in Friday's semifinal of the Hall of Fame Classic, somehow, by design, Zionsville's Maddie Nolan got a pass on the wing at the end of a tight game. The standout junior let it fly: nothing but net.

The Eagles 53, Cardinals 51 inside New Castle Fieldhouse, the world's largest high school gymnasium with a seating capacity of 9,325.

"We did not want her shooting the ball," E.C. Central coach Eric Kundich said.

"Yeah," added a despondent Jenasae Bishop, who played arguably her best game of the season, leading her team with 26 points.

The Cardinals held a 51-50 lead with 14.6 seconds left at midcourt when Tiara Jackson got the ball in her hands in a place she didn't need it, the middle of the court. The post player threw a pass straight into the hands of an Eagles' player, who moved the ball up the court and got it into Nolan's hot hand, who finished the game with 29 points.

"What a weird game," Zionsville coach Andy Maguire said.

His Eagles (10-3) jumped out to a 12-1 lead in the first quarter as the Cardinals (8-9) seemed overwhelmed by the start on the big stage. Several early turnovers led to easy baskets for Zionsville. But then E.C. settled and Bishop began to take over the middle of the game.

In the second quarter, she scored 12 straight points for her team as a 15-point deficit was reduced to 31-23 at the half.

"You get invited to this event by having two players like that," Maguire said of Nolan and Bishop. "I have to give credit to East Chicago by the way they came back. They never quit and outplayed us for during the middle of the game. What's scary about her is she probably isn't 100 percent yet."

Bishop, who tore her ACL last summer and didn't return to the Cardinals lineup until three games ago, said her team has to start better than it did on Friday morning.

"It was a different atmosphere than we're used to and we didn't come out like we should have," Bishop said. "Then, we finally started to attack the basket."

With 2:08 left in the game and E.C. holding a two-point lead, senior guard Zariah Frierson drove the lane, collided and fell to the ground in pain. She needed help getting off the floor and didn't play in the consolation game against Martinsville, who lost to Carmel 68-55 in the first game of the day.

Kundich said that Jasmin Bonilla started when Bishop was out and his team would count on Bonilla to step in for Frierson.

Nia Hurt scored 11 points for the Cards and Taiyanna Jackson had eight with a game-high 11 rebounds. E.C. only three assists to Zionsville's 13.

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Sports reporter

Steve has won awards during two different stints at The Times. In addition to being the Prep Beat columnist, he covers football, boys basketball and boys track. He is a long-suffering Cubs fan.