GARY — Taylor Austin is on pace to become Lake Station's all-time leading scorer in girls basketball and carries most of the workload for the Eagles.
The sophomore has already eclipsed 1,000 points in her career and came into Saturday's game against Bishop Noll averaging 25.9 points per game. But on the other side of the court was another top-tier Region guard in Courtney Blakely, who also had her sights set on securing a victory in the first round of the Class 2A Bowman Academy Sectional.
At the start of the game, Austin and Blakely traded baskets and put their full offensive arsenals on display. On the first possession, Blakely nailed a deep 3-pointer, and on the next play, Austin responded with a long 2-point jumper.
Blakely exploded for 15 points in the first quarter, while Austin held pace with 11, but Bishop Noll eventually pulled away for a 72-41 win behind Blakely and a well-rounded supporting cast.
"I thought we controlled the tempo," Bishop Noll coach Vanita Golston said. "We were able to run and force some turnovers which led to offense for us."
Blakely entered the contest averaging 20.3 points per game, and Bishop Noll's leading scorer continued her strong season. She poured in a game-high 23 points and dished out a handful of assists, but her most notable sequence came during the third quarter.
With a 50-24 lead in hand, Blakely made her way up the court, used a behind-the-back crossover to shake her defender and finished off her drive with a eurostep layup. While the crowd cheered in response to the nifty move, the sophomore hustled all the way back and blocked what appeared to be a wide-open layup attempt by junior Bre Poats.
"It speaks to her maturity, but it's showing a great example of how we as a team want to work," Golston said. "Focusing on the effort, not the outcome and just being locked in this possession right now. Once the bucket is made, that possession is over."
Bishop Noll (19-6) had six players score in the contest, and along with Blakely, Rose Fuentes also had a big night. The sophomore scored 21 points — tying Blakely for a game-high three 3-pointers and converting 4 of 5 free-throw attempts — but she also pounded the glass, swiped several steals and helped slow down Austin.
"Defense is always a big part of my game," Fuentes said. "And knowing that I have to stop a player like Taylor Austin, she's quick on everything, so I know I have to slide my feet and stay out of foul trouble with her."
Austin led Lake Station (15-7) with 15 points but missed all 11 of her 3-point attempts and shot just 6 of 25 from the floor. Fuentes added that she was proud of her team's overall effort against Austin, not just her own, and has already shifted her focus to the Warriors' next game.
Bishop Noll will take on Andrean (15-10) in the semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Monday. Last season, the Warriors knocked off the 59ers 48-39 in their postseason opener and went on to win their fifth consecutive sectional title.
"I can't wait to play," Fuentes said. "Every game is like a different step. We have to work really hard to make it to our big goal this season, and I think we can do it. The effort is there, the discipline is there and all of our hard work is paying off."