ALBION — Central Noble coach Josh Treesh is tired of answering the question of, “How are you going to be without Sydney (Freeman) and Meleah (Leatherman)?”
It’s understandable since the duo led the Cougars to their first state championship in 2018 and were one win shy of getting back to the state finals in 2019.
But Central Noble returns a lot of the core that has been around Freeman and Leatherman for the last few seasons.
“When I met with the girls when Syd and Meleah were out, I basically told them, ‘People don’t think you can win,’” Treesh said. “I wanted to challenge them, and Bridgette (Gray) and Lydia (Andrews), who you’ve not really heard a lot from verbally, are now those vocal leaders, along with Sam Brumbaugh.
“They’ve worked their butts off this summer to try and make their skill levels better, so they can be better scorers. I think we’re going to surprise people. I really do.”
The Cougars returning leading scorer is Gray, and she moves from the third option behind Freeman and Leatherman to front and center for this year’s team.
“I think she’s more than capable of being that go-to person who we run sets to or putting the ball in her hands to make a play,” Treesh said. “For her, it’s just adjusting to that new role. She’s been the third scorer for the last two years, and now, this past summer it was her adjusting to, ‘Hey, you got to take that shot. You got to make something happen.’”
Gray was a 39 percent shooter (including 41 percent from distance) last season and averaged 9.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.7 steals per game.
Andrews averaged 4.8 ppg and 4.2 rpg last year, but will be asked to do something new this season.
“She’s improved her outside shot, which was questionable last year. She’s improved on her ability to get to the basket,” Treesh said. “I think the surprise is going to be to all of teams this year is we are actually able to put her in the post this year.”
Treesh added that Andrews has gotten stronger during the offseason, and they experimented using her in the post during the summer and had some success. Treesh hopes to take advantage of her skill down low against other guards.
Another contributor over the last couple of seasons has been Brumbaugh. The seniors has “a really nice shot” and is someone who Treesh expects to score more. Fellow senior Jocelyn Winebrenner came off the bench last season but will be asked to knock down the occasional mid-range jumper.
Freshman Madi Vice, who will eventually take over as the point guard, has similar characteristics to Freeman, according to Treesh. Megan Kiebel is another freshman who can do a little of everything and is expected to make an impact right away.
Sophomore Ashleigh Gray, Bridgette’s sister, and junior Casey Hunter are a couple more girls who won’t necessarily be asked to score a lot but are expected to make an impact this season.
Central Noble will play in Class 3A when the postseason rolls around after it made the jump from 2A because of the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s success factor rule. It will be in the same sectional as West Noble and Lakeland.