FORT WAYNE — A special class left West Noble’s girls basketball program, yet there is some talent capable of maintaining its winning ways.
Still, this new batch of go-to players and complementary girls has to develop and gain experience in the varsity spotlight. Saturday afternoon’s contest at Blackhawk Christian was an up-and-down experience for the Chargers and they escaped it with a 44-41 victory.
West Noble junior Lilly Mast grabbed a defensive rebound and went coast-to-coast to make a transition layup with 1 minute, 34 seconds to play to break a 39-39 tie.
Classmate Nichelle Phares made a steal on the Braves’ ensuing possession and made a running jumper in the paint with a minute left to put West Noble (2-0) up 43-39.
West Noble held on despite only making one of four free throws in the final 28.8 seconds.
Mast made one of two free throws with 7.9 seconds left to up the West Noble lead to 44-41. Blackhawk Christian sophomore Hailee Kline’s left wing three-point attempt was long just before time expired.
“I’m proud of the girls. I really am,” West Noble coach Dale Marano said. “We had a lot going against us, and Blackhawk was a big reason why. They were active, aggressive and shot the ball fantastic.
“I’m proud of the way we responded. The challenge is good for us,” he added. “We’re a young team and we’ll continue to learn.”
The new go-to Chargers led the way in Phares, Mast and sophomore Jazmyn Smith. Phares had 13 points, including nine in the first half. Mast scored 11, and Smith added eight points.
Mast, Phares and new West Noble point guard Erin Shoemaker were all in deep foul trouble. Shoemaker picked up her fourth foul 43 seconds into the second half. Mast was hit with her fourth foul on a charge with 3:45 left in the third quarter. Phares had her fourth foul with 6:23 left in the fourth quarter. None of them fouled out and they all played much of the final stanza.
“There’s really no replacement for experience. They were there when we really needed them,” Marano said of Phares, Mast and Smith. “The others will come around.”
Blackhawk never went away and gave West Noble some of its own medicine with full-court pressure defense. The Chargers sometimes played too fast by taking quick shots in their offense. There were six lead changes in the first three and a half minutes in the fourth quarter.
Kline paced the Braves (1-1) with 21 points. Sophomore Lily Helmuth added nine points.
West Noble also had four points each from Shoemaker and Taytlynn Forrer and two points apiece from Tori Franklin and Angela Caldwell.
The Chargers will open the home portion of their schedule on Tuesday against Columbia City. The Eagles were 14-11 overall and placed third in the Northeast 8 Conference last season.
“It’s about getting that experience,” Marano said of his West Noble team. “We’ve already played two really solid teams that are well-coached.”
The Chargers junior varsity team defeated Blackhawk Christian 38-14. West Noble outscored the Braves 27-6 in the second half.
Sherlyn Torres led West Noble with 12 points. Olivia Yates scored seven, and Sara Gross and Kristen Cox had five points each.
Lakeland drops 2 at Lake Central
At the Lake Central tournament, Lakeland lost against quality competition, falling to the host Indians 59-50 and losing to Kankakee Valley 60-51.