2A state finals
What: Central Noble (22-5) vs. Winchester (26-2)
When: 12:45 p.m. today
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
TV: Fox Sports Indiana
The most important thing for the Central Noble Cougars about playing on the biggest stage of their still-young careers is not overthinking the moment.
The Cougars (22-5) have spent this week preparing for the Class 2A state championship game against Winchester (26-2), but they say they haven't lost sight of the necessary details and execution.
“I think when we talk about (Winchester) and trying to figure out what they do, I think we have to stop overthinking it,” junior Meleah Leatherman said. “I know I overthink things, so I have to just go out there and play instead of thinking about what they're going to do and trying to have everything for every situation.”
Leatherman said the Cougars in recent years have always thought they'd get to the state finals but would come away disappointed.
“I think this year, we didn't even expect to get there as much as the other years,” she said, “and now that we're finally here, I don't know if it's even sunk in, yet.”
Central Noble has played a varied schedule that included games against Class 3A No. 1 Northwestern (which is also in the state finals) and 3A semistate runner-up Fairfield.
Winchester's talented and tall roster includes 6-foot-3 center Kira Robinson (10.9 points, 7.3 rebounds), 6-foot point guard Maddie Lawrence (19.4 points, 9 rebounds) and 6-foot forward Shelby Miller (12.1 points).
“You don't need to overthink things,” Central Noble sophomore Sam Brumbaugh said. “We just need to play like we have been all year and we'll be good. We've played teams with two 6-foot girls before, which is going to help me feel more comfortable because I've had to guard people that tall before.
“(We have to) be physical, box out, so they have to jump over you to get the rebound and get the foul called.”
Leatherman, who averages 14.4 points and 9.9 rebounds, scored 21 points to lead the Cougars in the semistate victory over Frankton at Logansport last Saturday, and the game plan is to go through her once again.
“We're still going to let Sydney (Freeman) drive in,” Cougars coach Josh Treesh said. “With what Winchester does, the bottom line is we're going to have to hit some shots from the outside. We spent a lot of time down in Indy (Wednesday) focusing on that depth perception at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“We haven't faced very many 6-foot point guards on our schedule, but the biggest thing is they potentially put three girls (at least 6 feet tall). ... I'm not sure if we've faced a team that's as big as they are.”
Central Noble played Garrett at Bankers Life Fieldhouse last season, which gives the Cougars an idea of the setting, but not necessarily the atmosphere.
“It's going to be amazing. I don't even know what it's going to be like when we win state,” Leatherman said. “I'm trying not to be too hopeful, but I want to go out there with confidence.”
Central Noble can be sure it'll get plenty of support in Indianapolis.
“Our whole town is going to be there,” Leatherman said. “There's not going to be anybody still left in Albion. That's something we haven't experienced yet, so that'll be exciting once we do.”