Next stop, Indy for Noll
Updated: March 23, 2011 3:50PM
HUNTINGTON - The final statistics from Saturday's Class 2A Huntington North Semistate game between Bishop Noll and Tipton show that Jose Rosario did exactly what he's done all season long.
He scored six points (he averaged 5.96 over the previous 25 games), grabbed three rebounds (3.12 rpg) and had one steal (1.12 spg).
But those six points were big.
One of those rebounds from the 6-foot-3 junior was huge.
And that steal ... oh my, was it a steal to remember.
Rosario's effort was representative of Noll's formula all season - balance and contributions across the board, leading to a 25-0 record.
Make that 26-0 now, as the Warriors overcame an 11-point third-quarter deficit to edge Tipton 53-50 and advance to the school's first basketball state championship game.
Rosario's first basket came late in the third period to cut Tipton's lead to eight.
His second hoop came with 4:09 left in the game after his lone steal - it was a breakaway layup to put Noll back on top 45-44 - its first lead since midway through the first quarter.
His last bucket was even bigger.
Warriors senior Adonis Filer was at the free-throw line, shooting the second of two after being fouled on a layup attempt.
He made the first for a 49-48 Noll lead, but the second was a little short and to the right. It seemingly floated right to Rosario in the middle of the lane, who smoothly went right back up for the putback and a three-point lead.
"That was all hustle and want," Rosario said with a smile. "We didn't want to go home with a loss. No nerves, I just knew I had to get it up quick.
"Tipton was real good. I have to tip my hat to them."
He wasn't the only one on Noll with that sentiment after Tipton (24-3) held the Warriors to just 20 points in the first half.
"I knew it would be like this," Noll coach Drew Trost said. "They're well-coached, patient and their man-to-man defense is phenomenal. Twenty points is the lowest we scored in a half all season. (Tipton) makes you fall asleep and then blow by you (to the basket). They have athletes who can do that."
It just took the Noll players three quarters to figure that out.
And it also took Trost about that long to figure out his big man, 6-foot-8 sophomore Milos Kostic, wasn't the right option against a team like Tipton.
Despite not having a starter taller than 6-5, the Blue Devils were able to neutralize his size with a group effort. It also led to difficulties for Noll's quick guards when they penetrated with several point-blank layups missed in the first three quarters.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Trost sat Kostic and added 6-2 freshman Larry Crisler to the other four starters.
"That's the second week we went with a quick lineup," Trost said. "They were collapsing on the big guy and we couldn't get (Kostic) the ball. If we can't get him the ball, he does us no good."
The quick lineup resulted in two changes that eventually led to a trip to Conseco Fieldhouse. First, it opened up the floor more and allowed Filer, Ronnye Beamon and John Dodson to get better looks and get to the free-throw line.
Secondly, it gave the Warriors one more weapon for their full-court press, which came to fruition early in the fourth quarter when frustration started setting in for Tipton.
With 6:37 left and the Warriors down six, Crisler stole the ball while pressing, and had a breakaway before Tipton's Brady Dolezal fouled him. It was called an intentional foul, which meant two free throws and the ball. Crisler hit one of the free throws.
Beamon added two more free throws on the ensuing possession, then Noll's press resulted in another turnover and subsequent layup by Beamon to bring the Warriors to within one point.
Noll sealed the victory with 5.1 seconds left as Dodson drained two clutch free throws, forcing Tipton to go for a desperation 3-pointer that didn't fall.
"It's probably the strongest part of my game," Dodson said about his free-throw shooting, which was 83 percent on the season before he made 6-of-7 on Saturday.
"We practice free throws so much, and we practice for (late-game) situations just like that."