Noe propels Bulldogs to third title in four seasons

Noe propels Bulldogs to third title in four seasons

MAHOMET — Sweat dripped off Cory Noe's head as he posed for photos and chatted with friends and family Friday.

The Mahomet-Seymour senior had good reason to perspire. He'd just participated in a Class 3A regional basketball game on his home floor. But there was more to it than that.

Thirty-six somethings to it, specifically.

That's how many points the Bulldog standout tallied as second-seeded M-S held off a persistent fifth-seeded Urbana group for a 72-61 victory and the program's third regional championship in the last four seasons.

"With that balanced attack, I was really loving it," Noe said. "I really don't care how many points I scored. At the end of the day, we got the win. That's what matters."

While the Bulldogs' leading point producer eventually tallied half of M-S' output, it didn't look like he was on his way to such a result in the tilt's early moments.

Urbana (9-19) focused heavily on Noe, limiting him to a single field goal. But the Bulldogs (21-10) found the paint wide open as a result. Senior Noah Benedict especially cashed in, potting all 10 of his points in the first eight minutes.

"They chose to take (Noe) away, which opened up some other things," said M-S coach Chad Benedict, whose club also received 13 points from senior Holt Campion. "Cory has the starring offensive role, but there's a lot of other parts that go into that. Our shot chart was off the charts (Friday) in terms of how we shared the ball and moved it."

This was a requirement, as the upstart Tigers refused to go away until Noe generated too many points for Urbana to match. With the Bulldogs ahead 57-51, Noe recorded a steal, a score and a free throw to expand the lead to nine. He later dropped three consecutive layups with less than 2:30 to play, pushing M-S ahead for good.

"In regionals, you're going to get tested with a really good player who's having a great night, or you're going to have a team that's hitting a lot of shots," Noe said. "And you're going to have to battle through it and find a way to win. That's what we did (Friday)."

The Bulldogs were faced with the latter scenario, as Urbana turned to an offensive balance that was unable to equal the M-S attack.

Sophomore Christopher Cross downed 20 points, junior Payton Sheen contributed 17 and senior Keonu Duke added nine. But the post presence that served the Tigers so well in a semifinal victory against Mt. Zion wasn't as potent on this night.

"I think there's some things that happened in the course of (the game) that the youth probably cost us," Urbana coach Verdell Jones Jr. said. "But at the end of the day, we love them. The beauty of them being their age is that there's so much potential for growth, and growth is inevitable."

The Tigers utilized a quartet of upperclassmen in the setback, but also allowed several juniors and sophomores key minutes. By comparison, the Bulldogs relied on a four-senior starting lineup to do much of its damage.

Noe felt being around this squad during its last two regional successes played a big difference in Friday's outcome.

"We've just learned so much, and the other guys have all experienced it (too)," Noe said. "So for all of us to take that experience and use it (Friday), it really helped out."

Of course, M-S doesn't plan on its road ending in Decatur during Tuesday's sectional semifinal against Springfield Southeast, the Associated Press' second-ranked team in Class 4A. These same seniors saw Chad Benedict helm a crew that captured a sectional plaque in 2015.

So maybe Noe will replicate his 36 points in a future postseason game. Perhaps one of his teammates will perform something similar. Or there could be a game where five guys hit double figures.

It all means one thing to the Bulldogs' coach: His boys are well aware of what it takes to keep piling up playoff wins.

"It's special because there are so many guys that have come before this that have laid a foundation," Chad Benedict said, "and our kids have bought into that, and I'm proud of them for buying into it."

Mustangs roll to super-sectional

DANVILLE — Jacob Donaldson and Justin Myers each deposited 25 points as Ridgeview collected a sectional championship for the second consecutive season, knocking off St. Anne 57-52 in the 1A Schlarman final on Friday.

The Mustangs (28-4) led by 10 points with three minutes to play, but the Cardinals (15-14) cut their deficit to a single field goal with 60 ticks on the clock. St. Anne was led by 19 points from Mico Sullivan.

Ridgeview persevered, though, as coach Rodney Kellar's program succeeded in a sectional title bout for the third time in the last four campaigns.

Next up for the Mustangs is a Tuesday super-sectional at Illinois State's Redbird Arena, with 29-3 Annawan the opponent.