CAYUGA – The game was delayed 10 minutes and Central Catholic’s players and coaches were understandably shaken after seeing the team leader exit in the middle of the second quarter.
Junior point guard Cameron Onken returned just over three minutes later with her left nostril stuffed full of gauze after suffering a bloody nose. In the meantime, a senior leader kept the Knights poised.
As soon as the ball went back in play, senior Emily Burks drained a 3 from the wing. A minute later, the Knights senior hit another and Central Catholic needed every bit of Burks’ 11 first-half points in a tough 54-36 win over North Vermillion in the Class A, Sectional 53 title game.
“Cam is an important player and we had to keep our composure with her gone,” Burks said. “We knew we’d be OK if we continued to move the ball. We just had to keep calm and do what we usually do.”
The second-ranked Knights (20-6) broke the program’s record for wins in a season. They’ll try to add to it next Saturday in the Tri-Central Regional against either Southern Wells or Monroe Central, who play for the sectional championship on Monday night.
It marked the 10th sectional title for CC, all consecutive starting with the 2006 state championship season.
Though the tradition has become routine, each title win has been more special than the one before, especially for CC seniors Angela Tharp, Sammy Bonner, Maggie Bobillo and Burks.
“Everything this year has been more special,” Bobillo said. “Being a leader on the court and being able to do this with the girls I’ve been with the past four years, it never gets old.”
Onken finished with 12 points, making all 10 of her free throw attempts, and four steals. For the second night in a row, the Knights showed their offensive balance, getting 10 points from Bobillo, eight points from Angela Tharp, six from Jenny Harkcom and five from Alyssa Tharp. In Onken’s brief absence, sophomore Emma Gerrety came off the bench and knocked down a jumper.
Harkcom, who has a reputation as a defensive stalwart, was the supplier of a needed offensive surge in the third quarter.
The junior guard knocked down two 3s in 38 seconds to push CC ahead 47-26.
“I was kind of surprised when (the first one) went in because I thought it was going to be an airball,” Harkcom said. “When I made it, I was pretty excited and I think everyone else was pumped. Cam got really pumped and when I made the second one, she got even more pumped and everyone was excited.”
While the final score shows an 18-point victory, Central Catholic did not ease to its 10th sectional title in a row.
With a junior loaded team, North Vermillion (13-13) got 12 points from Rhiannon Grubbs, 11 from Brittney Lewis and seven from lone senior Shawnacee Bowman. The Falcons were the early aggressor, going at CC and drawing four quick fouls while keeping pace at 9-9 late in the first quarter.
But CC responded, getting two free throws from Onken, a 3 from Alyssa Tharp and a fast break basket from Bobillo to end the quarter on a 7-0 run.
“At the beginning, we told everyone this wasn’t going to be an easy game,” Burks said. “We knew they were going to come out strong and they did. They were very good team. We were hitting some shots and luckily we were able to come out with the win.”