Becca Bergman scored 20 points for the Millers on Saturday night. Noblesville defeated HSE 68-57 to win the HCC outright. Photo by Scott Mumphrey.
Becca Bergman scored 20 points for the Millers on Saturday night. Noblesville defeated HSE 68-57 to win the HCC outright. Photo by Scott Mumphrey.
For weeks, let alone days, the Class 4A No. 5 Noblesville Millers heard all about what hadn't been achieved in the past.

Reminded of the facts constantly leading up to Saturday night's Hoosier Crossroads Conference showdown with 4A No. 14 Hamilton Southeastern (14-6, 4-2), head coach Donna Keck and her Millers knew the score.

The Noblesville girls' basketball team hadn't won a HCC title since 2002.

The program hadn't beaten the rival HSE Royals in 17 consecutive games.

"It was definitely our first goal that we wanted to achieve," Keck emphasized in reference to their HCC drought. "We never set out to be undefeated. We just wanted to win the conference first and foremost."

With an outright title at stake and the Royals, once again, standing in their way, the Millers (19-1, 6-0) responded the only way they knew how - by sticking to their game.

Needing only a few seconds to finally put the streak and HSE behind them, Noblesville sprinted out quickly behind 20-point performances from both Becca Bergman and Katelyn O'Reilly and never looked back, defeating the Royals 68-57.

"It was nice for our kids to answer that test," Keck said. "We had wrapped up at least a share of it already, but that pressure to win it all was there. It's great for our team, and hopefully something we can use to build on going into two weeks from now."

The Millers last beat HSE 75-56 on Dec. 7, 2001. Over the next 12 seasons, the Royals nearly evened up the all-time series 25-22 against Noblesville while also claiming the last three straight HCC titles.

This time around, though, the Millers went to work immediately to ensure a fourth championship wasn't in HSE's future.

Bergman opened the night hitting her first three field goal attempts - all beyond the arc - to put Noblesville up 13-5 in the first quarter.

The 5-foot-4 senior point guard buried five of her first six shots, including another trey with 4:53 left in the second quarter to stretch the lead to 30-17.

Shooting 7 of 14 from the floor and 5 of 10 from deep, Bergman racked up 14 points in the first half, and O'Reilly capped a 10-0 run in the second quarter to give Noblesville its largest lead of the night at 20 points.

The 5-9 junior scored 10 points in the first half and another 10 in the second to go with a team-high 12 rebounds, which was good enough for her eighth double-double this season. O'Reilly added a team-best five assists while converting a pair of 3-pointers in three attempts.

"Keck said they were going to swarm us a lot and double us, so I just tried to pass the ball around and look for the open man," O'Reilly said. "I think the sky is the limit here. There are so many pieces to the puzzle. It's fun to watch your teammates succeed, and it's a really awesome experience to be part of the team."

Eight different players scored at least two points or more for the Millers, who recorded a combined 18 assists. Kayleigh Herron had four assists while Alexis Shannon, Erin Wood and Bergman each had a pair.

The Millers shot 56 percent from the field in the first half. HSE struggled to keep pace, failing to find rhythm against Noblesville's up-tempo offense and feisty press.

"We lost the game in the first half. We didn't match their intensity. We didn't work the ball very well," HSE head coach Chris Huppenthal said. "They were beating us down the floor. They had too many easy open looks. Offensively, in the first half, we were settling for the first pass, first shot."

Despite trailing by 18 points to start the second half, the Royals charged back as they've done multiple times before this season.

Bre Lloyd, who had a team-high 19 points and 11 rebounds, drilled a 3-pointer to cut the lead 42-34 in the third quarter. She later fed Taylor Graham for another trey to bring the Royals within seven points.

Megan Walton added yet another 3-pointer to keep HSE close at 47-39, but the Millers ran away for good on a 9-0 run late in the third ahead 56-39.

"It's about being tough mentally," Bergman said. "We knew they were going to comeback. They did against Fishers and ended up winning. We weren't going to let that happen. It was about keeping focused and staying on them."

Walton scored 13 points and had five rebounds for the Royals. HSE scored 19 points in the third quarter, but the Millers countered with 18 led by Emily Kiser off the bench, who contributed a total of 10 points.

"In the second half, I thought we did a much better job of working the basketball around and playing together. This is a team game, and we are better than what we displayed tonight," Huppenthal said. "We got to play better together, if we're going go ahead and make noise in the sectional."

With the sectional draw tonight, coach Keck and the Millers are eager to take on the next challenge regardless of their potential first-round opponent.

But before the team can contend for the program's first sectional title since 1996, they have two defining tasks coming up to finish the regular-season.

On Tuesday, they face the defending state champion Class 2A No. 1 Heritage Christian Eagles (21-2) on the road and in their home finale on Thursday, the Millers welcome 4A No. 2 Lawrence North (20-1) to The Mill.

"I think this is good to go into Tuesday like this," O'Reilly said. "I know that we probably have three of the toughest games to end with, especially after the three-game week this week. But I think we showed very good mental toughness on and off the court."