Warsaw — As if the legend of Nicole Rogers wasn’t already firmly cemented into the lore of Howard County basketball, Saturday’s performance in the Class 3A North Semistate left no doubt.
The 5-foot-11 senior wing scored 23 points in her team’s 46-35 loss to Fort Wayne Concordia one game short of the state finals, but Rogers did everything in her power to attempt to change the Panthers’ fortunes.
She scored 17 points in a four-and-a-half minute stretch of the third quarter where Western cut a 15-point deficit down to two points, giving the upstart Panthers a glimmer of hope before they ran out of gas.
That stretch of the game portrayed the Indiana All-Star candidate and IUPUI recruit in a nutshell: Rogers always did what she could to give her team a chance to win.
“The bottom line is, Nicole as a senior, and like most players, she matured as a senior,” Western coach Chris Keisling said. “She came into the season totally understanding her role on the team as a leader and a scorer. But, she’s also a winner, and a winner does whatever it takes to win ballgames. So, you saw nights where she scored eight or 12, but you look at her rebounding stats and her ability to handle the ball, and her passing — she had the ability to give whatever it took to win a ballgame.
“If Nicole Rogers is not an All-Star, then we have one whale of an All-Star team. She performed like an All-Star player two games in a row here [including 23 points in a 36-34 win over South Bend St. Joseph’s in the regional final], and has all year.”
Her final prep performance was an abrupt ending to what has been a career seldom paralleled in the Tribune area. With 23 points Saturday, Rogers finished her career with 1,593 points while playing for four different coaches, ranking her second all-time in the history of Howard County girls basketball. She trails only Tiffany Longworth, who scored 1,936 points for Kokomo 1989-1993.