Girls basketball: LC, Merrillville advance to DAC West final
By John O’Malley Star correspondent December 30, 2013 12:04PM
Updated: December 30, 2013 12:04PM
CROWN POINT — Talk about winning ugly.
Lake Central authored a new chapter on how to accomplish the feat in its tenuous 45-41 win over Crown Point in the second game of Friday’s Duneland Athletic Conference West Holiday Tournament.
Merrillville (8-3) beat Portage, 45-34, in the opener, to advance to Friday night’s title game against LC (11-1).
The Indians converted 3-of-25 field goals the second half and made 13-of-25 free throws overall, but still escaped with their second win over the Bulldogs (6-4) in a week.
“It was a good win, especially having to play them back-to-back like that,’’ LC coach Marc Urban said. “I was proud that we found a way.’’
Tara Zlotkowski, who scored 12 points in the first half to help LC build a 30-19 halftime lead, finished with a game-high 15 points to lead the Indians. Rolanda Curington ended up with 14, including nine in the first half.
Megan Krol swished 3 of 4 free throws in the final 1:08 to ice the win for LC, which was outscored 16-6 in the third quarter when CP’s Hannah Albrecht notched six of her team-high 14 points.
Even though the Indians shot the ball like they were in a meat freezer the second half, their defense helped them survive and advance.
“We can only rely on the things we can control,’’ Urban said. “We can’t control whether the ball is going into the basket, but we can control other things like our defensive pressure and how we respond.’’
Crown Point struggled again coming out of the gate — scoring five first-quarter points to fall behind 14-5. In last week’s 61-39 loss to LC, the Dogs were outscored 18-4 in the first period.
With her team trailing 30-19 at the break, CP coach Annie Equihua issued a challenge.
While the Bulldogs accepted the challenge and managed to tie the game twice — the last time at 39 on a basket by Katija Tarailo with 3:06 left — they couldn’t overtake LC.
“We had a lot of opportunities to take the lead, but had too many turnovers and missed a lot of (inside) shots,’’ said CP assistant coach Scott Reid, handling postgame interviews for Equihua, who left immediately following the game to attend her aunt’s wake.
“The way we played the second half is really the way we should be playing all game. For whatever reason, we’re just not ready to go out and play well at the start. We probably need to do something — maybe with our pregame — to get these girls going early, but they have to have the pride to want to get themselves going, too.’’
In the opener, A.J. Downs scored a game-high 15 points and Riana Todd added 10, fueling the Pirates over Portage (6-6).
Merrillville trailed 11-10 after one quarter, led 20-16 at the break and was never seriously threatened, despite making only 17-of-40 field goals.
“We haven’t shot the ball well all year, and that’s the frustrating thing about this team,’’ Pirates’ coach Amy Govert said. “We’re as athletic as anyone, but every team shoots better than we do. It’s not like we don’t spend time on it. We shoot free throws before school and work on them during practice. I don’t know what the problem is, but it’s on them. They have to want and have the will to get better.’’
Portage was outscored 25-18 the second half as the Pirates forced eight turnovers in the third period.
“We have another level and for the last quarter and a half, you saw it,’’ Govert said. “We need to play at that level all the time, so where is it the whole game?’’
Kaitlyn Dowd led Portage with 12 points, while Kaitlyn Steers had 11.
“We knew we needed to slow the game down and get a higher percentage of our shots around the rim,’’ Portage coach Chris Seibert said. “I think we did as well as we could have. We just needed to lengthen our possessions.’’