Girls basketball: Kusbel, Curington carry LC to tourney title
By John O’Malley Post-Tribune correspondent December 27, 2013 10:30PM
Lake Central's #45 Lindsay Kusbel goes up for an early score in the finals of the DAC Tournament at Crown Point on 12/27/13. Merrillville dominated the final game. | John Booz/for the Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 29, 2014 6:12AM
CROWN POINT — With Lake Central facing a nine-point halftime deficit, Rolanda Curington had a lot of thoughts racing through her mind.
“I just didn’t want to see us lose — that’s what got into me,’’ said the senior forward, who scored 13 of her 15 points in the second half to help the Indians rally for a 52-50 win over Merrillville on Friday night.
The win gave the Indians (12-1) the Duneland Athletic Conference West Holiday Tournament title.
“Being a senior, I just wanted to make sure all the girls could win this as well,’’ Curington said. “My teammates gave me all the passes to get easy baskets, so I can’t really say I did it on my own. I think the biggest thing was that we played our style of ball the second half and that’s what got us the win. It’s step-by-step for us. There are really no big wins for us and no big losses.’’
The Indians trailed 30-21 at the half, despite a 10-point effort from Lindsay Kusbel, who finished with a game-high 17 points and collected a team-high 12 rebounds.
Kusbel’s effort was huge considering she had a very sub-par four-point performance in a 45-41 semifinal win over Crown Point.
“I just had to get the negative thoughts out of my head and get my confidence up and gain more of it,’’ Kusbel said. “The way I played this morning — it was a real good motivator for me — I knew I had to come out and really pick things up tonight.’’
Merrillville (8-4), which was burned by a career-high 29 points from LC guard Gina Rubino in a 66-59 loss three weeks ago, held her scoreless.
With the way Curington and Kusbel played, though, it didn’t make any difference.
“Ro really stepped up big-time tonight in the second half and I was extremely proud of her,’’ LC coach Marc Urban said. “I thought she really showed a lot of maturity. She really put us on her back and carried us there in the third quarter.’’
Urban was also delighted Kusbel was able to bounce back from her sub-par morning game with a big-time performance in the title game.
“I was very happy with the way Lindsay responded,’’ he said. “She came back and was ready to play for the night game. I was really proud of the way she bounced back.’’
Victoria Gaines led Merrillville with 16 points and 13 rebounds, while A.J. Downs scored 11.
“The last thing we said coming out of the locker room for the second half was to play with intensity, because we knew they were going to try and come back,’’ Merrillville coach Amy Govert said.
The Pirates, though, didn’t.
Instead, they watched LC go on a 10-0 run to take a 31-30 lead.
It wasn’t until Downs scored with 4:13 left in the third period, that the Pirates scored their first points of the second half.
“We put them in position to win the game, they just have to make the shots and they didn’t,’’ Govert said.
Merrillville shot 34.8 percent in the second half and only 37.5 overall. The Pirates were also a woeful 7-of-18 from the foul line, including 2-of-6 in the fourth quarter.
“I was happy with the intensity tonight, yes, the shooting, no,’’ Govert said. “We have big players who have to step up. We didn’t have those super studs do what they were supposed to do tonight.’’
In the consolation game, Crown Point (7-4) snapped a three-game losing skid with a 49-21 win over Portage (6-7) as Hannah Albrecht and Katija Tarailo each scored 12 points and Abby Kvachkoff added 11.
The Bulldogs led 19-10 at halftime and 34-20 heading into the final quarter, before outscoring Portage 15-1 in the last eight minutes.
“We have been slow to start, yes, that’s it exactly, but I’m not going to complain about the win,’’ CP coach Annie Equihua said. Obviously, it depended a little bit on our competition, but I think overall, we did a great job tonight.’’