CEDAR LAKE | Rensselaer came into Saturday night’s championship game of the Class 3A Sectional against host Hanover Central looking for its first title in seven years.
The Bombers were also looking for some respect.
They got it with an exhilarating 43-40 victory over the host Wildcats to send them home to next Saturday’s regional against Benton Central.
“We tried to give it away,” said Rensselaer coach Jeff Marlow. “Give all the credit in the world to Hanover because (coach) Doug (Nelson’s) kids never quit.
“We did a heck of a job on (Blayr) Poston, and then she found it. And then it was game on.”
Rensselaer’s 6-foot senior center, Emilie Ziese, came up big with 21 points, 17 rebounds and five blocked shots. Her steal and two free throws with six seconds left sealed the win.
“I just kept on shooting and giving momentum to the team, and everyone pitched in at the end,” she said. “I thought the team did a great job.
“… I’m glad that we came out with this win and we finally hit some foul shots at the end. It was just a great moment.”
Hanover Central (14-8), who got 18 points from Poston, rallied from a 10-point deficit in the third quarter to take a brief 36-35 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Rensselaer regained the lead on an Aime Mattocks basket and then hung on in a wild finish. Hanover Central got to within 41-40 on a free throw by Hannah Blue before Ziese sank the final two. Both teams combined to miss eight free throws in the final minute.
“We found a way tonight,” Marlow said. “Emilie, I can’t say enough about her. She’s just a dynamic kid on the floor. You wish you had 11 like that every year. She played like a senior.”
Rensselaer led 9-6 after one quarter and stretched the advantage to 20-13 at halftime.
The Bombers built a 30-20 lead late in the third quarter before the Wildcats rallied. A bucket by Blue and a 3-pointer by Poston got Hanover within 30-25 with eight minutes left.
Mattocks added 10 points and 11 rebounds for Rensselaer.