EAST CHICAGO | In the blink of an eye, it was easy to see that a different E.C. Central boys basketball team walked out of the locker room after halftime.
After holding just a 25-20 lead at the break, the Cardinals dominated defensively with a tenacious full-court press that led to some easy buckets in a 68-44 win over West Side in Class 4A Sectional 1 action.
“We made some minor adjustments and we also put in a different full-court press, and that kind of made the difference,” E.C. Central coach Abe Brown said. “We went 2-3 (zone) on half court, so that helped us out a lot.”
One of the beneficiaries of that halftime switch was Damien Jefferson, who led the Cardinals with 22 points and several put-back layups.
“He keeps rising to the occasion and taking care of business,” Brown said.
Christian Jacobs led West Side (9-10) with 16 points.
E.C. Central (12-9) advances to face Lake Central on Friday after the Indians routed Highland 76-39 in the first game of the evening. The Cardinals beat L.C. 58-50 on Feb. 11.
“Lake Central is going to come in here ready,” Brown said. “I know they’ve got a chip on their shoulder from us beating them the first time, but we’ve still got a chip on our shoulder because we want to continue to advance in the tournament.”
The Indians (17-3) jumped out to a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter and never looked back, holding the Trojans (8-14) scoreless until Tommy Brankin hit a 3-pointer about two minutes into the second quarter.
“I thought we came out with some early jitters, which is good to see,” Lake Central coach Dave Milausnic said. “It’s nice to get a win along the way as opposed to getting a bye and seeing a really tough opponent on Friday with the jitters.”
Matt Meneghetti led the Indians with 21 points on 7-of-8 shooting from 3-point range. Tyler Ross added 11 for L.C.
“When he’s on the floor, it’s dangerous to press us or zone us,” Milausnic said. “He’s that good of a shooter.”
Brankin led Highland with 19 points -- including four 3-pointers.