GARY | In the same gym that produced last year's magical season, Times No. 1 Lake Central was fighting for its life Wednesday night. To say the game against host West Side was in doubt would be an understatement.
The clock was ticking but only the team in white could hear it.
Lake Central trailed the Cougars by four points in the fourth quarter when you could almost hear fans wondering, “So where is Glenn Robinson III?”
Senior Mike Miklusak answered the call. First, he nailed a 3-pointer from the corner to get within one. Then, at the top of the 1-3-1 zone, Miklusak stole the ball and went coast-to-coast for a layup to give the Indians a one-point lead.
Lake Central survived 42-36 in the gym where it won its first sectional championship since 1997 last March. With No. 2 Hamilton Southeastern in St. John on Saturday afternoon, Miklusak knows there is a lot to do.
“We're young, it took us awhile to get in a flow,” said Miklusak, who scored 12 points. “We got it going when we slowed things down. We tried to play as fast as them and it didn't go real well.
“I just knew we were trailing and we needed a steal and we needed to score real quick.”
Lake Central went on a 10-0 run in the final eight minutes to pull out the ugly win.
“We scrapped, but we weren't very good,” L.C.'s Dave Milausnic said. “But West Side played very hard. They put an unbelievable effort together. We didn't play well, but 99 percent of that goes to West Side's effort.”
The Indians were 13-of-38 from the field for 34 percent. And they looked like Rick Mount compared to the Cougars, who were 15-of-59 for 25 percent.
“The rim wasn't nice to us,” said West Side coach Murray Richards, who after 27 years as an assistant at his alma mater coached his first game as the Cougars head coach. “I never would've thought we couldn't hit a shot in our own gym, though.
“But if my guys give me the defense and the hustle every game, we'll be all right. Give us some time.”
Darius Bates led the Cougars with seven points. Arnold Wilson scored six and had 10 rebounds.
Lake Central's Tyler Wideman led the way with 13 points, nine rebounds and three thunderous blocks. With a Ball State coach looking on, Wideman understood what this game was.
“First game, first-game jitters,” he said. “We were excited to be out there again, but we have a lot of work to do.”
Last year, due to two technical fouls in the West Side game, Wideman sat out the game at Hamilton Southeastern. He looks forward to Saturday's game against Michigan-bound Zak Irvin.
“I didn't get to play last year so I'm ready,” he said.