VALPARAISO | It's supposed to be difficult to beat a good team three times in a season.
LaPorte blew that sports theory out of the water in Saturday's Class 4A Valparaiso Sectional championship, running away from rival Michigan City in the second half for a 67-51 victory.
"It wasn't as easy as the scoreboard indicates," Slicers coach Tom Wells said. "Sometimes the players make you look good."
Josh Fleming was first and foremost among them. The senior guard capped a monster week, pouring in 32 points, including 18 of 20 free throws to carry the Slicers (16-7) into the Michigan City Regional.
"It means a lot. I can't really say, I'm so happy. I don't know of a better feeling," Fleming said. "There's no better thing than beating your rival for a sectional championship. Being a leader on the team, I feel like I set the tone at the beginning, then I put the team on my back as best I could toward the end."
Fleming scored 17 of LaPorte's 29 points in the first half and did most of his damage after the break at the free-throw line to resist any City challenges.
"And to think, he's an unsigned senior," Wells said. "Somebody's going to gobble him up in a hurry. The bigger the stage, the better he is. Just an unbelievable performance."
With Gage Ott slowed by foul trouble, LaPorte got a lift from Miles Browder, who chipped in 17 points and helped defend Keenan Simmons.
"A different guy," Wells said. "We never know who it's going to be. It's a simple recipe. We've got our two anchors and when we get a third guy going, we're pretty good."
LaPorte focused its defensive efforts on stopping Simmons and the 6-foot-7 senior managed just 10 points to go with 10 rebounds and four blocks. Freshman Jaronde Boyd had 11 points to top M.C. (14-9), which went just 1-of-12 from the arc.
"We've had success taking other teams' best players out of the game for the most part," Wells said. "If they were going to beat us, they were going to beat us with a guy who hadn't done it yet."
The loss continued Michigan City's sectional drought. The school has not won a post-season title since the consolidation of Rogers and Elston in 1995. Freshman Jaronde Boyd led City with 11.
"It's just not Michigan City's time yet," Boyd said. "Hats off to LaPorte. They're a senior-led team. They hit shots when they need to. That's what the game is all about. We couldn't get stops. I thought we got stagnant. We've got a lot of young guys, so there's hope for years to come. The future's bright."
The title is LaPorte's first since 2006.
"We've been through some tough years," Wells said. "This group of seniors have been looming forward to this for a long time."