CHESTERTON | It's going to be that kind of season in the Duneland Athletic Conference.
Lots of parity, top to bottom, with the "on any given night" cliche always in play.
So it was at Chesterton on Tuesday where the Times No. 7 Trojans, winless in their first two DAC games, used a strong fourth quarter to down No. 4 Lake Central, which came into the contest tied for the early-season lead in the conference, 79-75.
"We really showed what can happen when we play as a team," Trojans sophomore Matt Holba said. "We were a totally different team. We can compete with anybody in the conference and sectional when we play our best."
Holba (21 points, 11 rebounds), classmate Chris Palombizio (19 points, 11 in the fourth quarter) and Corey Rusboldt (15 points) led the Trojans (2-3, 1-2), who broke out to a double-digit lead in the final eight minutes after trailing 42-33 early in the third quarter.
"We've got a lot of weapons and we were able to use them," Chesterton coach Tom Peller said. "A lot of it was mental, settling down and playing our game, not forcing things. When we play as a team and not as individuals, we can do great things. It's a matter of understanding how we have to play."
Chesterton focused its defensive attention on L.C. center Tyler Wideman and Mike Miklusak was able to hurt them early with three first-quarter 3s. The perimeter shots ran dry after the hot start as the Indians (3-2, 2-1) made just two of their last 14 treys, but it was the other side of the ball that soured coach Dave Milausnic.
"All my thoughts are focused on the 79 points we gave up," Milausnic said. "That's a reflection of a very poor effort. We were a step slow on defense. We didn't rotate. You look at us a week ago, we were flying around, boxing out, getting rebounds. We got out-rebounded, out-hustled, and that's all a testament to Chesterton's toughness and our lack of toughness."
Chesterton never trailed after a third-quarter rally, sparked by back-up center Brandon Roeske, erased a nine-point deficit. Palombizio scored off a Holba steal to make it 50-48 heading to the fourth, which was delayed roughly 25 minutes while medical personnel tended to a cheerleader who had fallen on the court.
The Trojans didn't take long to warm up again with 3s by Palombizio and Rusboldt, and a three-point play by Holba opening up the lead. Chesterton made 14-of-20 free throws in the fourth quarter to secure the win, its first over L.C. in four years.
"It's one of the biggest in a while, against a quality team," Peller said. "Matt was just fantastic. He got every key rebound at crunch time. He's such a mature kid for a sophomore. His motor is running all the time. He's unselfish. He knows who's supposed to have the ball all the time."
Holba and Wideman didn't necessarily match up, with Peller using a variety of players on the L.C. big man, though Holba was well aware that their stat lines would be compared. Wideman finished with 19 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three blocks.
"We're good friends, so going against him always gives me a little extra. I want to win" Holba said. "We passed the ball around and I was getting good shots. It seemed whenever I got the ball, I had a lane. I felt really good."
Tye Wilburn topped L.C. with 21 points and five assists. Miklusak finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds, all but one of those points and two of those boards coming in the first half.
"We take pride in how hard we play and there wasn't 32 minutes of effort there," Milausnic said. "We were willing to work hard to get a lead, but we weren't willing to work harder to keep it."