ST. JOHN | The ball off the foot of Lake Central's Adam VanMilligan flew 30 feet in the air toward Highland's goal. But great kicks had been fired at both goalies all night and most of them did not connect.
Highland's Austin Walters and the Indians' Joeseph Majchrowicz stood on their head for all of Saturday night's Class 2A Lake Central Sectional championship game.
Then, VanMiligan's ball hit the top of the goal post and bounced in front where Lake Central's Ulises Hernandez awaited. His goal at 1:11 left in the first seven-minute overtime period gave the Indians a hard-fought, gut-wrenching win over the Trojans 2-1.
“It was a great shot from my teammate,” said Hernandez, who transferred in from Bremen in Illinois. “I did it. I got the goal in the net. This is my first one (sectional) at Lake Central. It's much different in Indiana.”
The Times No. 7 Indians (7-12) won their 15th sectional championship overall and advance to play Crown Point in Thursday's Merrillville Regional semifinal. It will pit the 2010 state champion Indians against the defending champion Bulldogs.
It marked L.C.'s 10th straight sectional championship, while Highland (5-13) was looking for its first sectional crown since 1999.
The Indians beat the Trojans 1-0 during the regular season.
“I've been doing this for 14 years and I always say there's nothing else you can see,” Lake Central coach Jereme Rainwater said. “And then you get a game like this. It went both ways. It was a great game and both teams have a lot of chances. I have to give credit to (Highland coach Pere Dorsuleski).
“He has it going at Highland. Those kids need to keep their heads up.”
Lake Central tallied first when Shane Walton headed in a corner kick by Hernandez at 37:12 left in the first half. The Indians kept hot, constant pressure on Highland's Walters.
Walters had seven saves in the first half, with three of them sure goal stoppers.
“That gave me more motivation,” Majchrowicz said. “I needed to do my part to keep us in the game. Words can't describe how this feels.”
Highland tied the score at 28:37 when Marco Guerrero got behind the LC defense and scored in the first half. The Trojans had several chances in the second half but Majchrowicz was phenomenal.
Walters had 13 saves for Highland and Majchrowicz had 11.
Lake Central moved offensive threat Josh Crague to sweeper to help stop Highland's attack.
“I did what I had to for the team,” Crague said. “That's what we're all doing now.”
Dorsuleski was proud of what his team accomplished.
"If we have to end the season, this is a good way," Dorsuleski said. "Our boys fought the whole way. I've been blessed to be able to coach these guys."