CROWN POINT | The Crown Point gym seats 3,800 fans and Saturday those included parents and students from four schools around the state, girls basketball aficionados from the region and a handful of nuns.
From the first game of the Crown Point Semistate, Fort Wayne Canterbury will make its fifth trip to the state tournament in the last six years with a 74-50 Class A win over Lafayette Central Catholic.
In the second game, Hamilton Heights will be the North's Class 3A representative after a 69-58 win over Benton Central.
"What a fun game to be a part of," Benton Central coach David Baxter said after his team's loss. "We didn't come out on top, but I'm extremely proud of my team, and Hamilton Heights is a deserving team to be a state finalist team."
Hamilton Heights' Dakota Weatherford, a 2012 Junior All-Star, powered a guard-heavy game that included speed inside and out. Junior Haley Cook led the Huskies with 24 points as Weatherford chipped in 20.
"(Weatherford's) an Indiana All-Star and there's no doubt about it and we've got a lot of kids who are close to being Indiana All-Stars," Hamilton Heights coach Todd Windlan said.
"We decided to use our quickness versus their length. I told them when we got down early we were fine because we were going to make a run, and we made a run."
Benton Central opened with an 11-2 lead, but couldn't contain the Huskies' perimeter shooting. Hamilton Heights finished with eight 3s and was 21-of-29 from the free-throw line.
"We knew going in that if we didn't match up with their 3-point shooters and we got down, we'd have to foul them at the end," Baxter said. "They're just a terrific free-throw shooting team and were able to come out on top today."
Seniors Caitlyn Tolen and Cassidy Deno scored 24 points apiece to lead Benton Central, which beat Rensselaer in the first round of the regional en route to Saturday's semistate game.
Canterbury (24-3) is the defending Class A state champion and has won four titles since 2008. This will be the first trip with coach Wayne Kreiger, as the last four titles were won under Kreiger's son, Scott.
Led by five players in double figures, Central Catholic could find no way to stop just one. Loyola Chicago-bound Bailey Farley scored 17, sophomore Darby Maggard had 16, Kindell Fincher added 15 and Aaliyah Gaines and Katherine Smith had 12 each.
"We have several players who are offensively talented and we keep stressing to them that none of them can do it without the others," Wayne Kreiger said. "They know that sharing the basketball is a major part of our success."
Central Catholic was led by 17 points with seven rebounds from Emily Denhard. Alanna Roswarski chipped in 14 points for the Knights (17-10).
"We know that we can't run with Canterbury," LCC coach Craig DeVault said. "They leak out on their shot and if it's a running game, or a game of horse, they're going to beat us in a game of horse, because they've got so many shooters on that team."