LOWELL | With two minutes left in Friday's Lowell Sectional semifinal, West Side junior Tinon Hunter stole the ball, ripping it from the hands of Lake Central's Lindsay Kusbel and scored.
Hunter's two points, which turned out to be her ninth of the game, would prove to be the winning bucket as the Cougars took a 58-54 lead in a game they eventually won, 60-56.
West Side will play Lowell, a 37-36 winner over Morton, in today's 7:30 p.m. championship game.
"We've been up so many times at the half and teams have come back that I told the girls 'this is our time to come back,'" West Side coach Rod Fisher said. "For three minutes in the third quarter, we were great.
"What these kids went through the last four days, to beat a quality team like Lake Central is huge for them."
West Side is still without three players suspended after a fight at practice on Monday. Sophomore Tyeisha Hunter missed Wednesday's game against Munster because of the suspension, but returned Friday and scored two points.
The Cougars, who turned a 33-25 deficit around with a 24-point third quarter, opened the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run for an 11-0 lead. When Lake Central scored with 4:03 remaining in the game, the Indians' first points since the 1:25 mark of the third quarter, they were playing from behind. L.C. went on a 9-0 run to pull within two before Hunter's heroics gave West Side a tough advantage.
"They're a good basketball team and they've got a freshman who is the reason Purdue and Ohio State are here watching her," L.C. coach Marc Urban said. "This (Lake Central) group has been a really good group and even though they came out on the short end of this game, I'm really proud of them."
Super freshman Evans scored 22 points for West Side, including 13 in the second half.
Rolanda Curington and Kusbel recorded double-doubles for Lake Central, with 13 points and 11 rebounds for Curington and 11 points wiht 13 rebounds for Kusbel. Gina Rubino hit four 3s and scored 16 points to lead the Indians. Tara Zlotkowski chipped in 10 points.
Amari Ferguson, who added 15 points for West Side also had six steals.
In the early game, Lowell used a free-throw from Joselyne Bobos with one second remaining to beat Morton.
Bobos, making her first start of the season, scored five points in a game that Morton led most of the way.
Lowell took a 31-29 lead with 20 seconds left in the third quarter before Morton's Timiya Ray hit a 3 in the first 45 seconds of the fourth quarter to regain the lead.
The Govs led by as many as five points in the final quarter, but scored their last bucket with 4:16 left in the game. Lowell scored the final six points to reach the championship game.
"It doesn't matter how we got there, we got to the championship," Lowell coach Matt Welsh said.
Amy Fraikin scored nine points to lead the Red Devils.
Ray's 14 paced the Govs as the sophomore added eight steals. Tatyana Skinner had 13 rebounds for Morton and teammate Rayann Johnston pulled down 12.
"We have gotten outrebounded one time all year, and and we were outrebounded tonight," Welsh said. "Tonight, our team was uninspired."