CEDAR LAKE | Hanover Central wasn’t about to let the opportunity slip away Friday night in the first semifinal game against Knox.
The host Wildcats (14-7) rallied from a five-point deficit early in the third quarter on the way to a 48-40 victory to advance to tonight’s Class 3A championship game against Rensselaer, who eliminated Calumet 52-36.
Senior Tiphani Ward, who scored all of her five points in the fourth quarter, said the team never lost its composure.
“We definitely had it when we stepped out for the second half,” she said. “We knew that we wanted to win way more than they did because last year they beat us in the championship in sectionals.
“And this year we didn’t want that to happen.”
Hanover still trailed 31-30 after three and 29-24 early in the fourth.
Frankie Turturillo scored two baskets and Blayr Poston, who scored a game-high 25 points, tallied to give Hanover the lead at 32-31 with 7 minutes left.
A three-point play by Ward and a basket by Kristen Roper gave Hanover a 37-31 lead.
“We stepped up in the fourth quarter when we had to,” Hanover coach Doug Nelson said. “I told the girls at half that we were lucky to be down one.”
Knox (9-13) never got closer than six points the rest of the way, as Poston wrapped up the win by hitting 8-of-8 free throws down the stretch. Lisa Gac did a nice job defensively on the inside.
“We had an idea on what we needed to do to stop them,” Roper said. “And it was to limit No. 22 (Kaitlyn Zahary) and No. 11 (Rebecca Fraasure).”
After Zachary scored nine points in the first half, Hanover held her to three points in the second half.
“We got it back together,” Roper said. “As soon as our defense picked up, the game picked it. That’s what the game is all about.”
Rensselaer (15-7) jumped out to a 20-9 lead after one quarter and held off a late rally by Calumet (4-17) to advance to its first sectional title game since 2006.
“We haven’t been in this position, so to come out and play for a championship is a big step for us,” Bomber coach Jeff Marlow said. “But the kids will be ready.”
Laura Tonner led the Bombers with 20 points, while Emilie Ziese added 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Theresa Strong dropped in 19 points for the Warriors.