ST. JOHN | By halftime, Gina Rubino had set a personal mark for 3-pointers in a game and had the support of her Lake Central girls basketball teammates to keep shooting.
In the other locker room, Merrillville's defense was hearing an earful for letting the Indians' best shooter stay wide open for the entire first half.
Rubino had 24 first-half points and finished with a game-high 29 and she led Times No. 3 Lake Central to a 66-57 win over No. 1 Merrillville on Friday.
The Pirates were ranked 15th in the state by the IBCA single-class poll, and the Indians were 20th.
"My teammates told me to keep shooting, to keep hitting (the 3s)," Rubino said. "They were building my confidence. In the second half I knew they would be on me more, guarding me so we had to take the ball to the hole."
Behind Rubino, the Indians (6-1, 2-0 Duneland Athletic Conference) took a 24-13 lead after the first quarter that spread to 43-27 at halftime.
"She was who we knew Gina could be," Lake Central coach Marc Urban said. "We were really happy with her confidence and she just kept shooting."
The Indians hadn't beaten Merrillville since a 62-54 win on Dec. 18, 2010.
"We practiced all week to get after (Lake Central), and they hit every wide open shot," Merrillville coach Amy Govert said. "We missed every single defensive opportunity we had."
Lake Central fell into foul trouble first, sitting post player Lindsay Kusbel for the bulk of the third quarter while Merrillville pulled as close as seven points. The Pirates (4-2, 1-1) were within four points when Michigan State-bound junior Victoria Gaines sat briefly with her fourth foul. Gaines eventually fouled out, but not before scoring 23 points.
"With Kusbel on the bench, we knew we had to make up for the lack of size," Urban said. "The girl going to Michigan State, she's the real deal."
L.C. picked up a defensive spark from Rolanda Curington, who stood in at post in the second half, hitting five of her nine points and putting pressure in the paint.
Tara Zlotkowski added 15 points and Kusbel had 10 rebounds.
The Indians outrebounded the Pirates 14-10 in the first half, and 25-20 in the game. Merrillville committed nine of their 13 turnovers in the first half.
"It's about effort," Govert said. "Give the credit to Lake Central, they brought the effort."
With the elimination of the conference double round robin, the next chance the two teams will have to play is the DAC Holiday Tournament on Dec. 27. The last time they met was a Merrillville win in the regional semifinal.
"This is a new year, and a new start," Rubino said. "We have some players back and they have some players back, but these are both new teams."