CROWN POINT | There is no panic in Times No. 1 Lake Central's girls basketball team.
Down nine points to Merrillville at halftime in the inaugural DAC West tournament championship game? Nope, no panic.
The Indians came out and scored 10 points in the first 3 minutes, 28 seconds and held onto that winning feeling for a 52-50 victory.
"We talk all the time about playing 32 minutes and playing every possession," Lake Central coach Marc Urban said. "We found ways to get some stops late and we were able to get big rebounds. We know that late in the game we have to be tough."
L.C. (12-1) had to play a close game in the semifinals, beating Crown Point, 45-41, before the Bulldogs topped Portage, 49-21, in the consolation finals. Merrillville beat Portage, 45-34, to reach the finals.
In the morning semifinal, Lindsay Kusbel scored just four points, hitting 1-of-7 from the field and 1-of-6 from the free-throw line. Despite missing her first shot against Merrillville in the late game, she shook off the miss and went on to lead the game with 17 points.
See, no panic.
"I was really proud of (Kusbel)," Urban said. "I was very happy with the way she responded after not having a great game this morning."
No. 3 Merrillville took its first-half lead behind a pressing defense and intensity that coach Amy Govert has been looking for most of the season. Inconsistency in shooting, however, hurt the Pirates (8-4).
Merrillville shot 21-of-56 (or 37.5 percent) from the field and 7-of-18 from the free-throw line. Conversely, L.C. hit 42.9 percent of its shots from the field and was 13-of-25 from the free-throw line, including 4-of-8 in the fourth quarter. Merrillville hit 2-of-6 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.
"I was happy with the intensity, yes. The shooting, no," Govert said. "We have big players who have to step up. We didn't have those super studs do what they were supposed to do tonight."
Victoria Gaines' double-double of 16 points and 13 rebounds led the Pirates while Rolanda Curington added 15 points for the Indians. A.J. Downs scored 11 for Merrillville.
In the consolation game, Crown Point's defense led a second-half surge that pulled away from a nine-point halftime lead.
The Bulldogs held Portage to one point in the fourth quarter while three players scored in double figures.
Hannah Albrecht and Katija Tarailo had 12 points each and Abby Kvachkoff chipped in 11 for the Bulldogs (7-4).
"We have been slow to start, that's it exactly," C.P. coach Annie Equihua said. "I'm not going to complain about this win. ... Obviously it depended a little on our competition, but I think overall we did a great job."
Portage (6-7) lost Alexis Johnson in the third quarter to what appeared to be a wrist injury. She led her team with eight points while Kaitlin Doud had five rebounds.
"We have an inability to put the ball in the hole," Portage coach Chris Seibert said. "Again, if we can't score, it's hard to hold on against good teams. We had a good run at the start of the third quarter, and then we lost Alexis. We need other people to step up."
The win ended a three-game losing streak for the Bulldogs, including twice to Lake Central.