ST. JOHN — It’s a cliche, but Lake Central coach Joe Huppenthal says defense is what wins championships.
His team’s prowess without the ball was on display Wednesday.
West Side was scoreless for almost a 10-minute stretched between the second and third quarters. Dash Shaw’s free throws with less than three minutes left in the third quarter were the Cougars’ first points of the second half.
West Side didn’t notch a field goal until Trinity Thompson’s bucket with 6:45 left in the game, almost 14 minutes after the last one.
“It’s no secret that our defense is our staple. That’s what we pride ourselves on,” Huppenthal said. “Offense sells tickets. I’d like to score a little bit more, but defensively, I’ve been saying this for a while now, we’re in a pretty good place.”
The Times No. 3 Indians topped visiting No. 8 West Side 49-24.
The win is the 13th in 14 games for Lake Central (15-5), which lost five of the first seven games this season.
“This team’s in a position to win a conference championship now, or at least a piece of it,” Huppenthal said. “Obviously, we’re getting ready for the tournament.”
Lake Central has two more Duneland Athletic Conference games and sits in a three-way tie with LaPorte and Chesterton, teams that play each other Friday.
West Side (12-6) opened the game on a 9-0 run and held that lead through the first quarter. Sophomore guard Dash Shaw fueled the frame with 11 points, despite a clear focus from the Indians’ defense.
“I don’t know what it takes for us to realize that the first three minutes of a game are so critical. We talked about (Shaw) ad nauseam for three days,” Huppenthal said. “After we realized that she’s a player, we decided that we have to (guard her). That can’t happen as we get going toward the tournament here. If you do a four-minute stretch like that, you’re going to be going home.”
Shaw finished with 17 points.
“We’re just not a good offensive team and if you try to take Shaw away, we’re pretty limited. They did a pretty good job in the first half taking Shaw away,” Cougars coach Rodney Fisher said.
L.C. didn’t get its first lead until a 3 by Cheyenne Mathas with just more than three minutes left in the first half. The Indians were up 22-17 at the break and never let go of the advantage.
“In the second half, they hit some threes and we had to get out of (our zone),” Fisher said. “We’ve just got to come with 32 minutes of energy.”
Lauren Ladowski paced L.C. with 13 points and Lauren Smolen had 10.