CROWN POINT — Lake Central's pregame "walk through" before Saturday's sectional final was two hours long and included rebounding and defensive emphasis.
After the Indians beat E.C. Central 46-27 for the Class 4A sectional title, the team and coaches lingered as long as they could, soaking up the atmosphere of a championship.
The title was the first for L.C. since 2015, and the first under coach Joe Huppenthal and his staff that includes two former head coaches: Tom Golumbeck (Griffith) and Jeanette Gray (Clark, Highland, Valparaiso).
"This is really about the kids, because we've won ours, this is theirs," Huppenthal said. "All of these kids came in (Saturday) and practiced for two hours. I tell people all the time that they don't understand how hard it is and how much work it takes to win a sectional."
The Indians executed the emphasis with aplomb, holding E.C. Central to four points in the first quarter and 11 by halftime.
In the meantime, L.C. hit six 3-pointers in the first half, going 6 of 9 from beyond the arch.
"Those 3s were really big," senior Lauren Smolen said. "We were planning on shooting the 3 and just wanted to get the shots off. The guards did a phenomenal job."
The Indians spread the ball around the offense, with two players — seniors Rachael Robards and Taiylour Kirkwood — reaching double figures with 10 points each.
L.C. held E.C. Central's Jenasae Bishop, bound for Boston College after graduation, to 14 points, including five in the first half. The Cardinals' inside post players that reach 6-foot-6 and 6-4 were held to a combined six points and eight rebounds.
The Indians out-rebounded E.C. 24-19, holding the Cards to seven offensive rebounds.
"We were working on rebounding and doing a lot of drills all season, all so that we can out-rebound teams," Smolen said. "We wanted to make sure when we get to the game that we execute well. We did a really good job of that tonight."
Falling behind so early in the game was a tough hole to climb out of, E.C. Central coach Eric Kundich said.
"The first half was the difference in the game," Kundich said. "We allowed too much dribble penetration that when they kicked it out to shoot the 3, they were wide open and knocked 'em down."
Lake Central held E.C. Central scoreless for the final 5:53 of the third quarter, taking a 10-0 run over that time.
After falling behind 17-4 in the first half, E.C. pulled within six on a 7-0 stretch that included kicking the ball inside to the posts, but Lake Central hit two quick 3s to pull away, again.
The Indians shot 50 percent from the field and 50 percent from behind the arch in the title game; E.C. Central hit 22 percent from the field and 20 percent from the 3-point line.
"I told the girls after the game and I feel this way about the winning team, too," Kundich said, "this is one game and one season and even one high school career doesn't define who you are and who you can be in life."