CROWN POINT — Even teams with the most seasoned vets who have played in close, hard-nosed playoff games can feel the butterflies in the girls basketball sectional.
So went the first half for Lake Central against Munster on Wednesday. The Indians have six seniors on the roster, starting five of them.
In the locker room at halftime, leading the Mustangs by a point, Indians coach Joe Huppenthal tried to calm down his team.
"We were too nervous, we just had to relax," senior Lauren Ladowski said after her team's 46-38 win. "We have a lot of seniors, and we know that if anything happens this is our last year. They were good nerves. (Huppenthal) calmed us down and told us to relax and play our basketball."
Lake Central returned to take a 14-2 run to start the third quarter, boosted by senior Taiylour Kirkwood, who had two quick assists after sitting on the bench with two fouls for most of the first half.
"She's awesome, and, yeah, we needed her on the floor with us," said Ladowski, who had 10 points to tie a team best.
While his message may have calmed his team at halftime, after the win, the words were a little more pointed.
"That team, Munster, played harder than we did and that bothers me," Huppenthal said. "Our defense was solid, but they just got to every lose ball, they had offensive rebounds. In coaching, you talk about getting the intangibles, and they had them. That really bothers mean. And it will get corrected."
The Indians play Highland in the second semifinal Friday. The Trojans beat Morton 70-65 in the second game Wednesday.
Munster used defensive rebounds in the first half to take its 16-15 lead late in the second quarter. The third-quarter run by the Indians came as the Mustangs turned the ball over three consecutive trips down the floor.
"We came in feeling like we could beat them," Munster coach Jim Davidson said. "If we had played the way we played in the first half the rest of the game, we might have. (Lake Central) ran three or four sets to perfection, and when we tried to run a set, we got in a panic. But we didn't quit."
Holly Kaim led Munster and all scorers with 14 points. She had six in a 16-point fourth quarter for the 'Stangs. Sara Zabrecky had 10 for L.C.
In the late game, Morton used its outside shooting and swarming defense to erase Highland's leads as big as 11 early to keep Highland on its toes.
The Trojans turned to Morgan Rinkema who scored 14 of her 25 points in the third quarter. She hit five 3s, four in the third.
"Morgan played huge tonight," Highland coach Tracie Mezera-Juarez said. "We had to make a couple of adjustments. First, we had to adjust to how the game was being called because we typically don't play many off the bench. Then we had to adjust to their defense. They've played a 3-2 all year so we weren't expecting the 1-3-1.
"I think some of it was the nerves of the sectional. You can feel how intense it is just walking into this gym."
Michaela Schmidt had 28 to lead Highland, 10 in the first quarter as Highland took a quick 21-14 lead.
Keaira Miller led Morton with 22 points and ShanEttine Butler chipped in 20. The Govs graduate seven seniors, including Dariel Woods, who added 11.