MUNSTER | For the sixth straight year, Lake Central will play in the Munster girls basketball sectional final.
For the third year, E.C. Central coach Eric Kundich feels like he played the title game early.
The Indians ousted the defending champion Cardinals 55-47 Friday and will match up against Lowell for the title tonight. In the first game, the Red Devils beat Highland 59-32.
"I look around and for the third time in three years, I feel like we just finished the championship game," Kundich said.
In those three seasons, E.C. Central is 1-2 against the Indians.
The Cardinals put the onus on their post players to try to stop Jessica Bell, Lindsay Kusbel and Jessica DelBovo. Bell finished with 22 points and 16 rebounds, while Kusbel and DelBovo combined for two points.
"Our main focus was to feed the ball down low to me, Lindsey Kusbel and Jessica DelBovo and our guards did a good job doing that," Bell said. "Our game plan was to be relaxed and keep our focus."
The Cardinals shot 18 percent in the first quarter and sophomore shooting star Tiajaney Hawkins scored all of her 14 points in the second half. Dariyelle Ricks led E.C. Central (12-11) with 17 points.
"Something we talked about was being consistent and playing possession by possession," Lake Central coach Marc Urban said. "We prepared for a lot of the same stuff we saw against West Side: they're very athletic and they play hard and they have offensive players."
Tara Zlotkowski added 17 points for L.C. (15-7).
The Indians have won one sectional championship in their last five tries. The last time a Lake Central team didn't play in the title game, the Class of 2013 was in the sixth grade.
"I'm definitely proud of our team for making it," Bell said. "A lot of times when there's a brand new coaching staff, it's a rebuilding year. Everyone has taken everything in stride and we've made the best of everything and we're a better team because of it."
Today's 7 p.m. game pits a pair of coaches in their first years at their respective programs.
In the opener, Lowell showed off its post players against Highland with 21 points from center Mackenzie Kreutz and 19 points from forward Katie Bobos. The pair also combined for 15 rebounds.
The Red Devils (18-3) will play for the sectional championship for the first time since 2007.
"I'm proud of these girls, they took another step in their progress" Lowell coach Matt Welsh said. "This is something this group has never done."
The two teams combined for 44 fouls in the game that lasted a full hour and a half with 50 free throws.
Both Bobos and Kreutz had scored in double digits by halftime.
Brianna Williams led Highland (8-14) with 13 points and six rebounds before fouling out. The Trojans graduate one player, starter Tylissa Fulgham, from this year's team.
"(Thursday) we had our best practice all year," Highland coach Tracie Mezera said. "We just told these girls, if they can have that intensity in the spring and the summer and next year, we will be talked about as competition here next year."