CROWN POINT | Crown Point girls basketball coach Annie Equihua issued a challenge to her team at halftime of Friday morning's game against Lake Central.
It was not unlike the same challenge she issued a week ago to her Bulldogs at halftime of a game against Lake Central.
Last week, C.P. came within nine points of L.C. before falling 61-39. In Friday morning's Duneland Athletic Conference holiday tournament, the Bulldogs tied the game, then lost 45-41. Lake Central will play Merrillville in the 7 p.m. championship, and Crown Point will play Portage at 5 p.m. in the consolation of the inaugural tournament.
Equihua left immediately following the morning game to attend the funeral of her aunt.
"The second half is the way we're capable of playing, and that's the way we should be playing all game," Crown Point assistant coach Scott Reid said. "We are not ready to go out and play that way and we've showed it the last week. As well-coached as Lake Central is, you can't start a game like that against them."
Lake Central took advantage of the sluggish first half. The Indians held a 30-19 lead at halftime after a 14-5 first quarter.
Lake Central forced Crown Point into 17 first-half turnovers, and 24 in the game.
"We've got to rely on the things we can control," L.C. coach Marc Urban said. "We can't control whether the ball is going to go into the basket, but we can control our defensive pressure and how we respond."
The Indians' shots went cold in the second half, as L.C. was 3-of-25 from the field in the third and fourth quarters.
Defensively, the Indians made few fouls and kept C.P. off the free-throw line while forcing the Bulldogs to take shots they didn't want to take. C.P. was 18-of-47 from the field, including a 6-for-13 third quarter in which the 'Dogs out-scored L.C. 16-6.
"We had a lot of chances to take the lead and we had too many turnovers and missed a lot of shots," Reid said.
Tara Zlotkowski's 15 points led Lake Central and Rolanda Curington added 14 with six from the free-throw line.
Hannah Albrecht scored a team-high 14 points for Crown Point.
Also hoping to improve shooting in the break between the morning and evening games is Merrillville.
The Pirates fell behind early to Portage before taking a 20-16 lead at halftime. Merrillville shot 17-of-39 from the field and 10-of-19 from the free-throw line.
"We haven't shot well all year, and that's what's frustrating about this team," Pirates coach Amy Govert said. "We are as athletic as anyone, but we spend so much time on fundamentals. We shoot free throws before school and for 45 minutes during practice. I don't know what the problem is."
Led by A.J. Downs, who scored eight of her 13 points in the second half, Merrillville found its defensive pressure and intensity after the start of the third quarter. The Pirates forced Portage into eight third-quarter turnovers and outscored the Indians 25-18 in the second half.
"We have another level, and the last quarter and a half you saw it," Govert said.
Kaitlin Doud had 12 points for Portage as teammate Kaitlyn Steers added 11.
"We knew we needed to slow the game down and get a higher percentage of our shots around the rim," Portage coach Chris Seibert said. "We did as well as we could have. We just needed to lengthen our possessions."