LAPORTE — For more than 31 minutes, Lake Central led Class 4A No. 6-ranked Penn.
Then, in the last 4.6 seconds, Penn's Sara Doi hit a jumper that proved to be the third — and final — lead that the Kingsmen needed in a 43-41 win over the Indians in the Class 4A LaPorte Regional championship game.
"We played out heart out," Lake Central senior Lauren Ladowski said. "We knew they were a really good team and we had to get our stops on defense. We didn't do that in the fourth quarter."
After Penn tied the game at 41-41 with 1:42 left in the game, Lake Central's shot under the basket missed nearly a minute later. The Kingsmen held the ball for the last 42 seconds, with Doi taking the last shot.
L.C. was in a defense waiting for Doi to pass.
"We were going to trap on the first pass," L.C. coach Joe Huppenthal said. "But Doi didn't give up the ball.
"On the next play, we tried to see what they were going to come out with in defense. We had Sara (Zabrecky) off a screen on the baseline, but she wasn't open."
Ladowski brought the ball the length of the court in the final 4.6 seconds, finding fellow senior Rachael Robards open at the end, but Robards' shot careened out.
Lake Central took a 14-3 lead out of the first quarter, holding Penn without a field goal for the first 9 1/2 minutes of the game.
"We knew even then that we can't be too high or too low, it was just one quarter," Ladowski said.
Penn used four 3s in the second quarter to pull within 24-20 at halftime, holding LC to 10 points in the frame.
Penn took its first lead of 31-30 with 4.8 seconds left in the third quarter, and then again with 5:03 left in the game, pulling ahead 35-34.
Robards knocked down a 3 to give Lake Central the two-point advantage for the final four minutes.
Ladowski finished with a game-high 20 points and Robards and Lauren Smolen each had five rebounds.
The Indians (22-7) graduate six seniors, including starters Ladowski, Robards, Smolen and Taiylour Kirkwood. The senior class accounted for all 41 of Lake Central's points.
"We want to leave a legacy of positivity," Ladowski said. "We've preached positivity all year and have had good bonding. We hope everyone stays positive and continues to communicate well."
Penn (26-1) advances to the Class 4A semistate to play Zionsville on Saturday. Lake Central handed Penn its only loss in the regular season, 51-43, on Nov. 18.
"I told the girls that if this (loss) is the worst thing that happens in their lives, they're doing OK," Huppenthal said. "I'm going to miss these seniors. For the last two years they've given me everything they had and will forever be special to me and the coaching staff. They will be Lake Central Indians for ever, and that's special. They're all good kids."