LAPORTE — With a couple of weeks left in the Duneland Athletic Conference season, Saturday's game between Times No. 3 Lake Central and No. 5 LaPorte was a big one.
For LaPorte, a win would have it sitting pretty atop the DAC with no losses. On the other side of things, a L.C. victory would put the Indians right back into the race.
From the opening tip, it was clear that L.C. wanted no part of a second conference loss. The Indians' defense put the skids on the Slicers in a 49-31 road win forcing a three-way tie atop the conference with Chesterton with two games to go.
"We dictated the tempo of the game defensively and that's what we wanted to do," Lake Central coach Joe Huppenthal said. "Any time you can get a win in the DAC and on the road like this against a 4-0 team, that's an accomplishment. It was a huge win for us. We told the girls we gotta win out if we want to have any chance at winning the conference and mission accomplished, so far."
The teams traded buckets in the early goings before a basket by Sara Zabrecky gave L.C. a 7-6 lead that it wouldn't relinquish the rest of the way. The Indians (14-5, 4-1) have now won 12 of their past 13 games since their last loss to Chesterton on Nov. 24.
"We're happy where we're at right now," Huppenthal said. "You look at our schedule early on and it was murderous, but I think those games help us for games like this one. That's why I scheduled those teams early on, I wouldn't do it any differently. People asked why we started out playing some of the teams we did and it's simply because it gets us ready for these kind of games."
Huppenthal said he wanted to get his players some rest as several of them have been battling sicknesses, including Rachael Robards, who had a game-high 17 points. Lauren Ladowski chipped in 13, including a 7 of 7 mark from the charity stripe, where the Indians went 18 of 22. Zabrecky added nine.
"These kids are warriors," Huppenthal said. "Rachael has been really struggling with her health these past five games and this was probably the best she's been. Her out there at even 50 percent is great for us."
Robards said she's had a "viral thing" for the past few weeks with side effects of throwing up and bloody noses. The bloody noses have been hard to keep under control to the point that one forced her to exit a game on Dec. against Northridge after one quarter.
"It's been tiring for me just going up and down the court lately, but I'm slowly getting back at it," Robards said. "This was the first game fully back for me and it felt good to be back."
The senior scored nine in the first half, including six in the second quarter, as L.C. saw its 16-10 lead grow to 30-14 by halftime. No LaPorte player reached double digits as L.C. held top two scorers Riley and Ryin Ott to nine and five points, respectively.
"This was obviously big for us because we needed to get this win to stay in the race," Robards said. "Our coaches did a really good job of scouting. We did a really good job stopping (Riley Ott) and her sister and I think that really helped our defense overall."
LaPorte (11-4, 4-1) was 1 of 15 from beyond the arc and 10 of 17 from the free-throw line.
"You gotta give (Lake Central) credit, they wanted to make it a three-way tie," LaPorte coach Rob Walker said. "They came really ready to play and we couldn't match their aggressiveness, and we'll need to start emulating that type of aggressiveness the next few weeks. I don't know what area of the game that we outplayed them in. They put a clinic out there on LaPorte basketball and handed us our lunch."