GRIFFITH | One superior quarter of playoff basketball was all it took for Griffith to go from the brink of a nail-biter to the brink of a fifth consecutive sectional championship.
Against a feisty Lew Wallace team that played the lion’s share of its games either in Gary or Indianapolis this season, Griffith entered the third quarter up just 14-12 before the Hornets tied the game at 14.
Senior Sammi Adams knew she didn’t want to be a member of the first Griffith team to lose a sectional game since 2008. Adams had a hand in Griffith’s first 10 points in the third quarter, and the Panthers limited Wallace to four points in the final 15 minutes to win 37-18 Friday night at the Class 3A Griffith Sectional.
“At first we were nervous and weren’t playing like ourselves,” Adams said. “We were trying to do too much. Then we started playing as a team.”
The Panthers (14-8) play Gavit at 7 tonight for the championship. The Panthers won the regular-season tilt 30-19.
The Gladiators (9-13), who nervously eked out a win over Hammond on Tuesday, handily beat Clark 49-30 in Friday’s foul-riddled nightcap.
“We talk a lot about working on our own stuff,” Griffith coach Tom Golumbeck said of preparing to net a fifth consecutive title. “We may be the favorite, but on any given night you never know what could happen. Our kids are pretty aware we can’t just show up and win it.”
Adams led all scorers with 14 points, adding eight rebounds and three steals. With Courtney Bell in foul trouble Adams shouldered more of the point guard role. Her three-point play broke the 14-all tie, and she passed to set up four points and scored another layup and another free throw amid the first 10 points of a 14-0 Griffith run to close the quarter.
“I tried to drive the lane and get things open and make plays,” Adams said. “Definitely being in this position before helped me a lot.”
Griffith senior Taylor Austin, who missed the final two regular-season games with an ankle sprain, came off the bench for seven points, including back-to-back buckets in the second quarter that put her team up 10-5.
Jessica Cunningham led the Hornet (12-6) with six points as the two most relied-upon Hornets were saddled with foul trouble all game.
In the second semifinal, Gavit corrected many of the mistakes it made against Hammond and played a much more complete game, rolling to a 20-8 lead after one and keeping the Pioneers (7-14) down by double digits for the rest of the night.
“When you have a good start, you’re going to have a good game,” said Gavit senior Breona “Bella” Muller, who hit her first eight free throw attempts and led the Gladiators with 12 points.
“We just had to keep our energy up after that.”
Muller hit three free throws after being fouled on a first-quarter buzzer-beater attempt. Her effort led a balanced attack for the last Hammond team left in the state tournament.
Myshaunique Loggins got a rare start as Gavit opted to go small to avoid the speed mismatches it saw in a 17-point loss to Clark on Jan. 15.
Loggins logged eight points, 10 rebounds and three assists.
Shanika Thornton and Sheila Morris-Rogers scored 10 apiece for the Glads.
Clark got 12 points from Dulce Garcia, including eight from the foul line, in a game with 46 total fouls.
“This was our best two days of preparation all year,” Gavit coach Ken Anderson said. “We’re so freshman- and sophomore-oriented that they didn’t know what it meant to be in a sectional the other day. Now they know.”