PORTAGE | It's easy to win shooting 58 percent from the field when the opponent shoots 31 percent.
It's difficult to win when those numbers are reversed.
Times No. 9 Portage shot well and topped No. 10 Lake Central 46-36 in a Duneland Athletic Conference game Wednesday.
"I thought our defensive effort, communication, limiting their very good post players, speaks volumes to the kids and how well they took a scouting report and took what we tried to tell them to do and went out there and did it," Portage coach Chris Seibert said. "I couldn't be prouder of them."
Lake Central (6-5, 4-3) seemed intent on getting the ball to Jessica Bell down low, while Portage seemed equally focused on preventing just that. At times, play became very physical in the paint.
"I thought the game was won with our bench players, Lindsay Givens and Salina McConnell, kids that don't play a lot of minutes normally, came in and we held water in that second quarter," Seibert said.
Portage (7-3, 4-3) got some easy buckets early on set plays that resulted in open layups. Portage's other method of scoring was Nicki Monahan driving from the top of the key.
"That was about as poor of a defensive effort as we've had, but give Portage credit because they ran their stuff well," Lake Central coach Marc Urban said. "But really it's about the defensive end. We just had a poor effort."
Portage held a slim lead through much of the first half and went into the break up 19-18.
Tara Zlotkowski kept Lake Central close in the third quarter with a pair of threes. But Portage took control with a 9-0 run fueled by three Monahan steals and fast-break layups.
"We definitely got the job done as a team tonight," Monahan said. "We were just jumping the pass and anticipating the next move, reacting to the ball."
The Portage defense stepped up in the final period, too. At one point, Central couldn't get a shot out of it's motion offense for more than a minute and was forced to call a timeout. The Portage bench, led by a screaming Seibert, erupted and enthusiastically met the players on the court.
"Obviously, all of us are chasing Merrillville and Michigan City, but a win over a very good Lake Central team to get us tied for third with LaPorte and Lake Central is big," Seibert said.
Monahan led Portage with 15 points and four steals. Zlotkowski led Lake Central with 13 while Bell added 11 points and eight rebounds.