EAST CHICAGO | When E.C. Central girls basketball coach Eric Kundich put Chesterton on the schedule, it was with the hope to see a Tiajaney Hawkins-Caroline Puntillo matchup in early December.
Instead, Cardinals star Hawkins was relegated to the disabled list, while Chesterton's Puntillo rode rampantly over the menagerie of youngsters that dot the E.C. Central starting roster.
Hawkins, who broke the bottom of her middle finger in her right shooting hand Nov. 11, has played one half and a few short minutes of her junior season.
Puntillo was averaging 23.2 points per game heading into Tuesday's matchup against E.C. Central.
The senior didn't disappoint. She scored 18 by halftime and finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and five steals as Chesterton dominated in the second half of a 64-37 win.
The Trojans (3-3) used a 13-0 run to end the first quarter and start the second to take a lead from the young Cardinals. Puntillo had 11 of her team's 13 second-quarter points, most from the paint, as Chesterton had problems hitting outside shots. The Trojans were 0-for-11 from behind the 3-point line in the first half.
"I told them at halftime not to stop taking them, but to make them," Chesterton coach Jack Campbell said. "When you miss a couple, it gets into your head."
Jocelyn Lipscomb added 16 points, including a 3, as the Trojans hit three of them in the fourth quarter.
By the second half, E.C. Central showed fatigue, and Chesterton opened the game with an 8-0 run to start the third quarter.
"It's tougher on them without their best player," Campbell said. "I know if we lost Caroline, we'd be in trouble."
Hawkins is slated to have the cast removed Thursday, but her first game back likely won't be next week at Andrean.
"My heart is ready; my head is ready; I'm just waiting for my hand to heal, so that I'm physically ready," Hawkins said while running the clock for the junior varsity game. "It still hurts. It's sore and just weak."
The neon green cast that adorns her right hand is the second applied for the finger injury. So determined was she to return to the court as soon as possible, she worked out continuously after she first broke her finger that her arm thinned, and the cast was too big. Her teammates all signed the first one.
The second one, Hawkins won't let anyone sign. Instead, she drew a basketball on it.
While Hawkins still feels pain in her finger, her coaches hope that she'll be back by a game Dec. 14 against South Bend Clay, or at the latest for the South Bend Washington Tournament after Christmas.
"There have been a lot of growing pains," E.C. Central coach Eric Kundich said before his team played Chesterton. "You usually look to juniors and seniors for leadership on the court in some of these situations, and they're not there."
Against a Cardinals roster that started two freshmen and three sophomores, the Trojans struggled early. Chesterton has no freshmen or sophomores on its varsity roster, instead boasting four seniors and eight juniors. All four seniors started and forced E.C. Central into 29 turnovers.