WHEATFIELD — When Chesterton and Valparaiso meet in girls basketball, throw out the records.
One of the Trojans' two losses in the regular season came against their rival back on Dec. 10 as Valpo won its sixth straight game in the series. At Wednesday's Class 4A Kankakee Valley Sectional, the Vikings made it lucky number seven with a 56-49 win over the Trojans.
Valpo will play Portage in Friday's semifinal after the Indians took care of Hobart, 74-39.
"They're tall, we're tall, we knew it was going to be a battle," Valpo coach Candy Wilson said. "We're one of the few teams that can match up with them physically. We both do a lot of the same things, so we knew it'd be a tough game for both teams and props to Chesterton because they had a phenomenal season. The boards were huge for us (Wednesday) and that was a game-changer for us. One of our goals this game was to get rebounds on each end and we did that."
Hitting the boards with vigor was Vikings senior Taelynn Oelling who totaled 12 rebounds. Ari Gerdt also had 12 boards.
"Taelynn was the game changer for us; she was nuts on the boards," Wilson said. "When she's on, we're pretty good and she was on. I can't say enough about what she did because that just changes the game when you get somebody in there that rebounds, puts it back and finishes like that. That was huge.
"This is a rivalry game and they're an incredible team and we knew they'd come at us pretty hard after we beat them the first time. They came out just like we thought but we made some adjustments and the girls settled in."
Oelling scored 10 of her 12 first-half points in the opening quarter for the Vikings (14-10) as they led 19-11 after one, erasing an early 9-5 deficit. She had a team-high 17 points and racked up six blocks.
"Something I saw the first time was that they didn't box me out a whole bunch, so I knew that I had to get inside position to get the boards," Oelling said. "We emphasize rebounding so much in practice. I felt like I needed to score inside and we had a size advantage at some spots so we just had to take advantage of it.
Valpo led by 10 in the second, but Chesterton was able to cut it to five by half behind senior guard Courtney Krol who scored 17 of her game-high 27 in the first half.
"That was a great game from Courtney," Trojans coach Jack Campbell said. "She really kept us in it and she had a tremendous season, she showed up every night on both ends for us. Courtney is as good of a player as we've had at Chesterton in a long time."
The Trojans (20-2) took the lead back for the first time since the first quarter at the 5:25 mark of the fourth when Krol's free throws made it 43-42. The lead would be short-lived as Jessica Gast, who scored 14, knocked down a 3 followed by two more from Shea Pendleton to seize the lead for good.
"Give Valpo credit, they made big shots tonight," Campbell said.
In the second game of the night, Portage jumped out to a 20-6 first quarter lead en route to a 35-point win over the Brickies (5-19).
"We wanted a quick start because we beat them earlier in the year and I didn't think we played really well to start that game," coach Marc Bruner said. "We know it's sectional time and anything can happen and it didn't matter we beat them the first time. We needed to come out focused and I liked our focus and attention to detail, especially early in the game, and it paid off for us."
Alexis Switzer led the Indians (15-10) with a career-high 24 points, also getting 11 from Kristen Cravens and 10 from Bonnie Clancy. Portage defeated its semifinal opponent, Valpo, 51-41 back on Jan. 5 and have won eight straight in the series.
"The last time doesn't mean anything to us or them, it's a different season now," Bruner said. "Valpo is a pressure defense team and we're gonna have to take care of the ball. We'll have to be on top of our game because they're really good."