GARY | It was a tale of two halves for West Side and E.C. Central on Thursday.
The Times No. 4 Cougars led by as many as 17. The Cardinals cut that deficit to two points with less than three minutes on the clock, but West Side hung on to earn a 51-42 victory.
"It's just growing pains, I hope," Cougars coach Rod Fisher said. "I thought we played pretty good in the first half. Second half, we didn't play as hard."
The Cardinals (6-9) made several runs in the final two periods, mostly on the back of Tiajaney Hawkins. The sophomore scored 15 of her game-high 20 points in the second half.
"We didn't come to play for two quarters," E.C. Central coach Eric Kundich said. "In my opinion, West Side intimidated us, and we played soft throughout the entire first half. There's no other way of putting it."
West Side (11-1) had seven players score in the first half and none reached double digits. The Cougars also outworked East Chicago on the boards, earning a 28-20 rebounding advantage, and scored a large portion of their points on second-chance shots.
"Maybe you can credit East Chicago, but I credit West Side with playing very stupid," Fisher said. "Letting Hawkins get involved in the game when she was a non-factor in the first half. Everything revolved around her, and we couldn't shut her down.
"She's a great ball player, but you have to key on the great ones."
West Side was fresh off its first win over Chicago Marshall in the Gary Holiday tournament in seven seasons. The Cougars take on 12-1 Benton Central today.
E.C. Central has played five road games in seven days and has lost four of them.
"We're a little tired," Kundich said. "We're 6-9. One of the better 6-9 teams out there, I'd think."