HIGHLAND | How fitting Halloween is right around the corner. The tricks started early for Lake Central.

Brianna Dougherty’s hat trick Saturday against favored Munster proved to be the difference as the Indians struck early and often, stunning the Mustangs 5-2 in the championship game of the Class 2A Highland Sectional.

“Just coming back from (the regular-season 5-0 loss to Munster) means so much to this team,” said Dougherty, who had five total goals in the sectional. “We’ve never faced Munster in the sectional, either, so to beat a great team like that is special.”

L.C. (8-7-1) won its 16th sectional overall, which ranks second-best in the state, and the Indians play host Valparaiso on Wednesday in the regional semifinals.

L.C. struck first on Dougherty’s wide-open breakaway two minutes in the contest, and then added the dagger – another Dougherty goal with 14.4 seconds remaining in the first half – to go up 4-1.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud of a team. They’ve come together in an amazing way,” L.C. coach Julie Moore said. “They are the true definition of a team.”

Moore was taking the team to Dairy Queen to celebrate. She had promised free ice cream all season if the team scored off a corner kick. It took them until the sectional championship to do it, but they finally earned the treat – to go along with the sectional hardware.

“An expensive goal, but well worth it,” Moore said.

Lake Central also got two goals and an assist from senior Kaileigh Kramer-Stephens.

“There was a point in the season where we were falling apart, but we stepped it up and came together,” said L.C.’s Abigail Peppin, who was stellar on defense. “We really didn’t know if we’d make it, but we just pushed through.”

Munster (13-3-2) says good-bye to eight senior starters. Allyson Goodrich and Lexie Lyons both scored a goal. The Mustangs had numerous scoring chances, but also hit the crossbar twice and had three other shots sail over the goal.

“Lake Central came to win a sectional and I can’t say we did,” Munster coach Val Pflum said.

Jim is a sports writer for The Times who works out of Valparaiso. A South Central High School (1984) and Ball State ('89) grad, he’s covered preps most of his career. He received the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association’s Media Award in 1997.