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Big picture: Lake Central schedules these games for a reason, coach Joe Huppenthal said.

The Indians invited North Central, the No. 4 team in the state AP poll, to St. John for the nightcap of the Lake Central Classic on Saturday.

L.C. lost five seniors to graduation, including four of its top five scorers. It dressed only eight players because of injuries.

Predictably, the Panthers ran away after a close first quarter to eventually win 69-37.

“We need to play the best to get better,” Huppenthal said. “We’re playing a bunch of young kids right now. We’ve got a bunch of injuries. You’ve got to get through it. We’re going to be fine.”

Starting center Allie Mularski earned two quick fouls and spent most of the first half on the bench.

“Next week’s not going to get any easier. We’ve got Hamilton Southeastern, Fishers (in the Fishers Classic) and then Penn after that and nobody’s going to feel sorry for us,” Huppenthal said.

Junior guard Taylor Jaksich scored 10 points, grabbed six rebounds and made four steals for the Indians.

“We knew they were a good team but we just wanted to focus on how hard we were going to play against them,” Jaksich said. “As long as we outworked them, we were going to be fine.”

Jasmine McWilliams led North Central with 20 points, 15 of which came in the first half.

Turning Point: The Panthers opened things up in the second quarter, going on a 14-4 run just before the intermission. It broke Lake Central’s back.

Lake Central player of the game: Jaksich -- She paced the Indians in rebounds and steals.

Quote: “We want to be a competitor. That’s why we do this. Be a competitor. Accept the challenge,” Huppenthal said.

Beyond the box score: The Indians lost the day’s opening game 47-44 to Elkhart Central.

Up next: Lake Central (0-2) at Fishers at 11:30 a.m. Saturday