MICHIGAN CITY — Lake Central girls basketball coach Joe Huppenthal called timeout. He needed to.
Michigan City freshman guard Katelyn Halfacre had just drained a 3-pointer to pull her Wolves within four points of the Indians with a little more than two minutes left in the third quarter. For most of the game, Lake Central held a double-digit advantage but was falling apart and needed to settle down.
So Huppenthal requested his timeout, received it and got to work explaining the importance of execution in his huddle. There was no need to panic or rush, but Lake Central couldn’t afford to stay on their heels.
After nearly giving up the lead, the Indians (7-4, 2-1) outscored the Wolves (4-5, 0-3) by 12 points the rest of the way to secure a 69-53 Duneland Athletic Conference road win.
“If we just run our offense and do what we’re supposed to do, we showed we could be pretty successful,” Huppenthal said. “We thought we could get to the basket with some decent basket cuts, and we did that after the timeout. It got us stabilized again.”
Lake Central seniors Lauren Ladowski and Rachael Robards were the calming forces behind the Indians’ response.
Ladowski, a guard, quickly opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer en route to 10 points in the period and 21 for the game. She also grabbed a team-high seven rebounds, dished five assists and got her hands on four steals.
Robards, a forward, scored nine of her 16 points in the final quarter. She stayed patient enough in the flow of the offense to wait for her chance to cut through the lane, receive a pass and finish a high-percentage layup just like the Indians talked about in their huddle when the game was in the balance.
“We needed to slow down, focus and set an example for what we were trying to do,” Robards said. “I think it’s mostly just having a basketball IQ. You have to know when to go and think smart and play smart.”
Lake Central’s win wouldn’t have come without a hot start that led it to a double-digit lead before the end of the first quarter. The key behind building the advantage was a mix of slow, meticulous offense and a chaotic press that made it impossible for Michigan City to execute its half-court offense.
As a result, Wolves 6-foot-4 junior post Hannah Noveroske was only able to score five points in the first half. She heated up late, finishing with 17 and grabbing 15 rebounds, but couldn’t get the ball in her hands at the rate Michigan City was turning the ball over before it could work on a set.
“We did a nice job of turning them over, which was the game plan,” Huppenthal said. “Against these guys you have to play a full-court game. If you play a half-court game, they’re going to kill you; (Noveroske) is just too good.”
Despite being disappointed in the outcome, Michigan City coach Mike Megyese made a point of repeating just how pleased he was with the way his team responded to the early deficit. When calls and breaks weren’t going the Wolves’ way, they weathered the storm.
“I’m really proud of our effort,” Megyese said. “We battled back, cut it to four and then some of their girls got open. We’ve just got to play for a full 32 minutes.”
Lake Central has won five straight games after a 2-4 record to open to the season.
“I think we’re all just getting our confidence back after a slow start,” she said. “I think we can get rolling and keep getting these wins.”