HAMMOND — “How many does she have?”
If you happened to be courtside or in the bleachers watching what Lake Central junior guard Riley Milausnic did in her Indians’ 71-23 road win against Bishop Noll on Friday it’s likely you heard someone ask. The question came up just behind the Noll bench. Someone on the LC bench asked, too. Fans behind the scorers table did. It came up in conversation behind the North basket at halftime.
Milausnic, already one of the most proven shooters in The Region, made a career best eight 3-pointers in 12 tries as LC cruised to its third win in four games heading into its first Duneland Athletic Conference game against Chesterton on Wednesday. You can’t blame anyone for losing count.
“When she gets hot you’ve got to get her the darn ball,” Lake Central coach Joe Huppenthal said. “It’s one of those things. As you saw tonight seeing she had a hot hand we were running stuff to get her the ball. It’s pretty simple. It’s not rocket science, okay? You see a kid hit a couple of shots and you get her the damn ball.”
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Milausnic finished with 26 points — four short of a career high — and five steals. She made 7-of-10 triples in the first half, began the second hitting her eighth on a designed play and after missing her 12th attempt beyond the arc about a minute into the third quarter clapped her hands in frustration as she ran back on defense.
She’d have to settle for just 66.67 percent shooting from 3 this night.
“I got hot, I guess,” Milausnic said.
Stepbacks. Off screens. Catch and shoots. Top of the key. From the volleyball line. Near corner. Far corner. Milausnic’s shot chart was peppered with makes from everywhere beyond the arc.
This isn’t necessarily new for Milausnic. She shot a little more than 39 percent from 3-point range on 171 tries as a sophomore. But the 5-foot-7 guard said it wasn’t until she got to high school that her form properly began to take shape.
“My shot was so broke in middle school,” she said. “You don’t even know. It was so bad.”
The middle-school aged Milausnic would shoot from the sides. Sometime she’d catch it weird and wind up with goofy footing that would have made a night like she had against Bishop Noll impossible. She credits her father, Lake Central boys coach Dave Milausnic, for guiding her through a rebuild that’s formed the basis for her shot today.
“The more I did it the more I got confident, too,” she said. “I wasn’t very confident my freshman year so I had to go in, get on the gun and get more shots up. I had to rep it out, pretty much. I knew once I started hitting shots that people were going to get in my face so I needed to learn to get space for myself. I couldn’t just catch and shoot.”
Bishop Noll mostly played zone which opened up plenty of space for Milausnic. When she gets room, there’s not much teams can do other than hope she misses. She said she’s been working to become more comfortable drawing contact getting to the rim as a complementary piece to her shooting range and that improving on last season’s 57 percent free throw percentage is a must.
“I need to be better on defense, too,” she said. “More active. Better on help. I tended to get lost following my girl a lot. Coach Hup has been huge helping me become better and more active on defense.”
Milausnic is one of seven juniors on an Indians team that doesn’t roster a senior. She and classmates Aniyah Bishop and Nadia Clayton are joined by sophomores Ayla Krygier and Vanessa Wimberly in the LC starting lineup forming a core that reached the regional final last season and began the year ranked in the top-10 of both the ICGSA and IBCA polls.
LC’s lone loss of the season so far came against No. 1 South Bend Washington.
Huppenthal said he reminds his players regularly that the season is a long process. He’s still toying with lineups, rotations and forming an identity. That’ll all come with time.
Milausnic hitting shots like she did against Bishop Noll will certainly make that easier.
“Right now? We’re learning,” Huppenthal said. “We don’t have a senior on this roster so we’re young and learning and all that. I’m really happy with where we’re at right now so we’ll go back to practice and get back to work getting better for Chesterton on Wednesday.”
PHOTOS: First day of girls basketball practice
Girls basketball practice is underway for Lake Central and other teams around the state.
Photos by Jeffrey D. Nicholls, The Times
Lake Central players run a drill on the first day of basketball practice Monday afternoon.
Lake Central’s Riley Milausnic practices Monday, Oct. 17, 2022, the first day for girls basketball practice in Indiana.
Coach Joe Huppenthal watches players during practice at Lake Central on Monday afternoon.
Coach Joe Huppenthal explains a drill during practice at Lake Central on Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. Monday was the first day for girls basketball …
Lake Central players run drills on the first day of basketball practice Monday afternoon.
Coach Joe Huppenthal leads practice at Lake Central on Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. Monday was the first day for girls basketball practice in Indiana.
Lake Central’s Aniyah Bishop practices on Oct. 17, the first day for girls basketball workouts in Indiana.
Lake Central coach Joe Huppenthal explains a drill during practice Monday afternoon.