La PORTE — Either way, La Porte was going to face a team it already lost to this season.
Whether Munster or the host Indians prevailed in the Lake Central Sectional final, the Slicers would play a squad that had defeated them this campaign.
When the Mustangs outlasted the Indians 46-44, it ensured La Porte (18-7) would have a rematch with Munster (22-5) in Saturday’s second Class 4A La Porte Regional semifinal at roughly 11:45 a.m. The Slicers dropped a 57-52 matchup on Nov. 9 in the Highland-Munster Classic, their only loss in seven tournament games so far this season.
“We know a lot about them,” La Porte coach Rob Walker said. “They’re not 22-5 by accident. This is a good team. They defeated Merrillville and Lake Central in the sectional and they’re here. I’m glad we get a shot at them on our home floor. We play well at home, we’re 7-1 here this season. And we get a chance to avenge a loss to Munster, so that’s a nice opportunity.”
The Slicers have gone 6-1 in tournaments so far this campaign, including 3-0 in the postseason. They’ve also won all three state tournament games by double digits.
On the other side, the Mustangs are a well-rounded squad with some notable talent coming off their first sectional crown in 10 years.
Five-foot-8 senior shooting guard Sara Zabrecky, a Lake Central transfer, is planning to attend Division I St. John’s and play basketball for the Red Storm next season, joining Marquette graduates Emma and Sophia Nolan. Her cousin, 5-9 senior shooting guard/small forward Emily Zabrecky, is reliable as well.
“The thing that makes them go are the Zabreckys,” Walker said. “Both of them are good 3-point shooters. They’re both court savvy. Sara’s got really good court vision. They press, they’ll use a 2-2-1 press.”
Walker added Munster’s primary ball handler, 5-4 junior Kayla Ziel, is a quick little left-handed point guard.
Junior forward Holly Kaim, who Walker said is a solid post player, very strong and a good defender, adds depth to the Mustangs.
“Even though she’s only 5-9, Lauren (Pollock) is going to have her hands full with Kaim,” Walker saidd. “She averages 10 points a game. She’s going to be a tough matchup for us. She’s a driver.”
In their first contest versus the Mustangs, Walker recalls Sara Zabrecky erupting from long range.
“They really did a good job of driving and kicking it and getting the ball to Sara Zabrecky,” he said. “And she really torched us. They had seven 3-pointers between the Zabreckys and they got us early. We played pretty even with them the rest of the game, so we figured some stuff out, and hopefully we can carry that over to this game. The next three quarters we actually beat them, it’s just we dug ourselves a hole in that first quarter against them. They’re a smart team.”
The Slicers counter with 5-6 senior guard Nyla Asad and 5-11 junior guard/forward Ryin Ott, and several players who are capable of contributing both with scoring and in other areas. Asad guides the team with 16.8 points per game, to go along with 4.8 rebounds and 2.7 steals, while Ott averages 15.5 points, 7.2 boards and 2.4 steals an outing.
Perfect Crown Point (26-0), ranked second in the state, and Penn (25-2) square off in the first semifinal at 10. La Porte lost to both the Bulldogs and Kingsmen in the regular season. The title game is set for 7 p.m.
Walker is certainly not looking past Munster, but asked what it would be like to claim the regional for the first time in 19 years, he couldn’t help but wonder.
“That’d be fun,” Walker said. “We haven’t done that in a while.”