FORT WAYNE – Leo and Garrett each rallied in the second half to set up an almost annual – but final – matchup in the ACAC tournament.
Leo (12-3) will face Garrett (15-0) in the ACAC finals at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Leo beat Heritage 43-35 in the first semifinal game, and Garrett beat Southern Wells 49-30 in the second semifinal.
The Lions have won the last two ACAC tourney titles and three of the last five.
It’s a big deal, Leo coach Carrie Shappell said of reaching the ACAC tourney title game. We have a tradition of getting to that title game, but we are going to have a tough road ahead of us on Saturday.
The Railroaders are leaving the ACAC after this year to return to the NECC, while the Lions are set to depart the league in 2015 to join a new conference.
Garrett (2008, 2009, 2011) and Leo (2010, 2012, 2013) have combined for the last six championships. The teams have met in the ACAC tournament the six previous years with each school winning three times. Four of those games have been for the title with that series tied at 2.
If we are going out this year, and they are going out next year, what else would you expect with the battles we have had, Garrett coach Bob Lapadot said. It should be a heck of a matchup.
I asked them, Who else do you want to play?’ We are looking forward to it.
Class 3A No. 3 Garrett outscored Southern Wells (7-7) 29-10 in the second half after the score was tied at 20 at halftime.
We woke up, Lapadot said. We had a little talk at halftime and decided to change the way we were playing.
We were getting outworked, and we were getting lucky it was 20-20. I was, You have 16 minutes, and it is 0-0, what are you going to do? This is all your goals.’ I thought we responded like the good team we are.
For the Lions, it was a 25-17 margin in the second half and 33-19 advantage over the final three quarters.
We had a bad first half, but we came back and gave it all hearts, Leo freshman Abbie Heischman said. We are all proud to be here at the Coliseum and the opportunity for us.
We could have given up, but we didn’t and we kept on pushing.
Also for both teams, their top players stepped up big in the second half.
Garrett senior Brandi Dawson had 13 of her 23 points in the second half.
After going scoreless in the first half, Heischman scored 19 second-half points, including 13 in the fourth quarter. She made 5 of 7 from the free-throw line.
She just decided to come alive, Shappell said of Heischman. And we know she can do that. That kid knows how important her teammates are, and that’s the first thing she will tell you.
We did a really good job of experimenting to see what would work. We just played her in a lot of different positions on offense and asked the girls to do some things to get her open. Also she just started figuring out how to get herself open. She hits some major shots for us.
The Patriots led 35-34 in the fourth before the Lions ended the game on a 9-0 run.
The Lions won their sixth straight game, with the only loss being to Garrett 50-37 on Dec. 7, while the Patriots had their six-game winning streak snapped.