HANOVER — Even with Cooper Larsen topping 20 points and powering the last two games for the Timberwovles, Indian Creek coach Joe Piekarz has said throughout the undefeated season all five starters are capable of scoring.
In the second half, the Timberwolves made that evident with Drew Gaston and Cam Russell hitting some big shots, leading Indian Creek to a 57-51 win over Dakota in the Class 1A River Ridge Sectional championship game.
It is the first sectional win in the program's history.
"It feels great," Gaston said. "We haven't gotten one of these before. Now it's on to the supersectional at NIU."
The Indians (29-5) built their biggest lead of the game at seven points in the third quarter and led 42-35 with 1:45 left. But the TImberwolves (35-0) scored the next 10. They hadn't scored more than four straight in the game to that point.
The 15th and final lead change came with 57.4 seconds left, when Gaston hit a floater in the lane, putting Indian Creek ahead 53-51.
After the Gaston basket, Larsen forced Wyatt Rockey — who made three of his first five 3-point attempts but finished 4 of 11 — into a double-dribble on a drive to the hoop. Gaston answered with both ends of a one-and-one free-throw situation.
Dakota threw the ball away on the next possession, Lampson hit both shots his one-and-one with 19.6 left, and the TImberwolves held on.
"We picked it up on the defensive end a little bit," Piekarz said. "Cam Russell on the point of that press is unbelievable, then other guys started playing around. So incredibly proud."
The Timberwolves forced five turnovers in the fourth, scoring on four of them for eight points.
"We came out at halftime knowing we've been in a position like that," Gaston said. "We've been waiting to run up and down the floor all postseason."
Dakota center Josh Clark made things difficult for Larsen all night, as the Indian Creek senior finished 3 for 8 from the floor with 11 points and eight rebounds.
Clark was tough on the offensive end, too, grabbing 13 rebounds, seven off the offensive glass.
"(Clark) did a good job on Cooper, but Cooper still did awesome," Russell said. "He got to the lane and got the shot. Drew and I did our job finishing at the rim."
The teams traded the lead seven times in the first quarter alone, but a strong second quarter put the Indians up 31-26 at halftime.
Russell had six points in the first half — all coming on two 3-pointers — and Gaston had nine. Both increased their output in the second half, especially at the rim. Larsen didn't hit a 3 in the second half and attempted only one.
"Me and Drew just wanted it," Russell said. "We knew we could take them. We wanted to go in transition, and we knew we could pick it up and then just finish."
Gaston led the Timberwolves with 19 points, Russell added 14, and Lampson scored 13 – that trio and Larsen were the only TImberwolves to score.
Dakota finished with a 31-18 rebounding edge, while Indian Creek forced 18 turnovers to Dakota's 11. The Timberwolves scored 17 points off those turnovers. Dakota couldn't covert an Indian Creek turnover into points.
Rockey led the Indians with 16 points, Clark added 12 and Evan Flynn 11.
Up next, the Timberwolves will face Aurora Christian on Tuesday in the Class 1A NIU Supersectional at 6 p.m.