RENSSELAER — Rensselaer Central’s girls’ basketball team has just a handful of signature wins in coach Wes Radtke’s four years on the sideline.
Saturday’s surprising 37-28 win over Lafayette Central Catholic at Joe Burvan Gymnasium may be the biggest one yet.
The Bombers held the Class 2A 11th-ranked Knights to just 10 of 30 shooting from the floor for 33 percent and held an opponent under 30 points for the second straight game to pick up a key Hoosier Conference win.
“We’ve been preaching and preaching since day one that we’ve got to play defense and do the right things, get into people’s faces,” Radtke said. “We really wanted to turn up the intensity and we wanted the girls to play inspired tonight. Win or lose, I wanted them to play inspired and show some heart tonight. I’m proud of every one of them.”
It was the program’s first win over LCC since 2011 when the Bombers won 50-47 at home under then-head coach Jeff Marlow.
Rensselaer (9-6, 1-1 in the HC) was coming off a 59-25 rout of Lowell on Tuesday, holding the Red Devils to 30 percent shooting. The Bombers put the squeeze on CC (12-7, 1-2) in the half-court and forced the Knights into 18 turnovers.
Central Catholic did lead 2-0 to start the game, but never held a lead again, trailing 5-3 after the first quarter on 1 of 6 shooting and 12-10 at halftime.
The Knights were limited to 4 of 17 shooting in the first half to help RCHS maintain a slim lead.
Rensselaer managed to push its lead to as much as eight points in the second half. It did so behind superb free throw shooting, hitting 13 of 16 in the game’s final 16 minutes, including 7 of 9 in the fourth quarter.
“We really took care of the basketball,” Radtke said. “With the free throws, when it mattered the girls knocked them down. It just reiterates what we keep saying: defense and free throws, defense and free throws are going to win you championships.”
Sophomores Avree Cain and Jessie Ringen converted back-to-back one-and-one opportunities from the line and Lexi Healey, a senior, hit 3 of 4 down the stretch.
Ringen finished with eights points and three assists. Senior Sydney VanMeter led the Bombers with nine points and added five rebounds.
“We wanted to have good ball possessions and good looks,” Radtke said of the offense. “We had the size advantage and everybody in the gym tonight could see we were running some isolation plays to take advantage of that.”
Sophomore Morgan VanMeter came off the bench to hit two big shots from the floor and two free throws.
“The two big shots she hit and the two free throws, she was a big lift us,” Radtke said. “(Tori) Thompson comes down, hits a 3 to cut it back to two. We come down, Morgan hits a shot and then hits another. It was awesome to have those shots from her.”
Thompson, a freshman, had a game-high 13 points for the Knights. She had three 3-pointers and hit 5 of 7 shots. The rest of her teammates hit just 5 of 23 shots for 22 percent.
The Bombers have won three straight and five of six. They have won eight of their last 10 since a 1-4 start.
Only Twin Lakes (Jan. 14) and West Lafayette (Jan. 17) remain on the division schedule before the Hoosier Conference Crossover game on Jan. 24.
In the junior varsity game, Clair Stanley scored eight points and Lindy Ventrello added five in the Bombers’ 26-23 win over LCC. Rensselaer outscored the Knights, 18-13, in the second half to rally from a five-point deficit.
Rensselaer Central 37, Lafayette Central Catholic 28
Score by quarters
Central Catholic 03 07 08 10—28
Rensselaer Central 05 07 12 13—37
LADY KNIGHTS (28): Kendal Rider 1-7 3-5 5, Jozee Evans 0-3 0-0 0, Anne Haan 0-2 0-0 0, Tori Thompson 5-7 0-0 13, Caitlin Dineen 3-8 1-3 8, Amma Roetker 0-0 0-0 0, Lauren Hack 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 10-30 4-8 28.
LADY BOMBERS (37): Avree Cain 1-3 2-3 4, Sydney VanMeter 3-7 2-4 9, Lexi Healey 1-4 3-4 6, Jessie Ringen 2-4 4-5 8, Abby Ahler 2-8 0-2 4, Morgan VanMeter 2-2 2-2 6, Hannah Redlin 0-0 0-0 0, Addy Koebcke 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 11-29 13-20 37.
Three-Point Goals — Central Catholic 4-13 (Thompson 3, Dineen), Rensselaer Central 2-8 (Healey, S. VanMeter). Rebounds — Central Catholic 15 (Evans 7), Rensselaer Central 16 (S. VanMeter 5). Turnovers — Central Catholic 18, Rensselaer Central 13.