DUNLAP – There was no letdown for the Elkhart Central girls basketball team Saturday night.
The Blue Blazers, one night after stunning Northridge, took care of business to claim the program’s first sectional championship in 37 years.
Central, led by star guard Trinitee Harris, held off city rival Memorial 43-40 to win the title game of the Class 4-A Concord Sectional.
Coach Will Coatie’s team wins the first sectional title since 1981 and the third in program history. The other came back in 1978.
Central (17-8) advances to play No. 6 Penn next Saturday in a semifinal game of the LaPorte Regional. The Kingsmen improved to 24-1 by downing South Bend St. Joseph 55-46 Saturday night to win the Penn Sectional crown.
Penn, which has won its last 20 games since its only loss at Lake Central back on Nov. 18, defeated Central 54-36 on Nov. 25 at Penn.
Harris, an explosive junior guard, poured in a game-high 19 points as Central avenged an earlier loss to Memorial. The Crimson Chargers had topped the Blue Blazers 46-39 back on Dec. 13.
Harris netted 23 points, including hitting several key free throws late in the game, as Central upset No. 12 and defending sectional and regional champion Northridge 54-52 in the first semifinal game Friday night.
Central opened postseason play by defeating Plymouth 49-33 in the sectional opener Tuesday night. The win was Central’s first sectional victory since a 41-33 win over Concord in 2011.
Memorial topped Warsaw 38-35 in the other semifinal contest. Central had lost to the Raiders and Memorial had lost to Warsaw during regular-season contests.
Mady Miller scored 10 points for Central in the title game win.
Kambria Dale had 13 points and Sierra Peete added 11 for Memorial, which finishes at 14-10.
The sectional title marks an amazing turnaround for the Central program since Coatie took over six years ago. Coatie, who came to Central after being an assistant coach for an Oregon-Davis girls program that claimed a Class 1-A state title in 2007, was 2-20 in his first season at the helm of the Blue Blazers in 2012-13. Central also won two games his second season before winning five and seven and then going 12-11 last year.
Central had a total of five different coaches in the nine previous seasons before Coatie was hired to guide the program.