LAPORTE – Sara Doi had a senior moment to remember Saturday night.
The tough Penn guard hit a driving shot in the final seconds to lift her team past Lake Central 43-41 in the championship game of the Class 4-A LaPorte Regional.
Doi’s driving hoop with 4.5 seconds to play earned the Kingsmen their eighth regional title and a spot in the Valparaiso Semistate next Saturday. The No. 6 ranked Kingsmen (26-1) will play No. 10 Zionsville (21-5) at 5 p.m. ET in the Class 4-A North Semistate for a spot in the State Finals on Feb. 24.
Doi, the heart and soul of a young Penn team this season, was just 2-8 from the field before her heroic bucket.
Penn, whose only loss this season was a 51-43 setback at Lake Central way back on Nov. 18, showed its mettle in the regional final.
The Kingsmen trailed 14-3 after the opening period as they did not make a field goal in the first frame. Penn was down 24-17 at halftime before rallying for the thrilling win.
Freshman Jordyn Smith scored 12 points and senior Doi 11 to pace Penn.
Penn coach Kristi Ulrich has now guided her program to five regional titles in her nine seasons. Ulrich has won one state championship and has two state runner-up finishes in her amazing run at Penn. The former Mishawaka High School and Bethel College player is 204-27 at Penn.
No. 17 Lake Central finishes its season at 22-7.
The Kingsmen had to hold off conference foe Elkhart Central 52-48 in the regional semifinal Saturday.
Penn, which beat Central 54-36 on Nov. 25, led 33-18 at halftime before the Blue Blazers stormed back. Central got within 48-46 late in the game before Penn hit 4-9 free throws down the stretch to hold on for the win.
Doi led Penn with 13 points.
Senior Krisen Hunt scored a game-high 16 points to pace Central. Makayla Roundtree had 12 points and Trinitee Harris 11. Junior guard Harris, Central’s top scorer, suffered a sprained ankle in pregame warmups prior to the contest.
Central finished 17-9 for its best season in decades under coach Will Coatie. The Blue Blazers won the program’s first sectional championship since 1981 and just its third overall. Central knocked off No. 12 and defending sectional and regional champion Northridge in the semifinals of the Concord Sectional and then topped city rival Elkhart Memorial in the sectional title game last week.