INDIANAPOLIS — The Anderson girls basketball team believed in itself when few others did. And that was almost enough to upset one of the toughest opponents in the nation.
Lawrence North (23-1), ranked No. 10 in USA Today's national poll and No. 1 in Class 4A, needed nearly all 32 minutes to put away the Lady Tribe, 56-54, in the semifinals of the Decatur Central regional.
"It was hard fought," Anderson coach Chad Cook said, fighting back his emotions. "I couldn't be more proud."
The Indians (19-5) held a one-point lead at the half, but the Wildcats made it disappear with a 7-0 run to start the third quarter. By the time Lawrence North extended its lead to 47-34 with the first basket of the fourth quarter, Anderson appeared to be down for the count.
But the Lady Tribe quickly got off the mat.
Anderson scored 10 unanswered points to again make it a one-possession game, and the contest remained tight the rest of the way.
Lamina Cooper's steal and basket gave the Wildcats some breathing room and a 50-46 lead with less than four minutes to play. Chelsea Bentley, playing for the first time since the sectional opener after rehabbing an injured ankle, hit a pair of free throws to pull the Indians back within two.
Then Lawrence North's defense again stepped to the forefront. The Wildcats forced 23 Anderson turnovers, but the Lady Tribe coughed the ball up just three times in the final period. Two of those miscues, however, came on possessions when Anderson had an opportunity to tie or take the lead.
"It's hard to look back and say what if?" Cook said, referencing myriad possibilities the Indians had to change the game. "But if you have to look back and say what if, it's better than not competing."
Lauren Dickerson hit a jumper to put Lawrence North back in front by four with just over a minute remaining, and Cooper had an opportunity to extend the lead at the free-throw line with 50.8 seconds to play.