FORT WAYNE – It wasn’t like Garrett got to this point all of a sudden.
The building process for this year’s success has been going on for the last three years and now includes a 54-42 win over two-time defending champion Leo in the ACAC tournament championship game Saturday at Memorial Coliseum.
The Railroaders won the 2011 ACAC tourney title, and then veteran coach Dan Feagler stepped down after the season as his longtime assistant coach Bob Lapadot took over the program.
Three years ago a lot of people thought we were done, Lapadot said. We had lost the best coach (Feagler) ever to go through here and a lot of good players. There were a lot of questions, and we struggled that first year. We built last year to get to this point.
We talked about that it is a process, just being together and staying together last year and then winning together. You saw it today. Five players not caring who does it as long as it gets done.
The Class 3A No. 3 Railroaders (16-0) got 19 points and 16 rebounds from tournament MVP Brandi Dawson. Taylor Smith added nine points.
This is amazing we did this my senior year, Dawson said. The four seniors really wanted this. Winning this was our No. 1 goal from the start, and we knew if we kept working as hard as we did we could get this, and we did.
The Railroaders were the ACAC tourney runners-up last year and fell in the first round in 2012, Lapadot’s first season.
We just knew this is what we have been preparing for, not only all year, but the last two years, Garrett sophomore Rachel DePew said. We have just been building up the last couple of years to this year, and a lot of motivation comes from having the doubters.
It will also be the last ACAC tournament title for Garrett, which is leaving the league after this season to rejoin the NECC. The Railroaders also won the conference tournament in 2008 and 2009.
We were really motivated to do that because this is our last year, and we wanted to go out with a bang, DePew said.
The Railroaders took a 19-3 lead after the first quarter. The Lions cut the margin to 19-11 early in the second, but Garrett outscored Leo 12-3 over the next few minutes and was never threatened again.
We were really excited, and we knew we could do it so we had a lot of adrenaline, Dawson said of the quick start. We got it back together (after the lull in the second).
DePew scored all of her eight points, including two 3-pointers, in the first to give the Railroaders an early lift.
The first couple of shots that Kaitlin (Wisel), and I hit really contributed and set the tone for the entire game, so that helped us out a lot, DePew said.
The Lions (12-2) got 13 points from Abbie Heischman.
Leo will also be leaving the ACAC in 2015 to join a new, unnamed conference.