Scrappy Warriors: Central battles hard, falls to ThunderRidge

The Central High School basketball team looked the No. 1 team in the state in the eye and didn’t back down.

Central scrapped and clawed Thursday night at the Wildcat Invite against ThunderRidge, but was unable to get timely baskets in a 50-38 loss.

“It was a very physical game,” Central coach Todd Dixon said. “But it’s a positive thing that we could match up with a team like that.”

Central stayed close with ThunderRidge in the first half, trailing only 20-18 at halftime. The Warriors could have led at halftime, but made only four of nine free throws in the first half.

“We missed some free throws in the first half and that affected how we played in the second half,” Dixon said.

Missing free throws and field-goal attempts was a common theme for the Warriors. Central trailed by as many as 10 points in the third quarter, but cut the lead to 36-31 heading into the fourth.

ThunderRidge’s Carlie Needles opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer to push the lead to 39-31. Central’s Stacey Kinnett answered right back with a layup with a little more than seven minutes remaining in the quarter.

Central, though, didn’t get another field goal until Amy Kame hit a 3-pointer with 30 seconds left.

“We rushed some shots tonight,” Dixon said. “But they weren’t scoring a lot either, so if we could have found a way to knock some shots down we could have been right back in it.”

Although the Warriors didn’t get the end result they were looking for, Central played much better than last season’s 21-point loss to the Grizzlies.

“I thought we competed pretty well with a perennial final four team,” Dixon said. “But we stressed a little bit and that might be because we haven’t faced a team with that kind of height and speed.”

Haleigh Higgins led the Warriors with 10 points. Kame had a cold night shooting, finishing with 11 points, but had six steals, five rebounds, five assists and two blocks.

ThunderRidge was led by Brooke Jelniker’s 19 points, and got good efforts from Conecia Riley with nine points and Needles, who finished with eight points.

Dixon said he was pleased with the defensive effort against a talented ThunderRidge team.

“We stayed in front of people, we didn’t reach,” Dixon said. “I thought we played very good defense.”

Central will attempt to bounce back in the final two days of the tournament against Palisade today and Columbine on Saturday.

“It’s hard playing the No. 1 team in the state on the first night, then getting up for some teams that on paper you should beat,” Dixon said. “We’ll be bruised and battered a little bit, but the competitiveness of the girls will find a way these next two.”


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