Central’s Smith comes through in the clutch

Central High School’s Taryn Smith, 25, drives against Palisade’s Aspen Guray, 45, during Saturday night’s game.

It was crunch time, and the Central High School girls basketball team needed someone to make a play.

That’s when Taryn Smith grabbed an offensive rebound and popped in an eight-foot jump shot to put the Warriors up 35-32 with 35 seconds remaining.

That score became the final as the Warriors held off Palisade on Saturday night.

“I was thinking that I needed to score,” Smith said. “Coach tells us to go right back up when we get a rebound, and that’s what I did.”

Central (3-9) saw its five-point lead slip to three, two, one, then Palisade took the lead at 30-29 on two free throws by Christa Brown with four minutes remaining.

Cassidy Bryant hit a pair of free throws to get the lead back for the Warriors, then she hit a bucket on a post move after a good entry pass from Amanda Etcheverry for a 33-30 lead.

Palisade (6-3) had a pair of 3-point attempts late, but both were off the mark.

Central’s Tyler Hays had a chance to ice the game with 6.8 seconds left, but her two free throws missed the mark. She made up for the misses by blocking Cruz Maestas’ 3-point attempt in the final seconds. Maestas got the loose ball and launched one last shot that was off the mark.

Central head coach Mary Doane was pleased with the overall effort of her team.

“Our guards attacked the ball really well, and our posts worked really well together on the inside. It was really a team effort,” she said.

After missing her first six shots, Hays rattled home a 3-pointer to put the Warriors up 19-14 in the second quarter. The junior then made a perfect bounce pass to Teesa Combs, who hit the jumper the next time down.

Then, Hays displayed her slick ball-handling ability. She made a steal and broke toward the basket with only Maestas blocking her path.

That’s when Hays did a quick left-handed, behind-the-back dribble to slip past Maestas. Hays was fouled on the layup try and proceeded to hit both free throws for a 23-15 lead.

In a rough and physical second half, Palisade slowly worked its way back into the game. Aspen Guray hit a bucket followed by a three-point play by Abby Thiessen to cut Central’s third-quarter lead to 25-22.

Palisade, which lost its second straight close game, didn’t have a field goal in the fourth quarter but made eight free throws.

“We’re playing together, and we’re playing hard,” Doane said. “They’re getting more confident every time they step on the court.”

Bryant had a game-high 14 points to lead the Warriors. Hays, Smith and Sierra Batchelor added five points each for Central.

Brown had nine points on six free throws and a first-quarter 3-pointer for the Bulldogs.

Guray added seven points.


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