Warriors respond to deficit, roll past Mountain Range
The Central High School girls basketball team can thank Mountain Range for giving the Warriors a wake-up call.
In the second round of the Class 5A state basketball playoffs, the No. 10 seed in the Sharon Wilch region, the Mustangs raced to an 8-1 lead before Central coach Todd Dixon had seen enough and called a timeout.
Central (21-3) responded with an 8-0 run to take a 9-8 lead and never looked back on its way to a 60-40 victory at home.
“We didn’t want to get down like that,” Dixon said after the game with a laugh. “But we had to start looking for opportunities that aren’t normally there.”
The Mustangs (13-12) focused on the Warriors’ No. 1 option, Amy Kame, from the opening tip, putting their best defender, Kristen Ward, on her early. Kame was able to force Ward, also the Mustangs’ best offensive threat, into early foul trouble.
“I was trying to get her to foul me,” Kame said. “I was also trying to wear her out by running her through screens. It worked tonight.”
The Warriors looked to build their lead in the second quarter, but couldn’t shake the Mustangs until, with less than a minute to play, Kame got a steal and layup to put the Warriors up 25-15. Dixon said he was impressed with the Mustangs’ effort and team speed.
“It was a good game to gauge for what kind of energy we need in the playoffs,” Dixon said. “We turned it on in the second quarter, and we are really proud of the way we took a punch in the mouth and responded.”
Early in the second half, a combination of Kame and Stacey Kinnett helped distance the Warriors. The two players scored the first seven points of the half to put Central up 34-19 early in the third quarter.
“We came in thinking we wanted to try and contain Amy and try to make everyone else beat us,” Mountain Range coach Chyrisse Domenico said. “But she’s a tough player and gets them going.”
Kame put the game away early in the fourth quarter by hitting a 3-pointer to give Central an insurmountable 50-30 lead. Kame led all scorers with 31 points. Haleigh Higgins added 10 points and Kinnett finished with nine points.
“Instead of forcing the ball to Amy we looked for other openings,” Dixon said. “Haleigh did a good job of finishing tonight.”
Ward led Mountain Range with 19 points.
Central advances to the Sweet 16 for the second straight season. Dixon said Mountain Range was a good test in the Warriors’ first postseason game.
“I really liked the way they played us. They pushed us,” Dixon said. “But I also liked the way we responded.”
The Warriors host No. 3 Heritage on Wednesday. The two teams have already faced each other this season with the Warriors winning 50-46.
“We are going to have to start more calm on Wednesday,” Kame said. “But we are excited, and we are where we want to be.”