Warriors show courage: Central tops Montrose in hard-fought game
The battle to be the top girls basketball team in the Southwestern League was a tough one Thursday night.
Central coach Todd Dixon may be sporting a hoarse voice today and Haleigh Higgins’ bruised right hip will be black and blue, but the Warriors are on top of the SWL after a physical 42-38 victory over Montrose.
“Montrose is always an aggressive team,” Higgins said. “They are a tough team to play, and it was a battle.”
Higgins played most of the second half after landing hard on her right hip. The 5-foot-10 senior said it was only a bruise, but still expects it to be sore.
“It’s probably going to be a little sore, but we have to keep going,” Higgins said.
The Warriors (12-3, 3-0 SWL) don’t have much time to think about any injuries or aliments — Central is in the middle of a stretch of seven games in 11 days. Dixon said the Warriors are getting a lesson in mental toughness.
“We talked about not letting our minds tell us we are beat up or sore,” Dixon said. “We don’t have the opportunity or advantage to say we are tired, we have to keep moving forward.”
The Warriors took a big step forward with the narrow win against the Indians (12-4, 3-1 SWL). Montrose’s sagging man-to-man defense forced the Warriors to slow down the game’s tempo.
“A lot of 5A teams will press you, and Montrose isn’t like that,” Dixon said. “They suck it in, and make you beat them outside.”
The normally dynamic Central offense struggled at times, being held to single digits in the second and third quarters. Montrose was also out of sync offensively, but found some gaps in Central’s aggressive, trapping man-to-man defense. After trailing the whole game, Montrose took its first lead at 36-35 with three minutes left in the fourth quarter on a Hanna Bowden free throw.
Undeterred, Central found its offense in unlikely places as Tayler Else and Ashley Paul came up with possessions where they were able to draw fouls. The two players went a combined seven of eight from the free-throw line down the stretch to clinch the game.
“For a kid (Paul) that doesn’t believe she’s an offense threat, for her to do what she did down the stretch was big,” Dixon said. “We’ll get our points from Amy (Kame) but we need other players to step up.”
Kame led the Warriors with 20 points and Stacey Kinnett added 11. Montrose was led by Bowden’s 18 points.
Central won’t have to see Montrose again until the final weekend of the regular season, Feb. 18. Higgins said she was glad they got the Indians at home the first time around.
“Being here was an advantage for us because we were able to see what they were doing before we go down there,” Higgins said. “Montrose is a tough place to play in every sport, so it was good to get a win here first.”
Central plays Palisade on Saturday before taking on Montezuma-Cortez and Durango early next week in make-up games.