Central girls dominate Tri-City in first MRC contest

The first Minnesota River Conference clash of the year wasn’t close, as the Raiders routed Tri-City United 76-40 in their only action last week.

Central’s girls are off to a 4-0 start for the first time since 2007, and used rebound control, fast breaks and balanced scoring to overwhelm the Titans from the opening tip-off on Friday, Dec. 7.

“I thought we played extremely well,” said Raiders head coach Gary Lembcke. “We got off to a nice fast start and had a 10-point lead within the first few minutes of the game. We had the fast break going. We did a nice job putting the pressure on them. We dictated the tempo we wanted — an up-tempo game, and we just kept extending the lead. It was a really well-played game on our part.”

By the end of the first half the Raiders had already built a 44-20 lead, and they tacked on 32 more points in the second half to force running time.

“I was very pleased because we had balanced scoring. We had some great passes that led to some nice baskets for us. We moved the ball well and found the open players,” said Lembcke. “We did a nice job rebounding. For the last few years that has been a weakness for us, and right now that seems to be turning into a strength for us. We are controlling the boards, which is very important for us if we want to get out and fast break.”

Lexi Erpenbach was Central’s top scorer with 19 points, and she added four assists and four steals.

Kaylie Brazil had 13 points with six assists and six steals, and Brooke Willemsen scored 13 points with eight rebounds. Nicole Miller also reached double-digits with 10 points, and Sami Jo Brinkmann scored eight points and added a team-leading nine rebounds.

Despite the team’s fast start, Lembcke said there is still room for improvement going forward.

“I don’t think we’ve shot exceptionally well yet, though we’ll have individuals shoot well in a game,” he said. “A negative last game was our free throw shooting. I didn’t think that would be a problem this year, but we shot under 50 percent for that game. That leaves points off the scoreboard that we should be capitalizing on. I expect our team to shoot around 70 percent because we do have some decent shooters.”

Lembcke said the team also needs to continue working at its defense, particularly in closing out openings for other teams’ three-point shooters.

“I think we can add a few things to our game,” said Lembcke. “We’re going to see some good offensive ball players coming up, and it’s going to be interesting to see how we do.”