by ADAM GRUENEWALD
The Central girls’ basketball team split a pair of Minnesota River Conference games, losing to rival Mayer Lutheran last Tuesday, 46-44, and picking up a huge win over Jordan on the road on Friday, 72-70.
They are now 9-2 in the MRC, with the same number of losses as both Jordan and Watertown, who tied for first place with 10-2 records.
Central 72, Jordan 70
Megan Geis’ late bucket with 2 seconds remaining gave the Raiders a key MRC victory on the road over Jordan, 72-70.
The shot helped the Raiders capitalize on a second half comeback where they were down by as many as seven but exchanged the lead with the Jaguars over the last 10 minutes.
The Raiders biggest lead during the stretch was a 59-54 edge after Sami Jo Brinkmann converted a 3-point play with under 7 minutes left.
Nicole Dardis then hit a jumper and after Brinkmann scored again, Maddy Dean hit a 3-pointer for the Jaguars as Central was up 61-59. The Raiders continued to go to Brinkmann as she made 2/4 free throws and Dairan Vinkemeier got a bucket for Jordan.
Freund then hit her fourth 3-pointer of the game for a 63-62 Jordan lead but Brazil then made a jumper to make it 65-64 Raiders with under 3 minutes left.
After a score by Vinkemeier, Dean, who finished with 33 points, then hit two free-throws and Brazil, who tallied 22, made two free-throws as well.
Brinkmann then made two from the line with under 2 minutes left for a Raiders 69-68 lead and Grimm would make another but Dean would answer with a bucket with 22.1 left for a 70-70 tie, leading to Geis’ shot.
After Jordan knocked a rebound of a missed shot out of bounds, the Raiders’ Kali Grimm inbounded the ball to Brazil, who got it back to Grimm, who then passed to Stockman beyond the three-point line. Stockman drove to draw the defense and found Geis wide open underneath. She then banked home the game-winner.
“I noticed Dean going over to get Natalie so I set up for the next pass,” said Geis. “And the thought of shooting went through my head and I was like ‘please do not miss it.’”
Central head coach Gary Lembcke said there wasn’t really a play drawn up in the waning seconds as they had set up the previous one to Brinkmann.
“It was just let’s get the ball in there,” he said. “Megan made a nice cut on the backdoor and was wide open and took the time and found the spot she needed to so that was good.”
It was a true team effort in the second half for the Raiders as Brazil had 16 points, Natalie Stockman had eight and Brinkmann added nine in the final stanza.
“Natalie did a nice job of squaring up and getting her shot and making sure she got the good rotation,” said Lembcke. “Kaylie, you want to see the ball in her hands and she makes great decisions out there both as a passer and when she shoots.”
Dean, whose halfcourt heave fell short at the buzzer, put up 15 points in the first half as Jordan led 34-29, but she also had 18 in the second half.
Lembcke credited Dean for the way she played.
“She’s a great player,” said Lembcke of the Drake signee. “There’s a reason she’s got a Division 1 scholarship. Our goal when we play them is that every point she gets we try to make it a tough one but she definitely hit them today.”
In addition to hitting three 3-pointers, she got the Raiders into foul trouble going 10-10 from the line. The Raiders did slow her down somewhat in moments in the second half as they came back.
“It means a lot because she made most of their points and we had to stop her to get our game back,” said Geis. “Nat’s defense was really good against Dean.”
The win puts Central in a good position for at least a share of the conference title.
“We still have a couple more games to go but this is a big win for us,” said Geis.
“We got to keep working hard and getting better,” said Lembcke. “We’ve got three conference games left so we do control our own fate but we don’t want to slip up along the way so we got to make sure we stay sharp and focused and do what we need to do.”
Central 29 43 72
Jordan 34 36 70
Central – Kaylie Brazil 9 3-4 22, Natalie Stockman 7 1-2 15, Kali Grimm 4 1-2 10, Megan Geis 2 0-0 4, Sami Jo Brinkmann 5 6-9 16, Megan Miller 1 0-0 2, Alli Curson 0 1-2 1, Madison Schlueter 0 0-0 0, Bren Fox 1 0-0 2
Jordan – Ashley Freund 5 2-3 16, Darian Vinkemeier 4 2-5 10, Brooke Sievers 0 0-0 0, Maddy Dean 10 10-10 33, Karlie Nielsen 1 0-0 2, Paige Pitlick 0 0-0 0, Nicole Dardis 1 0-0 2, Jessie Matthews 3 0-0 7, Nicole Samuelson 0 0-0 0
Three Pointers – Central 2 (Brazil, Grimm), Jordan 9 (Freund 4, Dean 3, Matthews 2)
Mayer Lutheran 46, Central 44
Mayer Lutheran girls’ basketball picked up a big road win over rival Central last Tuesday, 46-44.
After getting a 8-point lead at 39-31 midway through the second half, Mayer Lutheran found an answer for each of the Raiders’ late buckets. Mostly the answer came in the form of shots from long range, as they hit seven 3-pointers, but LHS also came up with stops defensively.
Both teams executed defensively down the stretch as LHS held a 45-44 advantage for the last 2 minutes.
After Mayer Lutheran forced a Central miss in the waning seconds, LHS’ Brenna Larsen was fouled with 4.6 seconds left. While she had hit five 3-pointers in the game to keep her team ahead, this time she got it done from the line, going 1-of-2, missing the second.
Lauren Manteuffel then came up with the huge rebound and after her miss, Central was unable to get a shot off before the buzzer sounded.
Tied at 23-all at the break, Mayer Lutheran had built their lead with their offense and answering buckets by Kaylie Brazil, who had a game-high 17 for Central.
Larsen hit her fourth 3-pointer of the game for a 28-27 edge, but Brazil followed with a bucket.
Jodie Peters, who had nine points for the Crusaders, splashed home a trey and Brazil answered again with a jumper to make it 33-29 with about 14 minutes left.
Larsen then hit a 3-pointer, but Brazil found Bren Fox on the break to cut it to 36-31. Peters then answered with a 3-pointer for a 39-31 edge, but Central then got the ball inside.
Boosted by Brinkmann, who had 16 points, the Raiders went on a 11-4 run as Brinkmann scored eight points in the stretch to make it 43-42 LHS with 4 minutes left. Kalie Winter then hit a bucket, but Brazil would answer for Central, setting up the thrilling final minutes.
In addition to Brazil and Brinkmann, Kali Grimm scored nine points for Central, but they only got the one other Fox score outside of the main three.
Larsen finished with 16 points, while Peters added nine, Shelby Sicheneder had eight, Krianna Boelke had seven and three others had two each.
LHS 23 23 46
Central 23 21 44
LHS – Brenna Larsen 5 1-3 16, Krianna Boelke 2 3-4 7, Josie Peters 3 1-2 9, Shelby Sicheneder 3 2-2 8, Lauren Manteuffel 1 0-1 2, Kalie Winter 1 0-2 2, Emilee Gustin 0 0-0 0, Maria Kuntz 1 0-0 2, Lauren Zellmann 0 0-1 0, TOTALS 16 7-15 46
Central – Kaylie Brazil 8 0-0 17, Natalie Stockman 0 0-0 0, Kali Grimm 4 0-2 9, Megan Geis 0 0-0 0, Sami Jo Brinkmann 7 2-2 16, Megan Miller 0 0-1 0, Madison Schlueter 0 0-0 0, Alli Curson 0 0-0 0, Shyann Wickenhauser 0 0-0 0, Bren Fox 1 0-0 2, TOTALS 20 2-5 44
Three Pointers – Mayer Lutheran 7 (Larsen 5, Peters 2), Central 2 (Brazil, Grimm)
The Central girls traveled to Lester Prairie on Tuesday and will host Belle Plaine tonight, Feb. 20. They then have three road games to wrap up the regular season with Saint Clair on Feb. 21, Tri-City United on Feb. 24 and Le Sueur-Henderson on Feb. 27.
Contact Adam Gruenewald at email@example.com.