by ADAM GRUENEWALD
The Central girls’ basketball team is now one win away from state.
The Raiders (20-5) defeated Glencoe-Silver Lake last Thursday at Northfield, 51-48, before beating Jordan on Monday at Taylor Center in Mankato, 61-54.
Central returns to Mankato to play New Richland on Friday at 8 p.m. in the Class 2AA section final.
New Richland, the reigning AA title winner, is now 27-0 and is led by 5-10 guard Carlie Wagner, one of the top scorers in the state who has committed to the Gophers. New Richland defeated Waterville in the second game on Monday, 45-34.
Speaking before that game, Central head coach Gary Lembcke anticipated his upcoming opponent.
“It will be a very tough matchup for us,” said Lembcke. “We’ll probably do the box-and-1 again and focus on Carlie Wagner. We’ll do some scouting tonight and put a game plan together for them.”
The winner goes on to play in the state tournament, the first game of which is at Mariucci Arena on March. 19.
Central 61, Jordan 54
They say it’s hard to beat a team multiple times during the same season, but the Central girls’ basketball did just that in defeating Jordan on Monday at the Taylor Center in Mankato, 61-54.
The north subsection 2AA final win over their Minnesota River Conference rivals kept their season alive and also gave head coach Gary Lembcke his 500th win.
“I’m proud that I’ve been able to get them all at Central,” he said. “It’s been a great place to coach. The fan support, the players have been great and that’s why I’m still coaching because I still enjoy it.”
Lembcke added the win, his team’s fifth in a row against Jordan, was nice to get.
“It was a very big win for us,” he said. “Especially beating this team three times in one season because they are a very good basketball team.”
Eighth-grader Kali Grimm, who scored 18 points, agreed.
“We just knew that we couldn’t be too confident and had to go out and play tough because they’re a good team,” she said. “And we did that.”
The Raiders had led by as many as 12 in the second half, before surviving two furious charges by the Jaguars and star forward Madison Dean, who finished with 32 points.
The Jaguars last push had cut Central’s advantage to 47-41 with about 6 minutes to go, but the Raiders answered.
“With the shooters they’ve got, they seem to make runs at you,” said Lembcke. “The biggest thing is we’ve got to answer back and stay under control and not lose our composure. I thought we did a very good job of that.”
In a play reminiscent of their game-winner over Jordan earlier in the season, Megan Geis scored inside for a 49-41 edge. After a jumper by Jordan’s Jessie Matthews, Kaylie Brazil hit a jumper and Grimm added another bucket for the 53-43 lead.
“We knew that they would come back,” said Grimm. “We tried to drive and we also wanted to take good shots and not just throw it up there.”
After Dean drew Natalie Stockman’s fourth foul and made 1-of-2, Brazil pushed the lead to 11 with a pair of free throws for a 55-44 lead with under 4 minutes left.
The Raiders would maintain that edge for the remainder of the game as they hit their free throws down the stretch. Dean’s final shot was a 3-pointer with under 30 seconds left.
Lembcke credited Stockman, who fouled out with 39.3 seconds left, for making Dean put forth effort to get her points.
“Every one of them was tough,” said Lembcke. “We made her work for every shot she got and give her credit. She’s a heck of a offensive player.”
Brazil finished with 22 points for the Raiders, while Grimm added 18 and Sami Jo Brinkmann had nine.
“We did a nice job moving the offense,” said Lembcke. “They did a nice job spotting up, Kali (Grimm) from the outside and (Kaylie) Brazil with the drive and jumper. She (Brazil) has a great knack for getting in the lane and finding those openings.”
The game started well for the Raiders. After two quick scores by Dean, the Raiders responded with a 9-0 run as Grimm drove for a basket, Brazil converted a 3-point play and Brinkmann scored four points inside.
Ashley Freund then hit a 3-pointer for Jordan, but the Raiders went on another big run for their largest lead of the game at 23-9 with 9 minutes left.
After the teams traded scores Freund hit another three and Dean got going again, scoring five points as Jordan cut it to 25-21.
Alli Curson then hit a jumper and Grimm got the bounce on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to make it 30-21 at halftime.
Grimm hit a trey to start the second half, before Dean scored four points to make it 33-25. Brazil followed with a jumper, but Dean then scored 6-of-7 for the Jaguars to make it 37-33.
Freund later hit a 3-pointer to make it 38-36 Raiders, the closest margin of the second half. Grimm later hit a long 2-pointer, Stockman made 2-of-2 from the line and Brazil hit a jumper to make it 45-36, before the Jaguars made their final run that the Raiders survived.
While only an eighth-grader, Grimm said it was nice to get the milestone win for Lembcke.
“He’s helped me a lot, both in basketball and life outside,” she said. “Just being my own person and I’m thankful for that. He keeps pushing me.”
She added the win helps her team move forward as the season continues at least for one game.
“It pumps us up,” she said. “We just are excited and will try our hardest.”
In addition to Dean, other seniors wrapping up their high school basketball careers include Darian Vinkemeier, Nicole Dardis and Trianna Thong.
Jordan 21 33 54
Central 30 31 61
Jordan – Ashley Freund 3 2-2 11, Jessie Matthews 1 2-4 4, Brooke Sievers 0 1-2 1, Madison Dean 11 9-14 32, Karlie Nielsen 0 0-0 0, Darian Vinkemeier 1 2-4 5, Nicole Samuelson 0 0-0 0, Nicole Dardis 0 0-0 0, Paige Pitlick 0 0-0 0, TOTALS 16 16-26 54
Central – Kaylie Brazil – 7 8-9 22, Natalie Stockman 0 3-4 3, Kali Grimm 7 2-4 18, Megan Geis 1 0-0 2, Sami Jo Brinkmann 4 1-3 9, Alli Curson 2 0-0 4, Bren Fox 1 0-0 2, Megan Miller 0 1-2 1, Madison Schlueter 0 0-0 0, TOTALS 22 15-21 61
Three Pointers- Jordan 4 (Freund 3, Dean), Central 2 (Grimm 2)
Central 51, Glencoe-Silver Lake 48
Playing in a gym adorned with “Raiders” and boosted by the Central pep band, the Central girls’ basketball found itself right at home in a road playoff win over Glencoe-Silver Lake at Northfield last Thursday, 51-48.
The Raiders especially felt comfortable at the free throw line, where they hit 12-of-12 down the stretch, needing every last one of them as the Panthers answered on the opposite end.
After trailing by as many as nine in the first half, the Raiders had built a 39-36 edge with under 4 minutes remaining, thanks in large part by the play of Kaylie Brazil, who scored 20 of her 29 points in the second half, including 8-of-9 from the line.
“I knew this game was going to be close and free throws were going to be key,” said Brazil. “We work a lot on free throws in practice. I was trying to focus on what I needed to do getting up to the line, just take deep breaths and make it.”
The Panthers did take a late lead with under 2 minutes left after getting a pair of free throws from Steph Klockmann for a 40-39 edge.
Later, after a critical turnover by the Panthers, the Raiders started their string of free throws for the victory.
Brazil was fouled and made two for a 41-40 lead and Kali Grimm then came up with a huge steal with about a minute left.
The Raiders patiently worked the clock and got the ball into Grimm, Brazil and Natalie Stockman as they continued to hit from the line. Brazil went 8-for-9 in the second half, while Grimm and Stockman both went 2-of-2 to ice the game.
“We were trying to work it around and find the open people,” said Brazil. “At the end we were just trying to get it in and take some time off the clock and let it happen.”
Head coach Gary Lembcke said the free throws were huge.
“Luckily we hit every free throw down the stretch because we definitely needed them,” he said.
After earning a bye in the first round and not having played for a week, the Raiders started out the first half somewhat slow offensively.
The Panthers also got plenty of offensive rebounds to boost their offense in the first half, which wasn’t the case in the second.
“That was a point of emphasis,” said Lembcke. “There was times when they were getting four or five offensive rebounds and we were just standing around watching to see who would get it instead of going after it.”
With the Raiders ahead 7-6 early on, G-SL went on a 14-4 run capped off by a three by Samantha Lange for a 20-11 lead with about 6 minutes left in the first half.
Brazil then scored four straight points and Grimm later added a 3-pointer as the Raiders trailed 24-18 at the half.
“We started moving the ball better,” said Lembcke. “It seemed like for a while there we were settling on one pass and shooting the three. We just couldn’t get any flow in the offense and get people set and feel comfortable.”
Central opened the second half getting to the basket multiple times as Grimm made a layup. Brazil then converted two scores inside to tie the game at 24.
“From the beginning my shots weren’t falling very well and we were rushing our outside shots a little,” she said. “I thought we should all start driving and get fouls called and get them in foul trouble.”
Lembcke credited Brazil and the rest of the team for the way they came out in the second half.
“We needed to attack the basket and she’s terrific at that and that opens up outside shots because that starts collapsing the defense,” he said.
Grimm later hit a 3-pointer and Brazil added a score for a 31-26 edge, their largest of the game, but the Panthers tied the game up at 33.
Bren Fox then got a block to start a fast break, resulting in a layup for Brazil for a 35-33 edge with 8 minutes left, and Stockman and Brazil both made jumpers keeping the Raiders ahead 39-36 with four minutes left, before G-SL took the lead.
In addition to Brazil, Grimm had 14 points, four assists and five steals for the Raiders. Stockman had six points and Sami Jo Brinkmann had two, while Megan Geis added 10 rebounds.
Looking ahead, Brazil said her team is ready.
“We need to play how we usually play as a team and Raiders basketball,” said Brazil. “We have the confidence going in and this adrenaline rush can keep us going for that game.”
G-SL 24 24 48
Central 18 33 51
Central – Kaylie Brazil 10 8-9 29, Kali Grimm 5 2-2 14, Natalie Stockman 2 2-2 6, Sami Jo Brinkmann 1 0-0 2, Megan Geis 0 0-0 0, Alli Curson 0 0-0 0, Megan Miller 0 0-0 0, Bren Fox 0 0-0 0, TOTALS 18 12-12 51
Central, Three Pointers 2 (Brazil, Grimm 2), Rebounds 32 (Geis 10), Assists 15 (Grimm 4), Steals 10 (Grimm 5), Blocks 3 (Brinkmann 2)
Contact Adam Gruenewald at email@example.com.