by Adam Gruenewald
Prior to beginning the 2AA playoffs, Central girls basketball completed their season with a 55-42 home win over Southwest Christian on Thursday.
Seeded #1 in the north subsection of 2AA, Central girls basketball (25-1, 12-0) opened up against LeSueur-Henderson on Tuesday.
Should they advance, the Raiders would travel to Prior Lake for a 2AA quarterfinal against #3 Glencoe-Silver Lake or #4 GFW at 6 p.m. on Friday, March 3.
The section 2AA North subsection final will be at MSU-Mankato at 7:45 p.m. on March 7, with the Section 2AA final at MSU-Manktato at 8 p.m. on March 10.
Visit http://www.mshsl.org or follow @adamgruenewald for schedule updates.
Following a season-long trend, the Central girls basketball team controlled the opening minutes of both the first and second frames in their win over Southwest Christian on Thursday, 55-42.
The Raiders started the game opening up a 12-4 advantage in the first 5 minutes of the home game on senior night.
All Central starters scored in those minutes as Kali Grimm started the game with a score inside, Lauren Jones drove for a layup, before Bren Fox went 2-of-2 from the line, Abby Mackenthun went 2-of-2 from the line and Abby Mackenthun got a steal leading to a score inside for Anna Mackenthun for a 8-2 edge with about 16:30 to go in the first half.
After a bucket by Lily Schwen, Abby Mackenthun then converted a 3-point play off a nice pass inside by Kali Grimm and Samantha Miller then converted at the line for a 12-4 advantage.
Head coach Gary Lembcke said his team always looks for strong starts to the game and the second half.
“That’s always one of our goals is to come out in the first half and the second half and win those first 4 minutes and establish momentum,” said Lembcke. “We’ve been doing a good job of that all year.”
The Stars managed to cut the lead to 12-9 before the Raiders went on a 9-2 run capped by a Kali Grimm 3-pointer for a 21-11 lead with 6 to go before halftime. The Raiders would lead 32-18 at halftime and put the game fairly away with an 8-1 run to start the second half as Anna Mackenthun hit a jumper, Bren Fox scored easily off a nice entry pass from Abby Mackenthun, Fox then made 2-of-2 from the line and Samantha Miller found Grimm for a bucket and a 40-19 lead with about 14 minutes to go.
“It was a good win,” said Lembcke. “At times we moved the ball very well and at times we played very good defense. We still made a few mistakes tonight.”
Central would maintain a comfortable lead from that point on as Lembcke made use of his bench on senior night as Shyann Wickenhauser, who had some time in the first half as well, as well as Eleigh Fritz and Amanda Geis got significant playing time.
“All three of them have been great,” said Lembcke. “They’ve been fabulous leaders for us this year and have really worked hard.”
Lembcke said Wickenhauser’s return to the team after she went crashing into a wall on January is a boost.
“It’s kind of just getting her used to the flow of things,” he said. “Hopefully each game she keeps improving and each practice because she is important for us.”
Wickenhauser admitted that getting back into game was difficult in recovering from her injury.
“It was hard to get back into shape and a lot of work,” she said. “It’s just going to take a lot of work to get back into speed and I have to work hard with them.”
Wickenhauser said she was eager to return to the court.
“It was good but nerve-wracking,” she said. “It feels good to be back there with my teammates.”
From the bench, Wickenhauser said she was able to see her team continued playing well in her absence.
“I’m just proud of my teammates for when I was out,” she said. “They are really doing really well on offense just passing it and defense we just need to work on it. Overall they are doing really, really well and I’m so proud of them.”
Wickenhauser added she is eager to rejoin the regular rotation as Central will start the playoffs.
“We just have to keep up our movement on offense, play good defense and just stay strong,” she said.
With the regular season over, Lembcke said his team will continue to take it one game at a time with goals of reaching the state tournament.
“There is a lot of other teams that have that same goal,” said Lembcke. “We’ve been fortunate to make it the last two years and we just got to accept that challenge because every team is going to be gunning for us because of that. We have to make sure we’re ready every night to play our best game.”
SWC 18 24 – 42
Central 32 23 – 55
Southwest Christian – Lauren Jones 2 0-0 4, Sydney Beard 2 1-2 5, Lily Schwen 2 0-0 4, Elizabeth Schwarz 7 2-2 16, 42 0 0-0 0, Sydney Jones 1 0-0 2, Grace Schmidt 3 2-2 11, Brenna Krommendyk 0 0-2 0, TOTALS – 17 5-6 42
Central – Kali Grimm 4 1-2 10, Abby Mackenthun 4 4-5 12, Anna Mackenthun 5 0-0 10, Samantha Miller 3 2-4 8, Bren Fox 4 4-6 12, Mary Wenisch 0 0-0 0, Jayden Fritz 0 1-2 1, Shyann Wickenhauser 0 0-0 0, Amanda Geis 0 0-4 0, Eleigh Fritz 0 0-0 0, Emma Klaustermeier 1 0-0 2, TOTALS – 21 12-23 55
Three Pointers – Southwest Christian 3 (Schmidt 3), Central 1 (Grimm)
Follow Adam Gruenewald on Twitter @adamgruenewald.