by Adam Gruenewald
Seeking a third straight return to the state tournament, Central girls basketball started the playoffs in convincing fashion with two dominant wins.
Seeded #1 in the north subsection of 2AA, Central girls basketball (27-1, 12-0) opened with a 72-21 home win over LeSueur-Henderson on Tuesday before defeating Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop in overtime on Friday at Prior Lake, 68-64.
The Raiders will then played Glencoe-Silver Lake for the 2AA north subsection final on Tuesday.
Should they advance, the Section 2AA final will be against either New Richland-HEG or Blue Earth Area at MSU-Manktato at 8 p.m. on March 10.
Visit http://www.mshsl.org or follow @adamgruenewald for schedule updates.
Central started the playoffs in fine fashion last Tuesday with a comfortable 72-21 win over a familiar opponent in LeSueur-Henderson.
The Raiders put away the game early with a dominant first half where they limited the Giants with a solid defensive effort and raced out to transition buckets.
Seeming raising their intensity in their first playoff game, Central started out shooting well as they made their first six shots from the field as Bren Fox scored inside, Kali Grimm then found Samantha Miller and Anna Mackenthun for scores, got a steal and a layup. Micahya Samora then got a hoop for the Giants, but Bren Fox scored inside and Grimm then converted a shot at the hoop for a 12-2 lead just about 3 minutes into the game.
“We know that if we’re going to beat these really good teams we have to come out right away hard,” said Grimm. “We just have to keep the momentum the whole game and we should be fine.”
Head coach Gary Lembcke said his team focused in on their defensive intensity to start the game.
“It hasn’t been as intense as it needed to be lately so we were hoping to pick that up,” said Lembcke.
The Raiders went relatively quiet offensively for a stretch, but remained solid defensively as they were up 12-4 with about 12 minutes to go in the first half.
Mary Wenisch opened the floodgates again as she hit a 3-pointer, Bren Fox converted 1-of-2 from the line and Fox then got a steal, posted up and, on a repost, passed out to Anna Mackenthun who made a jumper for a 18-4 lead with 10 minutes to go.
“We really moved the ball well and found the open players,” said Lembcke. “A lot of times it resulted in layups and uncontested shot so that was big.”
Jessie Schwartz then got a bucket for LSH, but then came a flurry of steals for Central as they went on a 20-0 run as Kali Grimm, who had 12 points during the stretch, ignited the offense with numerous layups as the Raiders got out in transition. Clearly feeling it after several layups, Grimm knocked down a pullup jumper, then passed to Bren Fox to put the final statements on the run that left the Raiders up 38-6 with about 4 minutes to go in the half.
“Defense was our main goal today,” said Grimm. “We knew we had to play good defense because we’ve kind of been struggling. I think we played really well on defense. We didn’t want them to score more than 15 and (9) is pretty good.”
Central then utilized substantial substitutions from that point on as they went up 45-9 at halftime with Shyann Wickenhauser knocking down a shot and Jayden Fritz hitting a 3-pointer.
“It is nice to get them in because they come to practice and work hard every day and you want to reward them for that effort,” said Lembcke.
Central starters did get some run in the second half before both teams utilized most of their bench as Central closed out the game in convincing fashion.
“It makes me happy just giving the younger girls experience and having senior play,” said Grimm.
Grimm said the win was a nice boost for her team to start the playoffs.
“It feels great,” said Grimm. “It’s an extra push and an extra step into it.”
LSH 9 13 – 21
Central 45 27 – 72
LSH – Katie O’Brien 1 0-0 2, KaSondra Wiederich 0 0-0 0, Acy Adamzak 0 0-0 0, Jessie Schwartz 2 0-0 4, Amanda Stutsman 0 0-0 0, Kelsey Berndt 2 0-0 5, Micahya Samora 2 4-10 8, Gabby Straub 1 0-0 3, Sabrina Winter 0 0-2 0, Mia Preuhs 0 0-0 0, Courtney Lucht 0 0-0 0, Samantha Ordaz 0 0-0 0, Kindra Spinler 0 0-0 0, Emily Wilke 0 0-0 0, TOTALS – 8 4-12 21
Central – Kali Grimm 10 0-0 21, Abby Mackenthun 3 1-1 7, Anna Mackenthun 2 0-0 4, Samantha Miller 6 0-4 12, Bren Fox 7 2-5 16, Mary Wenisch 1 0-0 3, Shyann Wickenhauser 1 0-0 2, Jayden Fritz 1 0-0 3, Emma Klaustermeier 1 0-0 2, Sadie Erickson 1 0-0 2, Amanda Geis 0 0-0 0, Eleigh Fritz 0 0-0 0, Kacie Miller 0 0-0 0, Lily Schneider 0 0-0 0, Madison Johnson 0 0-0 0, TOTALS – 33 3-10 72
Three Pointers – LSH 1 (Berndt), Central 3 (Grimm, Wenisch, Fritz)
Central advanced to the 2AA north subsection final with a 68-64 overtime win over Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop at Prior Lake.
The Raiders were tied 27-27 at halftime, according to head coach Gary Lembcke.
“We started slow this game,” said Lembcke. “We missed some early shots and then seemed to press. It seemed every time we started to get things going they took advantage of turnovers, missed free throws, we started 1 for 8, or a defensive breakdown.”
Central kept playing hard though and took a 27-25 lead before GFW had two free throws late in the half. Hailey Busse, a 3,000-point scorer, scored 16 points for GFW in the first half.
Busse was then held to five points in the second half.
“We did take the lead the second half, but could not pull away,” said Lembcke. “GFW took the lead in the second part of the half, but we came back. We had a chance to win at the end of the half, but made a shot after time expired.”
Tied at 58-all heading into overtime, the Raiders got baskets from Bren Fox and Sam Miller but GFW answered before Central won the game on free throws by Abby Mackenthun and Kali Grimm.
“It was a game with a lot of excitement with both teams going at each other,” said Lembcke.
Bren Fox led the Raiders with 17 points, 16 rebounds, four assists, three steals and five blocks while Samantha Miller also had a double-double with 17 points, 12 rebounds and three assists. Abby Mackenthun added 12 points, five rebounds, three assists and five steals while Kali Grimm was also in double figures with 12 points and six rebounds.
Anna Mackenthun added six points and Mary Wenisch chipped in two.
Follow Adam Gruenewald on Twitter @adamgruenewald.