Warriors 3-0 in last week of regular season, will play Tripoli in playoff opener

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Gracie Cummer launches a shot in Central’s 57-19 win over Starmont on Feb. 1. (Photos by Bev Hamann)

Grace Kuehl netted 11 points against NFV.

Brylee Erickson drives toward the basket in Central's match-up with NFV.

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


The Central girls basketball team ended the regular season on a four-game winning streak, including winning the final three games of the season last week. The Warriors finished third in the Upper Iowa Conference with a 13-3 record, while going 14-6 overall.


Last week started with a Jan. 30 home game versus Turkey Valley. It was also senior night for Central, as players Ashlyn Scherf, Gracie Cummer, Grace Kuehl, Makalya Erickson and Brooklyn Amsden were honored along with senior manager Peyton Finley.


The Warriors put together a solid first quarter, thriving on defense and landing the Trojans in an early 15-4 hole. Some communication miscues in the second quarter let the Trojans chip away at the lead, and Central entered halftime ahead 24-18. 


Neither team was effective in the third quarter, as a total of nine points was scored, but Central turned it around in the fourth, putting up 14 points and winning 43-31.


Scherf led the offense with 13 points, scoring the bulk of her points in the lane. She also collected seven rebounds, four assists, four steals and one block. 


Oakley Armstrong connected on three first-half three-pointers, scoring nine points before a wrist injury limited her for the remainder of the week. Wiley expects Armstrong to make a full return for the opening round of the postseason. 


Kuehl scored eight points with six rebounds and three steals, while Cummer and Brylee Erickson both scored five points. 


Central shot 32.4 percent from the field and the defense totaled 13 steals and four blocks.


The Warriors followed up with a dominant victory at Starmont Feb. 1. They raced out to an early lead and never took their foot off the gas, holding the Star offense to fewer than eight points every quarter, while putting up points at will. 


The first half was highlighted by Central getting a couple steals for easy baskets. In the second half, the Warriors demonstrated better ball control, while attacking the basket and finding open teammates. It all led to a 57-19 win for Central.


Scherf scored a team-high 21 points, to go with six rebounds, four assists and four steals. Brylee Erickson followed with 11 points and five rebounds, and Kuehl added 11 points, four rebounds and two steals. Katie Royer put in seven points, eight rebounds and six steals, while Cummer led the team with nine rebounds and scored five points. 


The Warrior offense shot 30.8 percent from the field, including 39.1 percent on three pointers, making nine of 23. The defense forced 27 turnovers and finished with 17 steals and three blocks.


The week was capped off by a close, hard-fought victory over North Fayette Valley on Feb. 2, which saw the Warriors jump out to an 18-10 first quarter lead. However, the TigerHawks put the pressure on and the Warriors let the lead slip away, trailing 26-25 at halftime. 


The teams remained evenly matched through the third quarter, with the Warriors regaining the lead, 42-41, entering the final period.


The Warriors relied on their late-game and end-of-quarter sets, which worked well, and could’ve put the game completely away. Two missed opportunities at the free throw line allowed the TigerHawks to hang around, until Scherf knocked down pivotal free throw shots down the stretch to secure the 54-50 win for the Warriors. 


“All around great effort by our team for this victory on the road. It was great to see the energy all of the players brought to this game. We had eight players in the scoring column and six players had assists in the game,” said coach Mark Wiley. “Our man-to-man defense was really solid throughout the week, but we did not rebound well when we were in our zone defense. We have to find bodies to block out when the shot goes up. Something we will continue to work on as we head into the postseason.”


Scherf was again the leading scorer with 15 points, and had two rebounds, two assists and two steals. Cummer put up 10 points and a team-high five rebounds along with two steals. Brylee Erickson added nine points and four rebounds, and Amsden scored eight points with three rebounds, three steals, and two assists. Kuehl was good for five points and four rebounds. 


The Warriors shot 42.9 percent from the field and 59.1 percent on free throws.


Central capped off the regular season on a 9-1 run, righting the ship after a 1-3 start. Wiley has the team playing its best basketball leading into postseason play, which starts at home on Thursday, Feb. 8, versus the 3-17 Tripoli Panthers. The game starts at 7 p.m. 


“Records of the regular season are just that. We have to come ready to play and take care of business on the defensive end,” Wiley said. “We have done that quite well in the second half of the season and we look to be efficient on the offensive end. We will work to sharpen our offense against the zone and prepare to take advantage of what the defense gives us.”

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