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home : sports : sports Sunday, May 1, 2016

2/16/2013 Email this articlePrint this article 
Central freshman Amanda Brainerd attempts a shot inside during the Sabers’ 53-37 victory over Davenport North in a 4A Region 3 quarterfinal game between the two squads. Brainerd started a big night on offense with eight points in the first quarter and finished the game with 19 points overall as the Sabers won their sixth-straight postseason opener. Photos by Ross Eberhart
Central junior Stephanie Schrader prepares to shoot during the first half of the Sabers’ 53-37 victory over Davenport North, Wednesday night. Schrader scored six points during the game, including three in an important run during the second quarter that kept Central ahead.
Sabers use 19-2 run in second half to down North

By Ross Eberhart
Sports editor

With its lead down to just a single point, the Central girls basketball team turned to an old standby to reclaim control during Wednesday night's 4A regional quarterfinal game with Davenport North.

It's defense.

Up by four at the half, the Sabers watched as the Wildcats opened the second half on a 6-3 run to pull within one, 29-28.

The Central defense, though, tightened in a big way and it showed on the scoreboard.

Davenport North scored just once more in the third quarter and by the time the Wildcats scored their first points in the fourth the Sabers were back up 18 in an eventual 53-37 victory.

"In that second half we were able to do what we do best," Central head coach Mark Kurtz said. "Play tough half court defense and rebound the basketball."

The Sabers were certainly at their best when the Wildcats closed within one, as Central responded with a 19-2 run to put the game away.

The run followed a similar script - on offense, Central would attack the paint against a Wildcat frontcourt mired in foul trouble, and on defense, the Sabers would stay in front and challenge all North shots, while grabbing every rebound.

Amanda Brainerd kicked off the scoring in the run with a pair of free throws and Miranda Meland followed with Central's first field goal of the second half - a three-pointer - that put the Sabers up 34-28.

Meland scored again moments later on an offensive put-back before North scored its final points of the third quarter.

Central answered back at the free throw line as Brainerd and Stephanie Schrader each made one-of-two freebies to put the Sabers up eight as the two teams started the fourth quarter.

The Sabers continued to pour it on in the final quarter as Gretchen Henningsen went in for a lay-up after a North turnover and Brainerd added a basket inside after rebounding a teammate's miss.

Henningsen got to the hoop again on a drive and laid it home for two more, and Brainerd added another put-back before Schrader scored inside to make it 48-30 Central.

The Wildcats got on the board with less than three minutes remaining in the game, but Brainerd answered with two free throws and Central was able to empty its bench.

North did make a small run at the very end with three free throws and a lay-up. The final three points of the game, though, belonged to the Sabers - Hailey Saunders made one-of-two free throws with her miss being rebounded by Emily Burke, who wrapped up the game's scoring with a put-back.

A tight game looked to be out of the question early as Central reeled off 17 of the game's first 22 points.

The key was again the Saber defense, which tried something new with some full-court pressure.

The move paid off early as Central forced turnovers and was able to beat the Wildcats down the floor for easy baskets.

Brainerd opened the game with a hoop inside and then added a pair of free throws.

North came back with its own hoop in the paint, but Central continued to stretch its lead as Meland drained a three-pointer and Abby Willis drained two free throws.

A Wildcat three stemmed the Sabers' momentum for a moment. Central, though, turned back to Brainerd, who drained a jumper at the top of the key and knocked down two more free throws.

Meland added a lay-up after a Henningsen steal and Brittany McNamara made it 17-5 with a short jumper.

"Full-court pressure has been something we've learned to do at the end of games when we need to foul, but we had a week before the game, so we used the time to work on it," Kurtz said. "We were able to get them out of their comfort zone and when we weren't able to get a turnover, we were able to get back into our half-court sets and defend there."

North ended an 8-0 Central surge with a hoop, but McNamara scored the final points of the first quarter to give the Sabers a 19-7 advantage.

McNamara scored again for the Sabers to start the second half and the home team looked poised to put the game away early.

The Wildcats, though, began to find open holes in the Central pressure and North began to chip away at the Sabers' lead.

The Sabers, meanwhile, had trouble getting its offense going against the Wildcat defense, especially when North extended its zone.

The result was a 13-0 Wildcat run that trimmed the Sabers' 14-point edge to just one (21-20).

North, though, would never lead in the game and Central finally broke through with Schrader making the first of two free throws.

Allison Keitel added a hoop inside and Schrader made two more free throws and the lead was back to six.

The Wildcats, however, scored the final points of the first half and the first points of the second half to make it 26-24.

Brainerd and Henningsen came back for Central with a combined three free throws, but North scored twice more to get within one and set up the Sabers' strong finish.

Brainerd led the way for the Sabers in the game with 19 points (including 11 points on free throws alone), while Meland joined her in double-figures with 10 points.

Schrader and McNamara both had six points with Henningsen adding five (four of which came in the fourth quarter).

Willis, Keitel and Burke all had two points in the game with Saunders rounding things out with one.

Willis grabbed a team-high nine rebounds as well with Henningsen adding six and three different Sabers - McNamara, Brainerd and Meland - collecting five.

Henningsen added three assists and four steals. Saunders and Schrader had two steals apiece, while Brainerd and Meland joined Hennings with three assists.

The Sabers return to action tonight for a 4A semifinal game against North Scott. The two teams met in the middle of January with the Lancers coming up with a 42-15 win (it was the fewest points Central has scored this year).

"They beat us pretty good the first time, but that means all of the pressure in the world will be on them," Kurtz said. "We'll definitely be up for the challenge."

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