By Richard Dickerson, Fireside Guard basketball correspondent
The #6 seeded Lady Panthers travelled an hour and 15 minutes across the Missouri River to play in the California Tournament Monday, January 7. They faced Boone County neighbors the #3 seeded Battle Lady Spartans for the last game at 9 p.m.
Centralia again jumped out to 13-7 lead in the first with Mary Kate Bennett leading the charge with 6 points. The Class 3 Panthers gave up some size to the Class 5 Spartans but played from ahead to halftime with a 26-22 lead going to the locker room.
Battle would win the 3rd quarter 19 to Centralia’s 14 making it a one point 40-41 margin to the Lady Spartans. Battle would increase that lead to as much as 5 points in the closing period.
With heavy pressure coming from Carter Simkins and Kalin Finaly along with tough rebounding by Claire Hunter Centralia’s girls fought back to a 44-47. Next were back to back tip aways from Kyra Dickerson against Battle’s point guard Aaliyah Williams near half court, the second resulting in a steal and Schemmer time out at 2:59 in regulation.
The Panthers’ Claire Hunter would score after the time out narrowing to a single point margin. After two empty possessions for both teams Centralia tied the game 50-50 with 40 seconds left to play.
A bucket by Kendra Mackey put the Spartan’s up 50-52 and both teams in the bonus. Centralia went back on offense moving the ball around the horn resulting in a shooting foul on Kyra Dickerson as she drove the right side. She converted one of two putting the Lady Panthers down by 51-52 with 13 seconds left and needing to foul. Dickerson committed that foul on the inbound sending her to the bench and Aaliyah Williams to the line. Williams also converted only one leaving the door open with a 51-53 Battle score and eight ticks on the clock. The Lady Panthers’ Joella Melegrito brought the ball up the floor passing to Carter Simkins. Simkins took a jumper from the right side for the win that went long but was rebounded by Gwen Bostick. Bostick hard dribbled once and turned to shoot the putback as the final buzzer sounded before she could release the would be tying shot.
Williams led all scorers with 18 for the game. Simkins had 14 followed by Hunter and Bennett each with 10. Centralia will return for another 9 p.m. game Wednesday facing the #7 seeded Fulton Hornets to try and move on to the Consolation game.