Courtesy Richard Dickerson, Fireside Guard basketball correspondent
Thursday, January 3 the Lady Panthers travelled to a neutral floor at historic Westminster College in Fulton to play the Fatima Lady Comets.
With a 3:30p.m. tip off, the crowd was quite small in the Blue Jay gym. Fatima came in with a nine win two loss season losing both games to Blair Oaks. They ran are a very fast athletic group running a motion offense and pressing the length of the floor on the defensive end.
The Lady Panthers struck first and jumped out to and early 8-6 lead the the first quarter. Claire Hunter led rebounding for Centralia and finished the game as the leading scorer overall with 14. The Lady Panthers broke the Comet press with mixed results sometimes getting the ball up court only to turn it over before getting off a shot.
Mary Kate Bennett and Carter Simkins saw early trips to the bench with 2 fouls each in the second forcing Head Coach Becca Schemmer to go to her bench with Joella Melegrito, Chris Heimann and Ashlyn Crum.
Schemmer said she felt she got good minutes out of her sophomores in the 2nd and 3rd periods. Fatima won the second quarter making a 20-7 run and going into halftime with a 26-15 lead. They kept that momentum in the 3rd keeping the Panthers off the scoreboard until Joella Melegrito put in two with 4:00 gone by in the period. “We have to be more consistent,” said Schemmer, “we come out strong in the first and finish strong in the fourth but take off the second and third… We also have to take better care of the ball, we had too many turnovers in the game.”
Additionally, she said: “The girls played well on defense with Kalin Finlay and Kyra (Dickerson) really forcing them to change their game.” The Lady Comets widened the gap to 25-37 in the third going 7 for 7 from the foul line. Kalin Finlay slashed thru the Fatima press and past both benches for a coast to coast layup in the fourth sparking a run for Centralia. Going 6 of 9 from the line and having their best quarter of the game with 14 the girls made a strong push in the final period.
It proved to be too little, too late finishing 39-48 in Fulton putting them 5 and 5 in the season heading into the California tournament seeded 6th and taking on 3rd seed Battle High School on Monday, Jan 7. “We’ve got to get better in the middle of the game and get more rebounds defensively” said Schemmer. The Panthers have a tough stretch to start the year with back to back Tournaments at California then at Macon. The Lady Panthers won’t see the friendly confines of Jim Enlow Court again until January 22.