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Centralia’s Lady Panthers win sectionals

Posted on Tuesday, February 27, 2024 at 6:00 pm

Richard Dickerson, article, photos

The journey continued Monday night for the Lady Panthers as they played California in the Class 3 Sectional “Sweet Sixteen” round at California High School. Now after winning the District 7 tournament, every game the Lady Panthers play from here on out, will be the biggest game of their careers. The pressure of win and your in, losers go home, brings that extra layer of excitement and drama. The bleachers were filled for both teams, divided evenly in blue and black. Centralia returned for redemption after falling to this Pinto squad on November 20 in the first game of the season. This time someone’s basketball career and dreams of that elusive State Title would come to a sudden end. The Lady Pintos got the first win of the night getting the tip and eventually the first score of the night. Braylin Brunkhorst would answer that score on the subsequent Centralia possession after two furious minutes of defensive play by both teams. California started a small run following a miss from the arc by reeling off 5 unanswered points putting Centralia behind 4-9. Ryenn Gordon would drive the lane, collapsing the Pinto D to find Shelby Lewis with a bounce pass to a shot off the window for 2. Gordon spun into the lane for 2 of her own the next trip drawing a foul to convert 1 more. The first quarter would close with a 11-14 score after 2 made Pinot free throws. California missed a 3-point attempt ending up out front to the Centralia freshman who would put in another 2 points. Senior Morgan Ross got the first Centralia lead at the six minute mark with a 3-pointer. That lead only lasted a few seconds as the Pintos went straight down the court to go up 2, resulting in a Centralia timeout. Coming out of the pause both teams fired and missed 3-point attempts before California Senior Ella Bailey came off the high pick for 2. Ross countered with a 3 after a Gordon assist taking the lead back, 19-18 with 3:20 left in the second. Braylin Brunkhorst cut through the lane as Centralia’s defense was starting to win some battles on the boards. Ross answered a Pinto score and then got fouled hard at the California bench stepping to the line for earning 3 the hard way and putting Centralia up 26-20. California turned the next trip over and Ross got off another successful 3 at the top of the arc to close out the half, 29-20 behind 14 Morgan Ross points in the second quarter. Seniors Raegan Anderson and Shelby Lewis had big back-to-back defensive stops to start the third. Brunkhorst got the lid off with a field goal then Lewis had a rebound and put back of her own to extend the lead to 13 for Centralia. After a Pinto timeout they set an illegal screen, wasting the timeout by

Lady Panthers celebrating after their win over California.

losing the possession where Anderson made them pay with her first 3-pointer of the night. Anderson then got a defensive stop by tying up a jump ball. The teams exchanged empty possessions again ending with Anderson diving to the floor after a loose ball in front of the Centralia bench and Coach Megan Brinkmann calling timeout just before losing the possession to a held ball. The Lady Panthers came out of the break passing the rock around the perimeter, happy to burn clock looking for an easy score while holding a 16 point lead. That patience turned into an Anderson 3-pointer and eroding :40 seconds of game time. The Pintos, not yet ready to concede scored from the free throw line and a field goal on top of that. Brunkhorst found herself at the line after a hard foul at Coach Brinkmann’s feet, converting both shots, 41-27 Centralia. Brunkhorst would get 2 more free throws about a minute later but momentum was about to make a big swing to the Lady Pintos. Just inside a minute Brunkhorst got undercut in front of the Centralia fan section, stopping play for several minutes before she was assisted off the court by her coaches. Centralia closed the third up 43-31 but things were about to get really interesting with Brunkhorst, and her 12 points off the floor. The Lady Panthers had the ball to start the final period but turned it over with a traveling call. Anderson would get the next Panther 3-point score but the offense would go quiet there after watching the Pintos go on a 7-0 run closing to a 48-42 Centralia lead and only 2:59 left in someone’s season. Centralia got a defensive turnover out of bounds on the far end of the court just to have the inbound pass intercepted and put in for a quick Pinto 2. The next inbound was also picked and converted making the 7-0 run into a 11-0 run forcing a Centralia timeout clinging to just a 4 point lead and 2:46 to hold on.

Centralia was still pinned on the Pinto baseline, needed to go to the other end of the court, but was again trapped in the back court and took the last timeout of the game with 2:38 to play. Finally getting a successful inbound across mid court the Pintos fouled Anderson committing their fifth team foul and putting her on the line in the bonus. Anderson made them pay, snapping the net twice to extend the lead to 50-44 with 2:03 left. California would answer and then fouled senior Kaelynn Walters on the inbound. Walters added 2 more clutch Centralia free throws to hold the 6 point margin. Morgan Ross is the next Panther making the trip to the stripe converting 2 more free throws leaving just 58.6 seconds for the Pintos to try and pull out the miracle. Lining up a Pinto 3-pointer, Raegan Anderson stepped in calmly snagging the waist high ball, and kicked the ball forward where Ross again got fouled to add 1 more free throw. Anderson got the last Centralia rebound of the game and trip to the foul line converting the last points of the game with Centralia avenging the 54-62 November loss with a 56-48 Sectional victory. Centralia advances to the MSHSAA Quarter-final game on Friday night at home in Centralia. Ella Bailey led the Pintos with 16 while Morgan Ross led all scorers with17 going 6 of 7 from the free throw line with three 3-pointers. Braylin Brunkhorst had 12 in three quarters of play and was perfect from the line. Ryenn Gordon had 11. Centralia was 14 of 19 from the free throw line with 8 of those coming in the waning minutes of play when they were needed the most. Centralia will face South Shelby at Centralia in a rematch of a 62-28 Centralia victory on December 15 for the MSHSAA Quarter-final round. The game tips off at 6:00 PM on Jim Enlow Court with the winner advancing to the MSHAA Final Four at Mizzou Arena March 8 at 4:00 PM.