LONGMONT -- Tightening the clamps defensively is nothing new to the Centaurus girls basketball team. The fact that the Warriors proved they can do so when the game is on the line will only bode well for Centaurus as the Northern League schedule continues to unfold.
Centaurus used its experience and depth to its advantage during the fourth quarter on Friday, turning a close game into a comfortable victory as the Warriors posted a 41-36 win at Longmont in Northern League play.
Centaurus (9-4, 3-1) outscored Longmont 12-6 in the final frame, surrendering the final four of the Trojans' six points in the waning moments when the outcome already was decided.
Centaurus, which entered the contest allowing only 32.9 points a game, held Longmont without a field goal for the first 6 minutes, 11 seconds of the fourth.
"When this team brings a total team effort, 100 percent from everybody, they're a pretty good group," Centaurus coach Jeff Jackson said. "We played against a great team tonight and we had to respond. Different ladies stepped up and that's the great part -- every night we have someone else doing it."
The nip-and-tuck affair featured seven lead changes through the first three quarters, with Longmont taking a 30-29 edge into the final quarter.
But that's when Centaurus, a club that rolls out six seniors in its nine-player rotation, used its superior experience to slowly wear down the host Trojans. Five different Warriors scored points during a 10-0 Centaurus run that opened the fourth, a burst that turned the team's one-point deficit into a 39-30 lead.
A basket by Longmont's Gabriella Fallon, the only senior on the Trojans' roster, kept the hosts within 39-32 with 1:49 remaining, but two Longmont turnovers and a pair of free throws from Centaurus' Lyndie Puckett sealed the win for the Warriors. Centaurus made all four of its field goal attempts during the fourth quarter.
The result put Centaurus back on the winning path after it saw a three-game winning streak fall by the wayside in a 36-32 loss at Thompson Valley Tuesday. Longmont (6-3, 1-2) has suffered consecutive losses after opening the season with wins in six of its first seven games.
"We just really focused on defense, and that's what we've been focused on in practice all week," Puckett said. "We stayed strong throughout the fourth quarter. This was a big win for us, and I think it brought back a lot of confidence after that loss at Thompson Valley."
Puckett and fellow senior Taylor Langer came off the bench to pace a balanced Centaurus attack with eight points apiece. Both players produced more than half their respective points in the second half.
Kathryn Schell led Longmont with 10 points, although it was the second consecutive tough game for the Trojans' leading scorer. Schell began the week averaging 20 points a game but has been limited to 16 points total during Longmont's two straight losses.
"We were playing good defense, but we were giving up 'gimmies' and putting them at the free-throw line, and I just said to not bail them out," Jackson said. "We had to take care of the defense. I told them if they don't score, we're going to prevail."
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Centaurus 41, Longmont 36
At Longmont HS
CENTAURUS (9-4, 3-1)
Manfredini 2 0-0 4, Patterson 0 4-8 4, Dondelinger 1 0-0 2, Hubbell 1 0-0 2, Esler 3 0-0 6, Anderson 1 1-3 3, Puckett 3 2-2 8, Langer 3 1-3 8, Gofran 1 2-2 4. Totals 15 10-18 41.
LONGMONT (6-3, 1-2)
Fallon 3 2-2 8, K. Schell 5 0-2 10, A. Schell 4 0-1 9, Tulenko 1 0-0 2, Johnson 2 0-0 4, Wetterstrom 1 1-1 3, Pane 0 0-0 0, Cox 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 3-6 36.
Score by quarters:
Centaurus 11 9 9 12 -- 41
Longmont 12 10 8 6 -- 36
3-point field goals -- Centaurus (1): Langer; Longmont (1): A. Schell. Total fouls -- Centaurus 14, Longmont 20.