GREELEY — If ever there was a big game on Centaurus' schedule, it was Tuesday night in Greeley.
"The league title would mean the world to us," senior Brooke Jones said.
It still may be a little bit early to start engraving the Northern League trophy, but the Warriors took a huge step forward, beating Greeley Central — whom they were tied atop the league with coming into the week — 57-41 at Jim Baggot Gymnasium.
With five league games to go, Centaurus is now in the drivers seat of the league with a 11-5 overall record and now 7-2 in the league.
"We knew we had to come out pumped up," said Jones, whose team snuck by the Wildcats 35-31 in the first meeting despite being down by three points with under 30 second to play.
And while it was the Warriors intention to fire out of the gates quickly, it didn't happen ... at least on the offensive end.
Centaurus frustrated the Wildcats with their pressure defense, however, and got a hand on just about every pass their opponents tried to make. It led to 16 first half turnovers by Greeley Central, yet the lead was a tenuous 22-13 at the half.
"We knew if we could pressure them and (Naomi) Hidalgo is there key and we did a great job of switching out and making the other girls have to shoot," Centaurus coach Chris Mischke said. "They really struggled with our athleticism."
With Hidalgo in foul trouble, a majority of the Wildcats offensive firepower was forced to the bench and the ball-hawking Warriors took advantage.
The game opened up in the third quarter to a pace that favored Centaurus and the Warriors took a 41-29 lead to the final eight minutes.
Centaurus, which spread the scoring around — getting 15 each from Helen Gover and Jones as well as 12 from Brooke Calvo — recorded its largest margin of victory this season in the league, and it's that very reason, Mischke is confident that his girls will remain grounded going forward.
"Because they are so athletic, they get themselves to where they want to make plays and sometimes we get ahead of ourselves," said Mischke, who was pleasantly surprised to win the battle of the boards — something his team has struggled with this season. "We just need to make the smart plays, and we are starting to do that. They are coming together,"
Centaurus will host Thompson Valley, a team they had to go overtime with last month, on Saturday at home.
CENTAURUS 57, GREELEY CENTRAL 41
At Greeley Central
CENTAURUS (11-5, 7-2)
Helen Gover 5 2-2 15, Brooke Jones 4 7-8 15, Grace Taylorgoodall 0 0-0 0, Brooke Calvo 2 8-11 12, Imani Licata-Becerril 1 4-7 6, Riley Negrey 4 0-0 8, Hayley Anderson 0 1-2 1, Faith West-Renney 0 0-1 0. Totals 16 22-31 57.
GREELEY CENTRAL (10-7, 6-3)
Maddie Willers-Moeller 1 2-3 4, Davine Guzman 0 3-7 3, Liz Villareal 0 0-0 0, Korina Ramirez 3 0-0 8, Hattie Sheets 2 4-4 8, Naomi Hildalgo 5 3-3 13, Aubree Raimer 0 0-0 0, Ebony Montanez 2 1-2 5, Zaya Madaleno 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 13-19 41.
Score by quarters:Centaurus 9 13 19 16 — 57
Greeley Central 7 6 16 12 — 41
3-point field goals — Centaurus (3): Goyer; Greeley Central (2): Ramirez. Total fouls — Centaurus 17; Greeley Central 25.