GOLDEN — A thriller in Golden had Centaurus brimming with confidence.
Even if it came in defeat.
Leesha Taylor-Preston tied the game with 26.3 seconds left in regulation but her go-ahead free throw was called off due to a lane violation. Mariah Torres then hit a long jumper to tie things at 42 in overtime, but the young Warriors were called for a foul with 1.8 seconds remaining and Audrey Pino hit a free throw to give Golden the 43-42 win on Thursday night.
"We took a leap forward for sure tonight," Centaurus coach Chris Mischke said. "I think we feel confident going forward."
Centaurus (1-5) is in search of a new identity after returning no starters from last season when the Warriors went 20-4 and earned an 11 seed in the Class 4A state playoffs.
The new starting five includes one senior, two juniors and two sophomores. Julia Mischke, a sophomore and the coach's daughter, led the team with 13.8 points per game coming into the night and finished with 11 against the Demons (4-4). Natalie Kramer led the team with 14 points on the night and Taylor-Preston had 11 for the Warriors, who lost their third straight.
Despite the record, the coach said he was satisfied with where the program and his developing players stood after Game 6 of the season.
"I don't have any issues with the way we play because we're young and we're going to make mistakes," Mischke said. "Of course, you want to win. But it's a process."
Golden scored the first four points of overtime before Kramer hit consecutive shots to tie the game at 40. In the final minute, Maggie Jones hit a pair of free throws for the Demons and Torres answered with a jumper just inside the perimeter to tie the game with eight seconds left.
In the end, a foul call in the backcourt sent Pino to the line for the win.
"I think games like this show we have to go hard and can't take breaks," Taylor-Preston said. "We always have to go hard."
The Warriors didn't hit a field goal for a stretch of seven minutes in the fourth but still had a chance at victory thanks to a stingy defensive effort and timely free throws, going 8-of-12 in the quarter.
Mischke hit a pair from the line with 36 seconds remaining to close the deficit to 35-34. Taylor-Preston then powered down the lane and was fouled as she rattled in the tying shot 10 seconds later.
The junior appeared to give her team the lead on the ensuing free throw, but officials called a lane violation and waved off the attempt.
Heartbreaking end. Fun though, the Warriors agreed.
"I think I can speak for the rest of the team that losing by one point is better than losing by 10," the sophomore Mischke said. "We have fun out there. Even though we're upset with ourselves we still support each other, and we just build off it."
The Warriors went on a 12-1 run to take a lead in the third.
Kramer went to the line in the opening seconds following the break and hit her first before missing her second. Centaurus secured the rebound and eventually kicked it out to Mischke, who drained a 3 to make it 19-18.
Not long after, Mischke drove into the paint and rattled in a runner to tie things at 20. Taylor-Preston then gave the Warriors their first lead since the opening minutes with a made free throw and followed with a short jumper to make it 23-20 with 4:01 left in the quarter.
Back came the Demons as consecutive long jumpers from Pino put them back up 24-23 with 2:43 left in the quarter. Early in the fourth, Kramer completed a 3-point play to tie the game at 27.
Neither team led by more than four in the second half and overtime.
Brent W. New: email@example.com and @brentwnew
Golden 43, Centaurus 42
At Golden HS
Torres 2 0-0 4, Martinez 0 1-2 1, Mischke 3 3-4 11, Reed 0 1-2 1, Torres Contreras 0 0-0 0, Villareal 0 0-0 0, Kramer 4 5-7 14, MacDonald 0 0-0 0, Taylor-Preston 5 1-5 11, Lossaso 0 0-0 0.
Phillips 0 0-0 0, Bates 1 0-2 2, Baker 1 3-7 5, Dowell 0 0-0 0, Goodwin 1 4-7 7, Prey 1 1-2 3, Jones 3 2-4 9, Pino 4 5-8 14, Graham 0 0-0 0, Lenz 0 0-0 0, Webb 1 1-2 3.
Score by quarters:Centaurus (1-5) 7 7 10 12 6 -- 42
3-point field goals — Centaurus (3): Mischke 2, Kramer; Golden (3): Goodwin, Jones, Pino. Total fouls — Centaurus 20; Golden 14. Fouled out — Goodwin. Technical fouls — No technical fouls issued.