LAFAYETTE — Holding an opponent below 30 points is usually a recipe for success in varsity high school basketball, but that doesn’t mean the ingredient of scoring can be almost totally left out of the mix.
The Centaurus girls, ranked No. 6 in Class 4A, shot 24 percent from the field and 31 percent from the foul line in a 29-27 home loss to Conifer on Tuesday night.
The point total was the lowest for Centaurus since February 2011. And the Warriors, who fell to Monarch last week, have suffered back-to-back defeats for the first time since that same month in 2011.
“It was a tough loss,” senior Lyndie Puckett said. “We just came out really flat and it showed in the end. We had an off day with final (exams) and everything. We just came out really slow.”
Despite its offensive woes — 11-for-46 field goal shooting and 4-for-13 free-throw accuracy to go along with 18 turnovers — Centaurus held a 27-25 lead after Gianna Manfredini scored off a pass from Midori Patterson with 2:31 remaining.
But that would be the Warriors’ last points of the game. Conifer’s Kirstin Hafeman banked one in with two minutes left to tie it, and after Centaurus came up empty-handed on three more possessions, the Lobos’ Gabby DeFino banked in the game-winner with 11 seconds left despite being well-defended.
Centaurus had an opportunity to tie or go ahead in the waning seconds, but Puckett misfired on a long baseline jumper.
The loss dropped the Warriors to 5-3, while Conifer is 6-1 after its sixth straight victory.
“We couldn’t get a few ‘gimmes’ to drop, but you know what? That’s basketball, and you can still play defense,” Warriors coach Jeff Jackson said. “There’s no excuse for that part. They were hitting their shots and we didn’t come out with our traditional defense. And that helps lead to our offense. We didn’t really get into a flow.
“I thought that was our least effort of the season defensively. We were a little flat right from the get-go.”
Despite that, Conifer wasn’t much better than Centaurus offensively. The Lobos connected on just 12 of 45 field-goal attempts, 4 of 10 free throws and turned over the ball 18 times.
“No one had any breathing room the whole game,” Conifer coach Mick Gorrell said of the contest in which neither team led by more than two points in the fourth quarter. “Centaurus is a fine, fine ball club, very well coached. We knew it was going to be a dogfight. The one who had the last possession was probably going to win the game.”
Neither team put a player in double figures scoring. Puckett and Manfredini led the way for Centaurus with seven points each.
Tuesday marked the third formidable opponent in a row for Centaurus. The Warriors beat defending 5A state champion Legacy, lost by four to 2012 5A runner-up Monarch, then lost by two Tuesday to a Conifer team that has gone 83-24 over the last five seasons.
“It’s good for us to see that we have a lot of work to do,” Jackson said. “With the success we’ve had in the past, I think some of (the players) think they can walk out on the floor and they’re Centaurus. You know what? We have to earn it still. That’s going to be our test this year: Can we rise to that level? And I think we can, but it’s going to be a little bit slower process.
“For having seven seniors, we’re still a pretty young team in terms of varsity playing experience.”
Centaurus will close out the pre-Christmas portion of its schedule Friday at Green Mountain.
CONIFER 29, CENTAURUS 27
At Centaurus HS
Lean 0 0-0 0, DeFino 2 2-5 6, Smith 1 1-2 3, Hafeman 4 0-1 8, Lein 0 0-0 0, Anderson 2 0-0 4, Goldstein 0 0-0 0, Sagaser 0 1-2 1, Mizenko 1 0-0 3, Hammon 2 0-0 4. Totals 12 4-10 29.
Puckett 3 0-1 7, Langer 2 0-0 4, Anderson 1 0-2 2, Manfredini 3 1-4 7, Hubbell 1 0-2 2, Patterson 1 2-2 4, Dondelinger 0 0-0 0, Esler 0 1-2 1. Totals 11 4-13 27.
Score by quarters:
Conifer 6 11 3 9 — 29
Centaurus 6 7 8 6 — 27
3-point field goals — Conifer (1): Mizenko; Centaurus (1): Puckett. Total fouls — Conifer 15, Centaurus 13. Fouled out — Smith. Technical fouls — none.