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LAFAYETTE — Given their status as the defending state runner-up, while also considering their two separate wins this season over the No. 1-ranked team in the state, the Warriors of the Centaurus girls lacrosse team have crossed the border between an up-and-coming program to one with a growing target on its back.

Friday’s Metro League tilt against Kent Denver also marked Centaurus’ fourth game in seven days, and the Warriors were bracing for a Sun Devils club eager for payback from the defeat Centaurus handed them in the quarterfinals of the state tournament last year.

Indeed, the Warriors received all they could handle Friday afternoon, but Kent’s second-half rally fell just short as a late Centaurus defensive stand paved the way for a 12-10 victory at Warrior Stadium.

Three days after knocking off Air Academy, the state’s No. 1-ranked team in the latest poll, the second-ranked Warriors — and the presumptive No. 1 team next week — improved to 9-1 overall and 3-0 in the conference.

“I think our team can take anything,” junior Ellie Meyer said. “Although we do have a target on our back because we’ve been doing really well, I think that we can take it. We’re deep, we have the mental toughness, and I really believe in our team.”

Centaurus overcame a slow start to take a 9-5 lead at halftime, but No. 7-ranked Kent Denver managed to dominate the draws and the ensuing possessions throughout much of the second half. In turn, the Sun Devils slowly chipped away at the Warriors’ advantage, scoring three goals in the first 6 minutes, 7 seconds of the frame to climb within a goal.

Olivia Holmes, Katherine Burns, and Sarah Brown scored consecutively to once again pad the Centaurus lead, but a goal from Kent’s Rachel Cowan brought the Sun Devils within 12-10 with 1:56 remaining.

Despite losing the next draw, however, Centaurus was able to keep Kent at bay long enough to secure the win.

“Kent’s a really good team and we always have great competition against them,” Centaurus coach Genny Horning said. “(Kent) is now in our league so it’s competitive and there are always intense outcomes. It’s always an emotional game as well, so we talked a lot about being able to persevere in this one. We knew it was going to be a very defensive game.”

Brown led the way for Centaurus with four goals, with Andrea Kim adding three and Meyer posting two. Goalie Kayli Weiss recorded 10 saves.

After surviving the past week’s busy stretch on the heels of the team’s Florida trip, the Warriors will get a bit of a break with just one game — an April 16 tilt at Denver East — on the ledger over the next 12 days.

“We just have a very good mental game, so we didn’t let it get to us when they were coming back,” Brown said. “They were really getting those draws, and I think that’s what made them come back. We weren’t executing well and I think we were a little exhausted. We knew Kent was going to be fired up because of last year’s (playoff) game.”

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Centaurus 12, Kent Denver 10

At Centaurus H.S.

Kent Denver 5 5 — 10

Centaurus 9 3 — 12

Goals — Kent Denver: Dani Murray 3, Rachel Cowan 2, Hattie Duke 2, Annie Duke, Erin O’Shaugnessey, Abby Godfrey; Centaurus: Sarah Brown 4, Andrea Kim 3, Ellie Meyer 2, Sarah Myres, Olivia Holmes, Katherine Burns.

Assists — Kent Denver: Godfrey 2, H. Duke; Centaurus: Brown, Holmes, Tessa Hannigan. .

Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Kent Denver: Gabby Kinney (50-12-11); Kent Denver: Kayli Weiss (50-10-10).