LAFAYETTE — If it’s true that defense really does win championships, a common expression by those experts that don’t ride and die in the fantasy sports world, the girls’ basketball program at Centaurus couldn’t have asked for a much better start to their postseason.
Laura Gensert scored a game-high 21 points and the 22nd-seeded Warriors kept No. 43 Elizabeth off-kilter offensively in a 45-19 victory in the opening round of the Class 4A state tournament Tuesday night.
“Defensively, I believe we can play with anyone,” Centaurus coach Chris Mischke said afterward. “I truly believe that.”
The win marked the first time Centaurus held an opponent under 20 points since beating Thornton 53-9 on Dec. 17 of last year. But even with the lopsided win that never was in doubt, there was still plenty of glaring needs for improvement in Mischke’s eyes.
“If we’re going to compete with the big teams and the good teams, we’re going to have to get much better offensively,” he said. “That was not a very good offensive performance even though the game was not in doubt. Not to take anything away from Elizabeth, but we have to play better.”
On this night, though, it was more than enough. The sighs were palpable for the Cardinals, the frustration evident. Centaurus’ harassing defense fueled the early rout, keeping Elizabeth without a field goal for the first 12 minutes, 42 seconds of game time.
And as the away team struggled to find a clean shot — losing the ball midcourt, hitting nothing but air on several wayward attempts — the Warriors’ lead grew to 21-1 into the second quarter.
Gensert, who’d averaged a team-best 14.8 points per game during the regular season, buried a 3 and scored six straight points as part of the spurt. Then after Elizabeth’s Brighid Griffin finally broke the drought with 3:18 left in the half, she swished another from deep.
Centaurus’ star had 14 points by the break, good for her 11th straight game scoring in double figures. She finished the game outscoring Elizabeth by herself.
“Our plan was to go into it and put a lot of pressure on them,” Gensert said. “I think that worked really well. And I think we brought high intensity as a team.”
The postseason win is the Warriors’ first since 2020. They travel to No. 11 Northridge Friday night.
At stake is the program’s first trip to the tournament’s Sweet 16 since 2013. Then, they opened the playoffs with wins over Mead and Pueblo County and reached the Great Eight under former coach Jeff Jackson.
“We’ll be ready to play. We’ve always played Northridge tough even when we didn’t have strong teams and they had stronger teams than us, and vice versa,” Mischke said. “It’s just a drag-out game. I’m very happy to be able to play them. I love playing them. Coach (Dan Beck) is a great coach and he’ll have them ready, so it should be a good contest.”
Ava Patik and Page Sanchez each added five points for the Warriors, who led 32-3 in the second before Griffin hit a runner in the final seconds of the quarter. Centaurus’ lead stretched to 30 early after the break before Elizabeth scored 13 of its 19 points over the final 10:31.
Griffin had 17 of the Cardinals’ 19 points.
It was Centaurus’ fifth straight win over Elizabeth dating back to 2009.