All season long, the signature behind the early success of Centennial girls basketball has been a defense-first attitude.

But, in the opening round of the North Carroll Holiday Hoops Tournament against Westminster Thursday, the Eagles seemed to forget that mindset.

After giving up 37 points in the first half alone, Centennial (5-1 county, 5-3 overall) couldn’t recover, as the Owls pulled away with a 59-43 victory.

“Our defense just wasn’t there in the first half,” said coach Bobby Macheel after the game. “That’s what we need to live by. We’re a defensive team.”

Though the Eagles were without their leading scorer in Anna Mitchell, who was out of town for the holiday, Macheel said the reasoning behind the loss went deeper.  

“We’ve just been having terrible starts to games,” he said.

Mary Anderson led her team with 11 points, while Alicia Hsieh, Brittany Anderson and Kimmy Eads all added seven.

In the first half, everything went the Owls’ way.

Centennial could hardly get its offense in motion, but ultimately it was a lack of shots falling early that created such an immense deficit.

For the Owls, Alyssa Pumputis led all scores with 14 points. Jonyae Curry (13), Shannon Pumputis (10) and Lara Bachman (9) also contributed in a winning effort as well.

Powers and Alyssa Pumputis also added six rebounds each, while Shannon Pumputis had four.

In the third quarter, the Eagles gained a bit of momentum, and their once-silent defense woke up, allowing only five points. Following a nifty Alicia Hsieh half court shot to head into the fourth quarter, it looked as though Centennial – down by 12 – could get back in contention.

“We just couldn’t take advantage of that, and at that point it was too late,” Macheel said.

Even with missed contested shots, the Eagles had opportunities to put points on the board with the clock stopped as well. In 32 chances at the foul line, the Eagles as a team converted just 17 points.

“Especially when we were making a push there, (shooting better from the line) could have definitely helped,” he added.

Centennial will play St. Paul’s on Friday at 10 a.m. at North Carroll High School in the team’s final game of the tournament.  

Westminster 59, Centennial 43

Cen (5-1 county, 5-3 overall): Sammie Albornoz 5, Sara Downing 5, Mary Anderson – 11, Alicia Hsieh 7, Brittany Anderson 7, Kimmy Eads 7.

Westminster: Alyssa Pumputis 14, Jonyae Curry 13, Shannon Pumputis 10, Lara Bachman 9, Jayla Powers 7, Arianna Cotton 2, Brooke Hillman 2, Mindy Phillips 2.

Half: 37-13, Owls.

Atholton 83, Don Bosco 2

Atholton (4-2 county, 5-2 overall): Chelsea Mitchell 15, Caitlyn Burmester 10, Megan Hart 10, Becca Weinberg 7, Kalere Caldwell 7, Ryan Jones 6, Sage Mayhew 6, Amanda Peterson 6, Francesga Venegas 6, Udoka Oji 4, Kayla Morton 4, Margaret Tatum 2.

Half: 47-0, Ath. 

Wilde Lake 54, Springbrook 39