Last winter, Centennial’s girls basketball team had a difficult time putting the pieces together to produce a consistent winner. Team chemistry was off, and according to sharpshooter Brittany Anderson, her squad lacked that competitive drive to complete games.
After Friday night’s regular-season finale against Oakland Mills, it’s clear what a difference one year can make.
“Whenever we got in tough situations, we didn’t finish,” the senior said. “This year, we just know how to capitalize and believe in ourselves,”
Behind Anna Mitchell’s 13 points, and Anderson’s 12, the Eagles finished the regular season in style, downing the visiting Scorpions, 48-37, on senior night.
Centennial (16-3, 17-5) entered the matchup as one of the better defensive teams in county play, but after an inspired Oakland Mills (5-14, 6-15) club ran out to an early 8-0 lead in the first quarter, it was clear that adjustments needed to be made. It wasn’t until nearly four minutes into the contest that the Eagles scored their first basket – a much-needed layup from forward Kimmy Eads. From there, it was a battle of attrition between the two clubs for the remainder of the half.
“We didn’t have the defensive intensity that we needed,” said Centennial coach Bobby Macheel. “(Oakland Mills) is a very capable team, and they have some good athletes. Karigan (Awkward) is hard to stop, Tori (Diggs) can shoot from anywhere and Lauren (Thompson) is really good.”
On the offensive side of the ball, Macheel said the team’s old demons started to come out as well. His team has a tendency to not share the ball, opting for one-on-one matchups rather than running the offense.
For the Scorpions, Awkward led the first half charge with 11 points and nine rebounds. Diggs, one of the county’s top shooters from behind the arc, started her team off with a crucial 3-pointer to set the tone, and her ability to matchup against Centennial’s athletic backcourt gave the visitors a lot to be excited about heading into the break.
“They were fired up and ready to play,” said Oakland Mills coach Christina Hewitt of her girls’ effort early on. “They came out strong, which was really nice for us.”
Though it didn’t take long for the Eagles to come back and challenge, it was apparent that the Hewitt’s girls weren’t going away. Eads’ ability to drive to the basket and get to the line “saved” her squad from letting the game slip away early, according to Macheel. She notched nine points in the first half, and heading into the break, Centennial was down just 24-20.
“We always try to keep composure,” said Anderson of the conversation in the locker room during intermission. “(Trailing) isn’t really like us, but it has happened this season, so we know that any team is capable of doing that to us. We just had to play our game.”
In the second half, Centennial’s offense came to life. In the following eight minutes, Macheel’s girls went on a 19-4 run led by Anderson’s nine points.
On defense, the Eagles found their stride, and kept the Scorpions working at an uncomfortable pace. Forcing turnovers and scoring points in transition proved to be the difference-maker.
“They have a hard lineup to match,” said Hewitt, whose girls scored just nine points in the second half. “I was trying to figure out the right defense. They played hard, and they run their fast break very well.
“We’re making strides, but I think we’re still improving. I’m very happy with my girls.”
Awkward led her team with a game-high 16 points and 10 rebounds. Diamond Lee added eight points in the losing effort.
In situations like Friday night, Anderson said last year’s squad may not have been able to respond. Heading into the playoffs, the senior joined her coach in saying it’s refreshing to have a different team mindset.
“It’s going to be tough, but I think we’re capable if we play the way I’ve seen us play in flashes,” said Macheel. “It’s nice to have a group that’s been together a while, and we’ve kind of figured ourselves out. I’m excited to see what we do.”
Centennial 48, Oakland Mills 37
Cen: Anna Mitchell 13, Brittany Anderson 12, Kimmy Eads 11, Sara Downing 7, Alicia Hsieh 5.