Just four days after learning it would have to forfeit nine wins from earlier this season due to an ineligible player on its roster, Centennial came out Friday in the opening round of the 3A East regional playoffs against Atholton and looked every bit like a team playing with a chip on its shoulder.
The Eagles raced out to a 16-0 lead by the end of the first quarter and never slowed down, cruising to a 63-29 victory. It marks the most points Centennial (4-19) has scored in a game all season and the first time Atholton (7-16) has been held to less than 30 points.
After the two teams played to a one-possession game during their most recent meeting in early February, Centennial made it clear very early on that this match-up was going to play out much differently.
“To be honest, we’ve kind of rallied around this whole thing and I can’t give these kids enough credit for the way they’ve handled everything. We talked about it, then put it behind us and began preparing for this game,” Centennial coach Rob Slopek said. “And I tell you what, that’s by far the best game we’ve played this season. We shared the basketball, we shot the ball so well and we got complete efforts from every single player on this team.
“As tough as this week has been, in some ways I think it really has brought us closer together.”
Brook Anderson scored a game-high 24 points, including tying a program record with seven made 3-point shots, and Ashley Molz tied a season high with 15 points to lead the Eagles charge. Anderson said that for everything that has happened off the court, there was a determination to come out and control what the team could control.
“Things had happened, and everyone knew about it, but we were focused on leaving it in the past and moving forward,” said Anderson, who hit four 3-pointers in the first half.
Centennial got an opening layup from Rasa Welsh (7 points, 11 rebounds and 4 blocks) in the first minute of the game and everything seemed to click after that. The team turned steals into transition offense, made their foul shots and swarmed around Atholton shooters every time they touched the ball.
It wasn’t until 7:08 remained in the second quarter that Atholton finally got on the scoreboard courtesy of a pair of foul shots by Mia Hargrett (8 points). But the Raiders never managed to put together any sustained momentum, falling behind 35-8 by the time halftime rolled around.
“You can’t spot any team 16 points and expect to be able to come back,” Atholton coach Julia Reynold said. “Centennial came out and they caught fire, they outplayed us in every aspect. We just never were able to find our rhythm and all the credit to them for that.”
Anderson’s 3-point barrage continue after intermission, with the junior guard hitting another three from beyond the arc in the third quarter to help the Eagles extend their cushion to as many as 40 points.
“I think it’s the same with all shooters, seeing the ball go in early makes a huge difference,” Anderson said. “Then my teammates started looking for me, getting me the ball in good spots, and at that point as long as [the shots] kept going in, I was going to keep taking them.”
Centennial advances to face top-seeded Long Reach on Tuesday in the 3A East region Section I semifinals. Slopek said he hopes his team can carry over this same level of intensity.
“Tonight was absolutely huge for us, to finally — for really the first time this whole season — put together a full four quarters of basketball. We’ve now seen what that looks like,” Slopek said. “We couldn’t have asked for a better confidence-building win than this heading into Long Reach.”
Centennial 63, Atholton 29
C (4-19): Anderson 24, Molz 15, Welsh 7, Dossett 6, Pearson 4, Pellegrini 2, Castle-Smith 2, Urquiga 2, Sopchick 1.
A (7-16): Sowah 9, M. Hargrett 8, Cannon 6, A. Hargrett 3, Morton 2, Brown 1.
Half: 35-8 C.
Marriotts Ridge 51, Glenelg 25
The Mustangs closed the first half on a 7-0 run to give themselves some breathing room and then really broke things open after the break, earning the opening round victory in the 2A South region playoffs.
Caroline Crawford and Emma Miller scored 10 points apiece, while Mallory Conroy added nine for Marriotts Ridge. Overall, the Mustangs had nine different players score at least one basket.
“Our pressure toward the end of that second quarter started forcing them into mistakes that we were able to take advantage of,” said Marriotts Ridge coach Sarah Miller, whose team led by just one point, 7-6, at the end of the first quarter. “We pounded it into the post with Caroline Crawford and with her being effective there, it then opened up opportunities for everyone else. I think almost everyone scored tonight and by the end of the game it was definitely one of those ‘everyone eats’ situations.”
Olivia LePage’s 10 points led Glenelg.
Glenelg had itself within seven points early in the third quarter, 21-14, following a 3-pointer by Abby Gillespie (7 points). But after that, Marriotts Ridge closed that third period on a 13-5 run to push its advantage up to 15 points.
By a minute into the fourth quarter, after a 3-pointer by Conroy, the Mustangs had their first 20-point lead and the rout was on.
Marriotts Ridge advances to face top-seeded Oakland Mills on Tuesday at 6 p.m.
MR (10-13): Crawford 10, Miller 10, Conroy 9, Held 6, Bryan 5, Lee 4, Noll 3, Plano 2, Cooke 2,
G (5-18): LePage 10, Gillespie 7, Anderson 4, Hirsch 3, Coburn 1.
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Half: 18-8 MR.
Hammond 61, Wilde Lake 43
The Golden Bears opened the 2A South region playoffs with an 18-point victory over the visiting Wildecats. Imani Reid (23 points), Nyelle Allen (13) and Jocelyn Fogle (11) all scored in double figures for Hammond, which led 18-4 by the end of the first quarter.
Kalani Corkeron (13 points) and Mia Swaby-Rowe (12) led the way in the loss for Wilde Lake.
Hammond advances to face second-seeded River Hill on Tuesday.
Ha (13-10): Reid 23, Allen 13, Fogle 11, Liguori 6, Beahm 4, Julius-Khumbah 4.
WL (1-20): Corkeron 13, Swaby-Rowe 12, Floyd 5, L. Mullican 4, Zimmerman 3, Richards 2, A. Mullican 2, Knapp 2.
Half: 33-18 Ha.