During practice this week, Centennial assistant coach Tyler Casey’s assignment was to rough up his players in the paint.
The beating inside paid off, as the Patriots seemed unfazed by Lake City’s size advantage in Thursday’s tournament opener.
“We told them, ‘You’re undersized, so you’re going to have to fight,’ and they did,” Centennial coach Candace Thornton said. “We had a bunch of girls get more rebounds than they typically do, and we knew that if we could pull them out a little bit, our offense would work better.”
Centennial neutralized Lake City’s height with a swarming defense, advancing to the state semifinals for the second year in a row with a 61-38 victory.
Lauren Brocke, a Wichita State signee, caught fire from 3-point range, going 5-for-5 for a game-high 17 points with six rebounds, three steals and one blocked shot. 5A Southern Idaho Conference scoring leader Tori Williams added 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while Alicia Curry chipped in 12 points.
“All year long we’ve really just ridden the fact that we’re fighters, and we’re never going to give up,” Brocke said. “We just had to continue to play our game. It doesn’t matter the height, it just matters the fight within you.”
Lake City, which starts 6-foot-4 Lauren Rewers, 6-2 Nina Carlson and 6-1 Keara Simpson, was out-rebounded 34-21.
Ayana Amaechi, the shortest player on the Pats’ roster, collected five rebounds — two more than Rewers and Carlson combined.
“Our assistant coach Tyler Casey, he was able to kind of get us the feel of bigger girls, muscle girls,” Brocke said. “We knew coming in it was going to be a dog fight underneath. He was really able to set us straight and get us ready for the first game. Our coaching staff is great.”
Centennial led 29-22 at halftime but poured in 32 points in the second half while holding Lake City to single digits in both the third and fourth quarters.
“We are very proud of our defense. We have gone out of our way to make sure the girls are in shape,” Thornton said. “We tell them over and over again, if something’s happening on offense that’s out of your control, you go down on defense and control that.
“You are always in control of what you do on defense, and the girls are proud of what they do on defense. It’s kind of become our thing.”
CENTENNIAL 61, LAKE CITY 38
Lake City (19-6) — Ashlynn Allen 3 points, Nina Carlson 8, Kelsey Vershum 2, Bridget Rieken 4, Lauren Rewers 8, Keara Simpson 13. Rebound leader: Simpson 7. Assist leader: Chloe Teets 2.
Centennial (21-4) — Tori Williams 16 points, Ayana Amaechi 6, Anika Stevens 6, Lauren Brocke 17, Ami Ti’a 4, Alicia Curry 12. Rebound leader: Williams 7. Assist leader: Williams 5.