By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
MADISON COUNTY —
The Lady Indians met an old nemesis on Senior Night and unfortunately for them, the outcome was all too familiar.
Dunbar knocked Madison Central out of last year’s 11th Region Tournament, using a strong second half to beat the Lady Indians in the championship game.
Dunbar used a 14-3 run the first five minutes of the third quarter Friday to take control of a game that had been nip-an-tuck the entire first half on the way to a 67-57 win.
“We came out in the third quarter and we were totally flat. We were as flat as we were in the third quarter when we played them in the championship game last year,” Central coach Robbie Cooksey said. “We came out flat. They came out with something to prove and we let them dominate. They outscored us 20-10 in the third quarter and that 10 points was the difference in the game.”
On offense, the Lady Indians struggled to make shots all night — they were 0-of-7 on three pointers —and on defense they couldn’t contain the penetration by the Lady Bulldog guards.
Cooksey said the defense against the drive was something that had to improve quickly for Central to advance in the upcoming district and regional tournaments.
“We had a hard time guarding kids. Lexus Edwards was 9-of-14 and had 25 points and it didn’t matter who we put on her, we had a hard time with her,” Cooksey said. “They exposed a weakness. Stopping penetration is something we have to get better at. Hopefully this will be a wake-up call to our kids. We didn’t play well.”
The game was extremely tight early with six lead changes in the first half as neither team could build much of a lead.
Dunbar jumped out to a quick lead to start the game, but after a timeout by Cooksey, the Lady Indians responded, scoring eight of the final 10 points of the quarter to grab a 15-10 lead after one quarter.
Dunbar quickly erased the deficit as Edwards outscored Central 6-1 and tied the game at 16-16.
The teams exchanged leads five times over the next four minutes before the Lady Indians pulled out to a 35-27 lead on baskets by Ashton Feldhaus and Emily Fultz and six unanswered points by Larryn Brooks.
But, Edwards nailed a shot at the buzzer to pull the Bulldogs to within 35-29 at the half.
In the second half, the Bulldogs steadily cut away at the Central lead. Edwards did most of the damage and her six straight points gave Dunbar a 43-40 lead with 2:32 left in the quarter.
Brooks hit a basket to cut the lead to 43-42, but Dunbar outscored Central 6-2 the rest of the way to grab a 49-45 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Trailing 57-50 with five minutes left in the game, the Lady Indians mounted one last comeback.
Two baskets by Feldhaus and a three-point play by Shadae Bosley after a another basket by Edwards pulled Central to within 59-57 with just over three minutes left.
But the Lady Indians squandered an opportunity to tie the game after a steal and the Lady Bulldogs hit their free throws down the stretch to pull away.
Cooksey said he wasn’t displeased with the shots his team got, they just didn’t make them and Dunbar hit theirs.
“We didn’t take bad shots, but we didn’t hit shots. We didn’t make shots and didn’t do the little things. They made the plays that we didn’t make,” Cooksey said. “They are a good team. They look like the team to beat. They are defending champions and somebody is going to have to beat them in the region. We have a lot of work to do.”
Brooks led the way for Central in her final home game with 16 points, four rebounds and five assists.
Feldhaus, also playing her final home game, finished with nine points, six rebounds and three blocked shots.
Bosley added six points and nine rebounds, while Bailey O’Bryan and Emily Fultz had two points each.
Central plays again Tuesday against Berea in the 44th District Tournament at McBrayer Arena.