The Central Lady Cougars’ up-and-down season reached their highest with a 55-44 upset win over State-ranked Civic Memorial on Saturday night at the Jansen Chevrolet PAWS Shootout at Stan Eagleson Gymnasium.
Civic Memorial came into the contest with a 15-2 record after starting the season with 13-straight wins.
The Lady Eagles led throughout much of the first three quarters of the contest until the Cougars scored 30 of the final 35 points to win the game with strong defense and a couple big shots from Reaghan Tebbe.
“I told them in the locker room that this is not the end, this is the beginning,” said Central head coach Nate Rueter. “We saw today what a lot of us thought that we were capable of. That was a very high quality team that we just went toe-to-toe with.”
On a night the Cougars honored Dennis Rakers’ back-to-back-to-back Sectional title teams from the beginning of the century, the current team showed their ability.
Senior Madelyn Santel and sophomore Kaydence Schroeder each dropped in 3-pointers to give the Cougars a 6-0 lead with CM calling a timeout just 40 seconds into the contest.
The Lady Eagles got hot after the timeout, hitting four 3-pointers down the stretch in the quarter with both Kelbie Zupan and Aubree Wallace dropping in two of those 3-pointers to give CM a 19-14 lead after the first quarter.
The Lady Cougars outscored the Eagles 11-9 in the second quarter with Melanie Hilmes and Haley Ottenschnieder each hitting 3-pointers. Wallace and Avari Combes each hit triples for the Lady Eagles as they led 28-25 at the break,
Civic was lights out over the first 16 minutes as they hit 6-of-13 from the arc with Wallace having 11 points and Zupan adding nine at the break.
Central was 5-of-11 from the arc in the initial half with them hitting 8-of-19 overall with eight turnovers. Hilmes led six Central scorers with six points at the break.
Things looked ominous for the Lady Cougars early in the third quarter with the Lady Eagles scoring the first 11 points of the frame on 3-pointers from Olivia Durbin and two from Wallace as the lead ballooned to 39-25 with half the third quarter eclipsed.
“Certainly what happened in the third quarter, it would have been real easy for us to fold up,” added Rueter. “But our kids showed a lot of determination and heart and battled through it.”
What happened next was shocking to all except the Cougars’ coaching staff.
The Cougars would score 30 of the final 35 points over the 12-minute span where Civic Memorial managed just two field goals and six turnovers.
The Cougars got buckets from Schroeder and Ottenschnieder, along with two free throws from Riley Jansen, to get back in the game. Wallace ended the quarter with a runner as CM hung on to a 41-31 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Santel hit a baseline jumper before Tebbe drained a pair of triples from the right side to get the Lady Cougars within 41-39. Hilmes added a layup with 4:40 left in regulation to tie the contest at 41-41.
“Those were huge 3-pointers,” remarked Rueter. “And you can’t underscore the game that Melanie Hilmes had tonight. She never came out and played defense against the hottest offensive player in the area right now. Mel was huge and it was just a great full-team effort tonight.”
Emily Williams regained the lead when she hit one-of-two from the line.
The Cougars rattled off the next 12 points to put the game out of reach for CHS. Jansen was spot on with two buckets and four free throws while Schroeder added a pair of buckets of her own to secure a 53-42 lead for the Lady Cougars.
Wallace hit her last bucket of the game with 16 seconds left while Hilmes iced the win with a pair of free throws to give the Cougars their eighth win of the season to go with six losses.
Jansen was the Jansen Chevrolet Most Valuable Player of the game with 15 points and nine rebounds. The senior was 4-of-6 from the floor and 7-of-8 from the charity stripe.
Not to be outdone was Schroeder with nine points on 4-of-4 shooting to go with seven rebounds and four blocked shots. Hilmes never came off the floor and scored 10 points on 3-of-5 shooting.
“Kaydence had some impressive rebounds tonight,” added Rueter. “She has the potential to be a very talented player for us in the future and now.”
The Lady Cougars were 18-of-37 from the floor with 7-of-18 from the arc and 12-of-16 from the line with 13 turnovers.
Civic Memorial got 23 points from Wallace who was 9-of-18 from the floor. Zupan was strong all-around with all nine of her points coming in the first half while she also had five rebounds, two steals and two assists.
The Lady Eagles were 16-of-37 from the floor including 9-of-22 from the arc. They were 3-of-6 from the line with 16 turnovers. They missed their final six 3-point attempts.
The Cougars’ other game scheduled last week was postponed with Wood River. CHS is in action on Thursday when they host Salem before starting Highland Tournament play next week.