CHAMPAIGN — It wasn't exactly an even trade.
Centennial's girls' basketball team lost a player but gained a cheerleader for Thursday night's Class 3A regional championship game against Mahomet-Seymour.
"An awesome cheerleader," Katelynn Martinez said, referring to injured junior teammate Stacia Simmons. "She gives great encouragement."
The Chargers did the rest.
Zsayla Brummett's free throw broke the final tie, 11-11, at 7:01 of the second quarter and Centennial went on to overpower the Bulldogs 46-24 at Central's Combes Gym for its second consecutive regional championship.
As if the state's 10th-ranked Class 3A team needed extra motivation in quest of its repeat, all the Chargers had to do was look at Simmons, who is awaiting word on the severity of her injured right anterior cruciate ligament.
"We said, 'We gotta get it for Stacia,' and it got us pumped up," Martinez said.
M-S (17-13) led after a quarter, 8-6, thanks to a layup by Maddie See in the final half-minute.
"The first quarter," Centennial coach Susan Thomas said, "was one of the most intense quarters I've seen. We were gassed about four minutes in."
The Chargers (27-5) came out firing — and hitting — in the final eight minutes of the half. Chelsea Cross made three straight shots for a team that was 7 for 11 in the quarter.
For the game, the Chargers limited M-S to eight field goals and only Maggie Schmidt (three) made more than one basket.
"We had an excellent first quarter, but it seemed like there was a lid on the basket in the second," M-S coach Nathan Seal said. "Our girls came out and played as hard as they could as long as they could. Centennial took us out of a lot of what we wanted to do."
Martinez was the catalyst, penetrating to the basket repeatedly and scoring a game-high 17 points. She and Chantal Meacham took turns sharing the aggressive, penetrating role in which Simmons had excelled during the first 31 games.
"That's the way Stacia's been doing it," Martinez said. "I want to make a run in the playoffs, and we had to do things."
Those things are ones which Thomas had felt were within Martinez's capabilities all season.
"Stacia is very comfortable in that role, and sometimes Katelynn and Chantal are unselfish to a fault," Thomas said. "We felt they could get to the lane. We've talked about that for three months. I'm so proud of the way they played."
While they excelled, and Cross continued her dominating postseason (16 points, team-high seven rebounds), Thomas said, "if I gave game balls, the two I'd look at were Zsayla Brummett and Nicole Schweighart.
"In terms of the intangibles that Stacia gives us, they stepped up in a big way. I'm proud we've developed our bench all year."
Schweighart, a senior, stepped into the starting lineup in place of Simmons.
While Centennial enjoyed a hot-shooting second quarter, doubling its lead by halftime, 24-12, the Bulldogs were 1 for 12 during the same time.
Seal knew at intermission how difficult his squad's mission would be.
"Against a team that handles the ball that well, it's difficult to come back," he said. "Martinez dominated parts of that game."
Schmidt was the only Bulldog with more than three points. She had 11 to go with a game-high eight rebounds. Teammate Hannah Charter scored three points and had five rebounds, as did See.
Martinez and Meacham teamed up to score 33 of the Chargers' points. Meacham added eight points and hit the game's only three-pointer.
"This one means a lot," Thomas said. "It has been a rough year for me personally (with the death of her father, Ronald "Whitey" Thomas, last Sept. 20) and it has been a rough last month with adversity. This was a very intense regional."
Centennial gets a rematch against the school that eliminated it from the postseason in 2011, Springfield. The sectional semifinal against the state's top-rated Class 3A team will be Tuesday night at 7:30 at Taylorville High School.