CHAMPAIGN — Centennial’s girls’ basketball team is back in a familiar position: first place in the Big 12.
The Chargers clinched no worse than a share of the league crown for the fourth consecutive year by virtue of Monday’s 50-32 triumph against visiting Central.
“Right now, it feels good, but I keep telling the girls, we don’t want to settle for tying,” Chargers coach Jessi Beachey said. “Our goal is to win it outright. Settling is not what we are looking at.”
The teams were tied, 18-18, before Jaki Vipond hit a pull-up, buzzer-beating jumper to end the first half with Centennial ahead by a basket.
The Chargers were just getting started, adding the first 12 points of the second half while improving to 2-0 this season against their city rivals.
Zsayla Brummett led Centennial with 14 points. She also had six assists and four steals. Vipond had 11 points, and Jasmine Kyler finished with 10 points and six rebounds. Jada Caston also had six rebounds.
The 6-foot-3 Kyler gave Central problems inside.
“Our tallest kid is 5-10, and that’s a tough match for us,” Central coach Martin Pazanin said.
Cidnee Sheehan and Scoyoniah Bowdry each scored 10 points for Central, which had a chance to pull into a first-place tie with a victory.
“The first half, we defended unbelievably,” Pazanin said. “The first time we played them, we didn’t compete, but we competed today for 26 minutes. There was a ton of progress made from the first time to the second time.”
Beachey noticed the improvement.
“They came out with a great game plan, very tough and physical,” she said. “We had to change our plan and be more physical. We regrouped at halftime, got ourselves together and got back to playing our basketball.”
Central’s Bowdry had a double-double, finishing with a game-high 11 boards. Sheehan had a team-high three assists.
It’s possible there could be a third meeting. If so, it would occur in nine days back in the Chargers’ gym. Centennial is the No. 1 seed and Central the No. 2 seed for next week’s Class 3A regional.
“We’d love to play them again,” Pazanin said, “but we have to take care of some business.”
Centennial will try to clinch an outright Big 12 title on Thursday when it hosts Decatur Eisenhower.