CENTERBURG — The Centerburg Trojans may look back on Saturday and call it the turning point of their season. The host Trojans put together four quarters of solid basketball to turn the tables on their backyard rivals, the Highland Scots (6-6, 4-4 KMAC), defeating them, 36-32, in Knox-Morrow Athletic Conference girls basketball action.
The Trojans (2-12, 2-7 KMAC), who lost to the Scots at Highland High School, 32-18, earlier this season, found themselves trailing by as many as six points in the middle of the second quarter. The Trojans got a field goal and three foul shots from Savannah Gammell, who led her team with 14 points, in the period, which cut the Scots’ lead to 18-17 at halftime.
Highland’s Madison Cecil (seven points) managed only three field goals in the game, and only one after halftime. Brooklyn Baird led the Scots with 11 points, but she was also limited to a single field goal in the second half.
“Our game plan was to take Cecil out of the game,” said Centerburg coach Bo Glenn. “We know that their offense runs through her, and we worked our tail off to double-up on her and make somebody else beat us. The last two games we have done a good job of helping each other out, and we have done a great job of not letting our man beat us.”
The Scots clawed their way back on free throws by Brooklyn Geiger and Mattie Ruehrmund. A putback by Highland’s Raven Tilford tied the game at 26 at the end of the third quarter.
“We wanted to push tempo on the offensive end and our goal was to keep them in the 30s defensively,” said Highland coach Whitney Levering-Smith. “However, that defensive goal only works if you are able to score higher than that. We struggled scoring the first round with them and again this round. We struggled putting the ball in the hoop.
“You can tell that they were concentrating on our primary ball handler (Cecil), and that put the other girls in a position to have to handle the ball at times, and that deterred us from pushing tempo,” Levering-Smith continued. “Centerburg just played fundamental defense that got them the W. Both of my post players got in foul trouble and stayed that way. This was the first game that both of our post players had to sit the majority of the game.”
Mulpas and Vargo each dropped in a bucket to open the final quarter, pulling ahead 30-26.
“In the second half, Grace and I focused more working in the post,” Gammell said. “Everyone fed it into us. When we were only down by a point at halftime, we realized that we still were in this game and we had a chance to win.”
The Trojans went 6-for-8 from the foul line down the stretch, while the Scots were 2-for-4.
“Our season is turning around because we have been picking up the pace,” Glenn said. “I have gotten into these girls’ heads. They understand how hard they have to play at the varsity level, and every one of them have picked it up.”
The Trojans will travel to East Knox, while the Scots will host Mount Gilead Thursday. Both varsity KMAC games will start at 7:30 p.m.