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Lady Knights remain in playoff hunt with 45-22 win
NORTH CENTRAL’S PEYTON HOLLEY is sandwiched between Central’s Yvonne Vanderpool (20) and Kary Funderburk (11) in a fight for a loose ball in Friday’s game. - photo by Tom Didato/C-I
NORTH CENTRAL’S MELANIE HACKWORTH protects the basketball while being guarded by Central’s Kelly Chambers. - photo by Tom Didato/C-I

While it is a tad bit early for him to do any scoreboard-watching, North Central girls’ basketball head coach David Dawson is focused on keeping a promise which he made to himself and to his team after their final game of the season a year ago.

At the time, when the Lady Knights’ regular season ended --- and they had two region 4-AA victories to show for it ---, so did their first campaign under Dawson. In the locker room that night, he made pledge.

“Playoffs. Nothing less,” Dawson said of his team’s focus following their 45-22 romp over visiting Central last Friday. “I’ve been telling them that since the end of last season. After we played our last game last year, I told them this was going to be the last time that our season would end after the last game of the regular season.”

Friday’s win over the Lady Eagles gave NC a 3-5 record in Region 4-AA heading into tonight’s key home game with 3-6 Chesterfield. NC sits in fourth place in the seven-team circuit with Chesterfield in sixth. With four games left in league play, Dawson and company are firmly in the mix for one of the five playoff slots allotted to the conference.

NC made quick work of the Lady Eagles on Friday inside The Castle with the hostesses jumping to a 13- lead after first quarter and not allowing Central to score a basket from the field until just under five minutes left in the first half. By that time, the Lady Knights had built a 17-1 cushion.

On a night in which leading scorer Kali Tomlin was held to nine points, junior guards Peyton Holley and Madison Dixon picked up the scoring slack for NC by combining for 26 points including nine from Dixon, who had six of those in the opening stanza. Add in six points from senior center Makaila Grant, and Dawson was pleased with more of his players getting involved in the offense.

“It helps a lot,” he said. “It helps everyone build confidence in themselves and, it also makes us a more dangerous team when everyone becomes a scoring threat.”

With Dixon scoring six of the game’s first 10 points, NC led, 10-0, before Central dented the scoreboard for the first time with an Yvonne Vanderpool free throw with 32.9 ticks left in the first quarter clock. Three Tomlin free throws in the closing two seconds of the stanza hiked the lead to 13-1 as the NC defense throttled the guests.

“We’ve really been locked in on defense lately. We’re starting to realize that playing good defense is going to lead to our getting wins,” Dawson said.

A Tomlin putback and a 15-foot Dixon jumper opened the second quarter as the lead grew to 17-1 before Central rattled off six unanswered points with half of those coming on a Kary Funderburk 3-point jumper to make it 17-7 with 4:27 left before intermission. A Holley layin and her two free throws made it 21-7.

Central closed the first 16 minutes by outscoring NC, 5-2, to close to within 23-12 at halftime.

Dawson said his team started playing outside the game plan once jumping to the large early lead.

“I told them that we needed to execute better,” he said of his halftime talk to his girls. “We got a little sloppy in the second quarter and they started making a little run at us. I told them we had to reel it in and focus on executing our sets and not just trying to run up and down the court.”

A pair of Vanderpool baskets were part of a 7-2 Lady Eagle run which opened the second half and cut into the NC advantage. Their lead trimmed to 25-18, the Lady Knights ended the third quarter with a 6-0 spurt starting with Tomlin’s scoop layin and ending with Holley’s 3-ball as the lead went to 31-18 and continued to grow to its final 23-points spread as NC outscored Central, 14-4, in the fourth quarter.

With four league games left, including a pair with team which the Lady Knights have already beaten in Chesterfield and Lewisville, Dawson was asked if he would allow himself to do a bit of scoreboard-watching to check on how things were unfolding in other games throughout the region. 

“Um … a little bit,” he said with a smile which became a laugh. “But, based on where we are in the standings, no.”

CHS (22): Madison Hamilton 2 0-2 4, Yvonne Vanderpool 2 1-3 5, Maia Price 1 1-1 3, Kary Funderburk 2 0-0 6, Amber Gainey 1 0-0 2, Kaylee Davis 1 0-0 2. Totals: 9 2-6 22

NC (45): Madison Dixon 3 3-4 9, Peyton Holley 7 2-2 17, Kali Tomlin 2 5-6 9, Danajah Robinson 0 0-2 0, Ciaira Black 1 0-0 2, Makaila Grant 3 0-0 6, Melanie Hackworth 1 0-0 2. Totals: 17 10-14 45

Score by quarters: First: NC, 13-1; Halftime: NC, 23-12; Third: NC, 31-18; Three-point goals: CHS 2 (Funderburk 2), NC 1 (Holley)