It’s never easy to win on the road.
The sixth-ranked Ankeny Centennial girls’ basketball team built a 17-point lead and then held off a furious rally by No. 12 Waukee Northwest to escape with a 52-45 road victory on Tuesday.
The Wolves, who never led, closed the gap to 44-42 in the fourth quarter before Centennial ended the game with an 8-3 run.
“Their press got to us a little bit,” said Centennial coach Scott DeJong. “We turned the ball over, they hit some shots and then we were fouling, and they were making free throws. But we calmed down a little bit and played with a little more poise, and then we finished it out strong. The middle part was shaky, but we turned it around–which says a lot.
“It was a good learning experience, and if you can win and learn, that’s good,” he added.
Jaeden Pratt tied her season-high with 15 points, all of them in the second half. She made a basket with 2 minutes 12 seconds to go that halted Northwest’s rally, then converted 3-of-4 free throws in the final 1:02 to help seal the win.
“It was a battle,” said Pratt, who also grabbed 13 rebounds and had four steals. “This whole second season will be a battle no matter who we play.”
Mya Crawford had 18 points, seven rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks as Centennial earned its third straight win following a five-game losing skid. The Jaguars improved to 3-4 in the CIML Conference and 6-5 overall, while Northwest’s records dropped to 2-5 and 5-5.
Sadie Maas scored 17 points, nine rebounds and three blocks to lead the Wolves, who had their two-game winning streak snapped. Maas and Logan Vogt, who chipped in five points, also played for Northwest’s state championship volleyball team that defeated Pratt’s Centennial squad in the Class 5A semifinals.
“I just pushed that aside,” Pratt said of the volleyball loss. “It’s a different sport and a new season. I just knew coming back (from break) that we needed to get the win.”
Centennial jumped out to a 7-0 lead and later went on an 11-0 run to take a 30-16 halftime lead. Crawford scored the first six points in the run, then Finley Blackmore followed with five more.
Crawford had 13 points in the first two quarters.
“I thought the first half we played really well,” DeJong said. “We got off to a great start, we were making shots, and we were playing well.”
Pratt went scoreless in the first half, but she had nine of the Jaguars’ 11 points in the third quarter. Her 3-point goal gave Centennial a 37-20 lead midway through the period, its largest of the game.
“I was really open to do anything for my team,” Pratt said. “Look for the open pass or the open shot. It just clicked, and we got the ball moving.”
Northwest pulled to within 41-29 after three quarters, then used an 11-1 run in the final period to cut its deficit to just two points on a basket by Maas with 3:10 remaining. The Wolves’ run also included a 3-pointer by former Centennial player Aliyah Al-Hameed, who finished with five points.
The Jaguars struggled against Northwest’s full-court press.
“We knew they were going to throw the press at us,” Pratt said. “Once we got people in the right spots, we executed very well.”
The Wolves had a chance to tie the game or take the lead, but a pass from Al-Hameed was mishandled and went out of bounds with 2:30 left. Pratt then scored a basket in the lane 18 seconds later.
“That’s what you’d expect from her,” DeJong said of Pratt’s big second half. “She did miss a couple of easy ones, and Mya was a little uncharacteristic against the press (with six turnovers), but it’s learning. Mya has never been a point guard before, and even though we don’t have the senior leadership, I think we’re growing.”
Centennial’s Tillie Smith scored nine points. Blackmore chipped in seven.
The Jaguars will travel to Southeast Polk on Friday for another conference game against the No. 11 Rams, who are 2-5 in the league and 6-5 overall after dropping a 74-46 decision to No. 1 Johnston on Tuesday.