The gauntlet continued on Monday for the Ankeny Centennial girls’ basketball team.
Facing a top-four opponent for the third time in a week, the fifth-ranked Jaguars got off to a slow start on their home court and eventually dropped a 51-45 decision to No. 3 Dowling Catholic.
“We played hard enough, but we’ve just got to play a little bit better,” said Centennial coach Scott DeJong. “That’s probably the bottom line.”
Centennial has now lost to No. 4 Waukee, No. 1 Johnston and Dowling by a combined 18 points in the last seven days. The Jaguars lost to the same three teams by a combined 67 points last month.
“We’ve improved. There’s no question about that,” DeJong said. “We’ve got a couple weeks left in the season. The question is whether we can keep moving forward. If we can, we feel pretty good about where we can be.”
Ava Zediker scored 24 points as Dowling improved to 11-3 in the CIML Conference and 14-4 overall. The Maroons moved into sole possession of second place in the league.
Centennial’s records dropped to 6-7 and 9-8. The Jaguars had lost at Dowling, 60-34, on Dec. 1.
Mya Crawford scored 22 points for the second straight game, matching her career-high. She also had three steals and a block.
Jaeden Pratt added 16 points and five rebounds for the Jaguars, who went 0-for-6 from 3-point range.
“Mya and Jaeden both made some tough shots, but their defense is very good,” DeJong said. “We had a couple open looks from 3. If we could’ve got one of them down, I think it would have been better maybe.”
Dowling jumped out to an early 9-4 lead, but Centennial then answered with a 14-5 run to build an 18-14 advantage midway through the second quarter. Pratt scored six consecutive points to ignite the run.
The Maroons closed out the first half with a 6-0 run to take a 20-18 lead, then reeled off nine straight points in the third quarter to build a 29-20 margin. However, the Jaguars then responded with a 9-0 run of their own to tie it up, getting seven points from Crawford during that stretch.
“I thought we had a slow start, but we came back in the third quarter when we were down by nine,” DeJong said. “We tied it up, but it’s just tough when you’re coming back against all these good teams. We’ve just got to be a little more consistent with our play.”
Dowling took the lead for good, 33-31, on a basket by Ellie Muller at the end of the third quarter. She then followed with a 3-pointer and another basket to extend the margin to 38-31 early in the final period.
The Jaguars later pulled to within 49-44 on a basket by Crawford with 1 minute 14 seconds left, but Dowling then took nearly a full minute off the clock as Centennial was forced to foul to put the Maroons into the bonus. Layla Trytten made two free throws with 17.9 seconds to go to seal the win.
Muller finished with 11 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. She went 5-of-6 from the field.
The Jaguars will play a conference game at No. 9 Ankeny (5-7, 10-7) on Friday. The Hawkettes will be looking to avenge a 50-49 loss at Centennial on Dec. 19.