(Story by Gabe Ploeger)
In a game that never lacked competitive spirit, the fifth-ranked Ankeny Centennial girls’ basketball team closed out the regular season on Friday with a 48-44 victory over visiting Waukee Northwest, the No. 12 squad in Class 5A.
The Jaguars outscored Northwest in the fourth quarter, 13-9, to break away from a 35-35 tie.
“It was a hard-fought game,” said Centennial coach Scott DeJong, whose team had posted a 52-45 win at Northwest last month. “Our defense really picked up at the end, and we just made a couple of baskets. Points were hard to come by.”
The Wolves had a physical advantage as 6-foot-1 senior Sadie Maas grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds, but Centennial’s defense held her to only five points. The Jaguars also limited former Centennial guard Aliyah Al-Hameed to 10 points.
It was a back-and-forth matchup, but Centennial junior Jaeden Pratt led the way offensively, tying her career-high with 20 points. She also had six rebounds and two assists.
“We told them at halftime that this is a really good team, and it’s great preparation for going into tournament play,” DeJong said. “To come through when we may not have played our best tonight, it’s a good sign.”
Centennial’s Mya Crawford began to find her rhythm in the third quarter. She finished with 15 points, four steals and a block.
Crawford went 9-of-10 at the free-throw line. She made two of those attempts with 8 seconds left after poking the ball loose and drawing a foul as she dove on top of the ball.
“We had a couple of big steals at the end, and Mya put the free throws in,” DeJong said. “She played tough, and she had plays at the end on defense. The game is played on two sides, offense and defense, and our defense was really big tonight.”
Tillie Smith added nine points on 3-of-5 3-pointers for the Jaguars, who finished 9-7 in the CIML Conference and improved to 12-8 overall. Northwest’s records are now 5-11 and 9-11.
Centennial will have a week to prepare for its postseason opener. The Jaguars will host Council Bluffs Jefferson (1-20) or Sioux City North (4-16) in a regional semifinal on Saturday at 7 p.m.