Century girls suffer narrow play-in loss to Cleveland
There's only one good way to end a season, and a championship wasn't in the cards for this year's Century Jaguar girls basketball team. But after battling their way into the play-in round of this year's state playoffs, Saturday's 47-45 loss to Cleveland was a tough way to go out.
The Warriors' junior guard Grace Pytynia-Hillier hit two free throws with under a minute remaining to break a 45-45 tie, and the Jags' two final second shot attempts missed the mark, leaving Century on the wrong end of a hard-fought battle no one really deserved to lose.
"I was proud of the girls," said Century head coach Dave Gainey. "I thought our kids battled and I thought when we tied it up near the end we had a good shot, but it didn't work out."
Cleveland shot lights out from distance, making nine three-pointers, eight of which were in the first three quarters. Then hung-on throughout an ice cold fourth quarter that saw the Warriors score but five points before Pytynia's final two free throws.
Pytynia led Cleveland with 14 points, hitting four shots from beyond the arc, three in the first nine minutes.
"They did a great job shooting the ball," said Gainey. "We knew they'd shoot it a lot outside, but I didn't expect them to shoot it as well as they did."
The Century coach also noted their physicality, which limited the Jaguars' post game and took 6-foot-6 sophomore Amy Walkenhorst out of her comfort zone.
"I thought they had the right plan," said the coach. "They were really physical inside with Amy and the refs let it be physical. They called it the same both ways, but they did a better job handling it than we did."
Century senior Jackie Padilla led the Jags with 14 points and took one of two Century shots in the final seconds to tie the game, but it wasn't her shot that missed that Gainey regretted, but more so the one she passed-up.
"I think Jackie passed up a three with about 15 seconds left that she probably should've taken, because she was really the only one who was shooting it well tonight," Gainey said. "But we've spent so much time talking about not wanting to shoot the ball with too much time left on the clock, I understand where her head was at."
The Warriors led by one after a quarter, by two at the half, and four at the end of three quarters before the Jaguars stepped up.
After Cleveland's Elsie Kloeppel opened the quarter with a three to make it 43-36, Century's Sarah Gruber made two free throws to get the Jags within five. Then, following a free throw by both Janelle Maligaya and senior Taylor Coleman-Lloyd, Padilla made a three to tie the game 43-43 before sophomore guard Angela Baltazar's two free throws gave Century its first lead since it was 4-3.
Cleveland tied it shortly after when sophomore Kaiea Waiwaiole scored on a mid-range jumper, then the Jags failed on the ensuing trip down the floor before Pytynia's free throws ultimately decided the game.
Despite the loss, Gainey was happy with the performance and spoke to the invaluable experience his young squad gained from the postseason contest. Yet ideally, he'd have liked one more.
"I think that in the big picture it's good for the young kids to get a taste of this," Gainey said. "I was hoping we'd get this win tonight so we'd get to go play one of the big teams so we could be part of a "big deal," but it just didn't happen."
Now, with the season behind them, the coach is looking forward to next season — which will be in the new Pacific Conference — to build on what they started this year.
"It'll be nice to get in that new league from a physical standpoint," said the coach. "We need to get in the weight room and improve our physicality. Also, our decision making and passing need to get better, and we need to shoot free throws better. But this is a young team and next year should be fun."
In addition to Padilla, Century was led by Maligaya who had 12 points and eight rebounds, while Baltazar chipped-in 10 points.