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Central girls reach district semis with 49-46 win
JACKSON -- Central found itself down two points in the middle of a dogfight in its Class 5 District 1 opener Monday night.
With less than 4 minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Tigers' Wendi Zickfield and Sadie Pittman willed their team past Fox.
The Central duo combined for 11 of the team's final 13 points as the Tigers escaped with a 49-46 victory.
"We wanted the basketball in Sadie's hands, and we were trying to get it to Wendi on the inside," Central coach Sherri Shirrell said. "We did talk about that a little bit. But I think their leadership just came out on the floor."
Pittman and Zickfield scored four points apiece as the Tigers went from two points down to a six-point lead with 1 minute, 44 seconds left.
"It's just what Sadie and I do," Zickfield said. "It just works like that. We just have times where we can do that. It worked out."
Fox closed to within four points, 44-40, when things got really interesting.
Central (13-12) tried to inbound the ball, but a Fox player hit the ball before it could be inbounded, resulting in a technical foul.
Zickfield stepped to the line with a chance to build on her team's lead, but could only make one of her two attempts.
After the Tigers' defense forced a turnover, Central's Chelsea Pannier went to the line with the opportunity to pad her team's cushion, but she missed the front end of her 1-and-1.
Fox's Amanda Gazall answered by nailing a 3-pointer, keeping her team alive at 45-43 with 25 seconds left.
On the inbound play, the Tigers sent Zickfield streaking to the other end of the court. She corralled the pass and went up for a layup, but got drilled from behind and went crashing into the protective pad against the wall. Fox was whistled for an intentional foul on the play.
"I've had it happen to me more than once and have learned how to control my temper whenever it comes to things like that," Zickfield said.
She only managed to hit one of her attempts, but Central kept the ball, and Sarah Uptmor got her chance at the free-throw line. The junior responded by hitting both her attempts, giving her team a five-point lead with 16 seconds left.
While it looked like the Tigers finally could relax, Gazall didn't let them as she hit another 3-pointer from almost the identical spot as her first one, cutting the Tigers' lead to 48-46 with 9 seconds left.
Zickfield again got fouled, but could only hit one of her two tries, meaning Fox had a chance to tie the game with 7 seconds left. But the Tigers never allowed the Warriors to get off a shot, ending the nail-biter.
Shirrell said she had who she wanted at the free-throw line, even though Zickfield struggled.
"Wendi is our best free-throw shooter," Shirrell said. "She's shooting about 78 percent from the line. She's the one we want up there when that time comes."
Zickfield, who went 3-of-6 from the line in the final 37 seconds, took responsibility for her misses.
"I kind of missed them and I shouldn't have," she said. "But it happens. I've got to kind of focus more on the game."
The lead changed hands six times, and the contest was tied eight times. Neither team led by more than four points until Central opened a six-point lead with 1:44 left in the game. Pittman said that something kicked in with her team trailing midway through the fourth quarter.
"We knew what we had to do," she said. "We had to be patient and look for the open shot. We weren't up, so we had to push it down the court so we could get up."
The Tigers will try to keep their season rolling when they face top-seeded Poplar Bluff in Jackson on Wednesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.
Fox (46) -- Chelsea Suter 3, Rachel Hellmann 17, Amanda Lee 8, Monica Mays 2, Megan Lauer 6, Amanda Gazall 8, Carla Ellison 2. FG 20, FT 4-10, F 16 (3-pointers: Gazall 3. Fouled out: Hellmann)
Central (49) -- Sadie Pittman 10, Starr Harris 1, Tierra Walker 4, Chelsea Pannier 9, Breia Twiggs 2, Taylor Kirn 1, Sarah Uptmor 8, Wendi Zickfield 14. FG 20, FT 11-22, F 15 (3-pointers: Uptmor 2. Fouled out: None)