The Crusaders appeared to be on the right track after one quarter, but the Tigers used a strong final three quarters to bury Saxony and post a 46-29 victory at home Wednesday.
Saxony got off to a strong start, leading 9-8 after the first quarter thanks to intense defensive pressure.
"We were boxing out very well inside," Crusaders coach Rick Chastain. "Just giving them one shot. We were able to get some defensive rebounds. The basic thing was we were playing very, very good defense in the first quarter."
The Tigers seemed sluggish at the start, committing careless turnovers and appearing lax on the defensive end.
The Tigers turned the tide in the second quarter.
Central increased its defensive pressure and used a 6-0 spurt midway through the second quarter to take a lead it never relinquished.
Saxony took a 12-11 lead after Abby Hartmann drained two free throws, but Central answered.
Chelsea Pannier netted two free throws and added a basket, and Megan Daly added two points to take a 17-12 lead.
The Tigers held the Crusaders to just six points in the second quarter, taking a 19-15 lead into the half.
"We were switching our defenses up," Shirrell said. "Trying a few new things that we hadn't tried before. Threw those in there tonight and wanted to see what we could do with them, and a couple of them worked."
Central gained more separation in the third quarter.
The Tigers limited the Crusaders to another six-point quarter and used five different scorers to increase their lead to 30-21.
"We were just working harder," Pannier said of the second half. "They got a little tired because they don't have very many people. We just started working harder in the second half. We got a good butt chewing in the locker room, so we played a lot better in the second half."
The Crusaders were able to manage clean looks at the basket but failed to convert.
"We had opportunity after opportunity," Chastain said. "We just couldn't get the ball to drop. We had some good looks at the basket, we just didn't have somebody to step up and make those shots tonight. But we're going to keep shooting because you can't score unless you shoot."
Pannier took over in the second half. The senior netted 15 of her game-high 21 points, with 10 coming in the fourth quarter.
"Chelsea Pannier was struggling with her shot in the first half," Shirrell said. "I told her at halftime, I said, 'It happens. You're going to miss your shot. You just got to keep shooting, so start taking it to the basket and keep shooting and your shot will come.'"
Central blew open the game in the fourth quarter.
The Tigers headed into the quarter with a 30-21 lead but quickly extended that with a full-court trap.
"We put on a press and we got a few turnovers out of it," Shirrell said. "And with Pannier taking the ball to the hole like she was in the fourth quarter and third quarter, it helped us offensively because our defense stepped up a little bit."
Added Chastain: "The legs weren't there for us for whatever reason because we work hard each and every day in practice. But again, a lot of that has to do with what Cape Central did to us. They get a lot of credit."
SAXONY LUTHERAN (29) -- Abby Hartmann 8, Julia Steffens 10, Lauren Hecht 7, Natalie Mueller 4. FG 9, FT 11-21, F 15. (3-pointers: none. Fouled out: none)
CENTRAL (46) -- Alayah Cooper-Johnson 4, Chelsea Pannier 21, Tori Scheller 3, Megan Daly 2, Chelsea Vinson 11, Stevie Buchheit 2, Katie Williams 3. FG 17, FT 11-18, F 17. (3-pointers: Pannier. Fouled out: none)