PARK HILLS – Central has become a model of consistency and excellence among MAAA girls basketball teams, as evidenced by recent performances at the league’s premier showcase.
Another fast start was sustained by stifling defense in a battle of highest seeds Saturday night, and the Lady Rebels derailed Arcadia Valley 64-33 to win their fourth straight conference tournament title.
Perimeter play factored heavily in the lopsided final margin. Central (22-1) knocked down several open shots while similar opportunities rarely presented themselves to Arcadia Valley (20-3).
Junior guard Olivia Casey sank 6-of-9 attempts from 3-point range, including four in the third quarter alone, and scored a game-high 20 points.
She connected twice from the left side during an initial 8-0 spurt, and Central never trailed. Kenzie Jones had 11 points and fellow senior Sydney Skaggs compiled 10 points with 10 rebounds.
Megan Skaggs had 10 points after totaling 55 in two previous rounds, and senior Peyton Caldwell added nine as Central claimed its 19th consecutive win.
The Lady Tigers advanced through the bracket with hard-fought wins over Ste. Genevieve and North County, and looked to settle in after getting three successive field goals off broken pressure.
But half-court sets were a different story. Jones drew the primary assignment of guarding Anna Thomas, and the leading AV scorer was limited to two second-quarter baskets and minimal touches.
“I think for defense and rebounding, that may have been our best game all year,” Central coach Josh Mapes said. “We limited them on second shots and they’re a good team.”
Central, ranked fourth by the MCBA in Class 3, patiently spread the ball around and eventually increased the lead to 29-14 deep into the second quarter.
Sydney Skaggs was responsible for six points on second chances during the stanza. She dished a rebound to Caldwell for an easy layup after scoring her own putback.
Senior forward Kristen Williams posted 10 points and sophomore Briar Johnson had seven for the Small-School division champion Lady Tigers, who trailed 35-18 at halftime.
Casey resumed her onslaught from the outside with back-to-back threes out of the locker room. Jones forced an ensuing 5-second call, and Caldwell struck from the right corner to cap an emphatic 9-0 run.
The Central defense further tightened its grip, holding the Lady Tigers to just two second-half field goals. AV managed to convert 12-of-16 free throws.
Pull-up jumpers by Jones and Megan Skaggs on consecutive possessions created a 60-24 spread heading into a continuous fourth quarter.
Arcadia Valley carried a 12-game win streak after escaping an overtime thriller on Thursday. Each of its three losses have been dealt by state-ranked opponents.
The teams are scheduled to meet again on Monday if weather conditions allow, and district tournament action is set to begin on Saturday.
Central was a perfect 6-of-6 at the line and committed eight turnovers. Arcadia Valley finished the night 24 percent from the field.
Arcadia Valley 10 8 6 9 – 33
Central 18 17 25 4 – 64
Arcadia Valley – Kristen Williams 10, Briar Johnson 7, Anna Thomas 5, Jerrika Brockes 5, Savannah Price 3, Megan Williams 2, Kinsey Phelps 1. 3-point FG – Brockes. (FT: 12-16)
Central – Olivia Casey 20, Kenzie Jones 11, Sydney Skaggs 10, Megan Skaggs 10, Peyton Caldwell 9, Kayla McCain 2, Karissa Belfield 2. 3-point FG – Casey 6, Jones, Caldwell. (FT: 6-6)
Matt King is a sports reporter for the Daily Journal. Contact him at email@example.comâ€‹