KNOXVILLE — All good things must come to an end.
That was the case Tuesday night when the Redettes from Centerville came calling on the Panthers of Knoxville. Both teams were unbeaten in conference and the spoils of victory would be sole possession of the South Central Conference lead.
Knoxville had led the conference for 35 games including three conference championships, so it was hard to let it go as Centerville proved to be a tough matchup for the Panthers.
The first problem for the Panthers was the size factor and the Redettes had plenty of size with six-foot Rachel George doing much damage. Secondly was the quickness on defense as the tandem of Claire Matthews and Mickey Stephens tormented the Knoxville offensive attack.
The third problem was that Knoxville had not played in 17 days while Centerville whipped Fairfield the night before. The rust was evident in the opening quarter as the Redettes jumped out to an 18-5 lead. The only points the Panthers could muster would be an inside bucket by Marley McKay, a shot in the lane by Maggie Wilkins and a free throw by Norah Pearson.
Knoxville changed defenses in the second quarter and the result was a five minute scoring drought by the Reds. Meanwhile the Panthers went on an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to 18-13. In that run Wilkins had a perimeter basket and a pair of free throws while Emma Dunkin added a mid-range shot and a pair of charity tosses. The teams matched points for the rest of the first half and Knoxville was trailing by four at 24-20 going into intermission.
Things were looking up for the Panthers in the third stanza as they outscored the Redettes 21-14 to take a 41-38 lead heading into the final eight minutes. Wilkins was on fire coming out of the break as she scored nine points in the first two minutes of the second half. Ashlyn Finarty chipped in with a bucket and a pair of free throws and McKay drained a three.
But a four minute cold snap in the front half of the final period spelled doom for Knoxville. In that time, Centerville went on an 11-2 run to take a 49-43 lead and then the Redettes hit free throws down the stretch to take the 60-52 win and the outright lead in the SCC.
Wilkins knocked down 33 points despite being hassled by double and triple team efforts. She also yanked down nine rebounds and grabbed a pair of steals. But the rest of the Panthers managed only 19 points collectively.
George would lead Centerville with 18 points and Matthews checked in with 16 points.
Knoxville is now 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the SCC. There will be a rematch later in the season in Centerville and you would expect that the Panthers have that date circled on the calendar already. But before that, they must take care of business and that begins Friday night in Albia when they hope to start a new streak.
Centerville, now 7-0 overall this season and 3-0 in SCC play, will look to stay perfect and alone in front in the conference standings on Friday night. The Redettes travel to Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont to face the Rockets at approximately 6:15 p.m.
Centerville 18 6 14 22 - 60
Knoxville 5 15 21 11 - 52
Knoxville scoring (FG FTM-FTA Pts) – Maggie Wilkins 12 6-8 33, Marley McKay 2 0-0 5, Ashlyn Finarty 1 3-6 5, Emma Dunkin 2 4-4 8, Norah Pearson 0 1-2 1. Team 17 14-20 52. Three point goals (4) – Wilkins 3, McKay 1.
Knoxville rebounds (28) – Wilkins 9, Tara Uitermarkt 7, Dunkin 5, McKay 4, Finarity 2, Pearson 1.
Knoxville steals (5) – Wilkins 2, Pearson 2, Uitermarkt 1.