TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Central girls basketball coach Heather Simpson will take a post-game dousing any time.
Simpson emerged from her team’s locker room looking slightly soaked, the result of the Trojans celebrating a 24-21 victory over Traverse City West on Friday at Central High School.
A strong finish propelled the Trojans to the win as they outscored the Titans 10-4 in the fourth quarter, helped by some key turnovers forced by Central’s defense.
“We keep talking — keep playing defense, playing defense and reward yourself,” said Simpson. “When we can’t score, we’re lucky because we know our defense will be there. We finished. We talked all week about finishing and rewarding yourself. Just work really hard, reward yourself with (a win).”
The Trojans trailed 17-12 late in the third quarter — their largest deficit of the night — but picked up their play on both ends of the floor in the fourth. Jennifer Rose tied the game 18-18 when she sliced between two West players to grab a loose ball and drove in for a layup. A minute later the Trojans went ahead for good on a jumper from Carolyn Wynkoop, who led all scorers with eight points.
West had one last chance to force overtime, but couldn’t bury a three-pointer with time winding down.
Simpson said she wasn’t concerned when Central fell behind by five because she is confident in her team’s ability to get stops.
“I felt that we were always in it,” she said. “We play such good defense I always think we’re in the game. We don’t look at it as points. We look at it as stops. It seems to work a lot better. We just gathered ourselves at a timeout and said, ‘let’s get it together.’”
The contest was a grind throughout the night as both teams struggled to put the ball in the basket and were forced into 31 turnovers. The game was close all night, however, with no lead larger than five, six ties and six lead changes.