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.
Central, which improved to 3-7 overall and 3-2 in the Big North, was in front 6-5 after one period and 10-9 at the half. West led the entire third period, including a 17-14 advantage heading into the final period. Too many miscues doomed the Titans in the end, according to West head coach Dave Ginsberg.
“We gave away 20 points, but we’ve been doing it all year, whether it’s Central, whether it’s Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills, whether it’s Cadillac. Right now it’s making no difference. We’re just ineffective when it comes time to win,” said Ginsberg. “We missed 12 layups. Point-blank layups right at the rim. Some fouls we shouldn’t have made. (Missed) open perimeter shots. We shoot and shoot and shoot and shoot and shoot in practice, but when it comes time to win we haven’t learned how to do it.”
Mikenna Ray, Mikaela Ray and Carley Drzewiecki each had five points for the Titans.
Ginsberg said he takes full responsibility for his team’s shortcomings, which have left the Titans at 1-8 overall and 1-3 in the Big North.
“I’m doing a terrible job teaching this group of young ladies how to play properly and put themselves in position to win,” he said. “Maybe it’s me and coaching girls. I don’t know. I have 37 years of coaching experience and it means nothing because I can’t get them to raise their level of play, which all coaches should be able to do.”
Central won the junior varsity game 32-30. Abby Green led Central with nine points, while West was paced by 14 each from Makenna Mattson and Sara Sievers. In the freshman game Central was a 40-30 winner. Mary Drake had 15 and Carly Burns had 12 for Central. Paige Forrester had eight for West.