TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Central scored 16 points in the first nine minutes of Friday's girls basketball game with Gaylord.
Then the Trojans sat on that point total for awhile. Ten minutes, to be exact.
Central's scoring drought between the second and third quarters proved costly as Gaylord came away with a 46-34 victory at Central High School.
A quick start had the Trojans in the lead, 16-5, early in the second quarter, but then they went cold until the midpoint of the third quarter. By the time they scored on a free throw from Jennifer Rose, Central's lead had disappeared and it trailed by four points.
"A lot of the shots, they were good looks," said Central coach Heather Simpson. "They weren't falling. It's just a matter of, when you have those moments, we've got to be able to get out of them and we've got to be able to pick ourselves up and get a basket when we need one, and make a good pass when we need a good pass. We struggle with that."
Part of Central's struggles were a result of tough Gaylord defense, which smothered Central when it tried to get good shots in the paint.
"I thought our low post girls did a great job of fronting their post players," said Gaylord coach Frank Hamilla. "They were trying to get it inside because they had a height advantage at every spot. I thought our post defense, with the girl in front and our weak-side help, did a great job."
The Blue Devils also contained Central leading scorer Margot Woughter. The freshman guard led the Trojans with 11 points, but was forced to take shots from the outside.
"We did a great job of stopping Margot from penetrating," said Hamilla. "The first time we played her she broke us down defensively, and when we got the help, she dished off to other girls."
Brandi Wagner and Casey Korte each had 13 points to lead the Blue Devils.
Breakdowns defensively by the Trojans allowed Gaylord to get some easy buckets to start the fourth as the Blue Devils built a 10-point lead, 31-21. The game wasn't over yet, though, as Central pulled within six with three minutes to go. Free throw struggles at inopportune times in crunch time — Central went 2 for 5 in the final quarter — cost it a chance to pull closer than that the rest of the way.
The contest was essentially a battle for second place in the Big North Conference, with Gaylord (10-2, 6-1 BNC) entering the game with a one-game lead over the Trojans (5-8, 4-3). It's been quite the turnaround in the middle of the season for the Trojans, who dropped their first five contests of the year.
"We had opportunities," said Simpson. "It's not anything you want to hang your head (about). We just didn't take advantage of them. The great thing about that is these are things we can fix.
"We're finally playing in some big games, where they're meaningful. Is that something we're not used to? Credit Gaylord. They're scrappy."
Gaylord won the junior varsity game 36-30. Jalynn Brumfield and Mary Drake each had 10 points for the Trojans (6-7). In the freshman game Gaylord posted a 57-42 win. For Central (3-10), Hanna Hull had 12 points and Karly Domine 11.