Madison Central girls' basketball coach Robbie Cooksey says his team "wants to get to Diddle Arena (for the Sweet Sixteen) as bad as anybody in any of the 16 regions."
The Lady Indians fed their hunger with a 67-60 overtime victory at Paul Laurence Dunbar in a showdown of top 15 teams Thursday night.
"These are the ones we want, the region play," said 5-foot-9 junior Jenna Cornelison, who led Madison Central with 13 points, 12 rebounds and four steals.
The 13th-rated Lady Indians won their 10th game in a row to run their record to 22-1.
Cooksey seconded Cornelison's opinion about how important it was to beat No. 11 Dunbar on its home floor. (Madison Central beat the Lady Bulldogs 64-61 in a Christmas tournament on a neutral court.)
"You've got to be able to go on the road in the 11th Region and beat a top team, and we did that," Cooksey said.
It wasn't easy.
Dunbar led by 10 points midway through the second quarter before the visitors rallied to within 26-25 at halftime. The hosts led even though star Ebony Rowe had only four points.
Madison Central edged ahead in the third quarter, but fell behind again in the fourth. It trailed 50-45 with 4:30 left.
But freshman Ashton Feldhaus hit a three-pointer, and Iesha Farris cashed a baseline jumper to tie it.
The game was tight the rest of regulation.
After Rowe hit two free throws to give Dunbar a 55-54 lead, Madison Central's Larryn Brooks hit one of two foul shots to tie it with 13 seconds left.
Rowe missed a contested layup at the buzzer, and the game went to overtime.
Madison Central dominated the extra period, taking a quick six-point lead, then hitting its free throws to close out Dunbar.
Brooks and Brislyn Sizemore had 12 points apiece for the winners. Feldhaus added 11.
Dunbar was led by Rowe's 19 points, 14 rebounds and four steals. Kristi McIntosh provided support from the perimeter, hitting five three-pointers and scoring 16 points. Christin Haney added 10 points.
In the pre-season, Lady Bulldogs Coach Mike Sowers said the top three teams in the region were Scott County, Franklin County and Madison Central, in no particular order.
"I'm sticking with that," he said. "We're knocking on the door, but they're a little better than us right now."
He pointed to Madison Central's depth as the difference Thursday night.
"They've got nine very talented kids who can play in a tight game, and we don't."
Sowers said his team wasted several chances, and he referred to "atrocious" free throw shooting (7-for-15).
"I thought the kids played tremendously hard, but their decision-making was poor, especially on the offensive end, at key parts of the game," he said. "Madison Central did a better job making plays when they had to have them."
And that will help the Indians as they chase their first-ever girls' region title.
"We've got all the confidence in the world," Cornelison said.
MADISON CENTRAL (22-1) — Cornelison 13, Sizemore 12, Feldhaus 11, Brooks 12, Busch 7, Ciolek 2, Farris 6, Parks 4.
PAUL DUNBAR (15-5) — Rowe 19, McIntosh 16, Courtney Haney 9, Christin Haney 10, Muhammed 4, Parks 2.
Madison Central 10 15 14 16 12—67
Paul Dunbar 17 9 15 14 5—60