Larryn Brown scored 24 points Friday night to lead defending 11th Region girls' basketball champion Madison Central to a come-from-behind 73-65 win at Paul Laurence Dunbar.
"This is a statement game for us," said Brooks, a 5-foot-5 junior guard. "We really needed this win just to make a statement."
In a game that matched teams tied for ninth in Dave Cantrall's Rating the State, that statement made it clear that the Indians intend to defend their region title.
Central (24-4) won its eighth game in a row and for the 18th time in 19 games.
Never miss a local story.
Ashton Feldhaus added 14 points for the winners and Kristin Congleton scored 11.
Dunbar (23-6) lost for only the second time in 17 games.
Morgan McEldowney hit three three-pointers and finished with 18 points to pace the Bulldogs. Lakeena Parks was next with 15 points, while Jordin Fender scored 13.
"A hard-fought game with a definite late-tournament feel," Dunbar Coach Sarah Van Horn said. "We knew that coming into it. The girls played hard."
Free throws were a big difference. With Brooks going 16-for-19, Madison Central finished 25-for-31 at the line. Dunbar shot 7-for-14.
The Bulldogs led 43-33 inside the final minute of the half.
Brooks converted a three-point play to make it 43-36 at intermission, the start of a 12-0 run.
Dunbar, which shot 6-for-10 from three-point range in the first half, went 0-for-8 the rest of the night.
"We told our kids at halftime that we are shooting the ball well, but we know that's not really our game," Van Horn said. "We kind of fell into that hole where we thought we could shoot it a little bit. We learn from these mistakes as we move forward."
Central made quick work of the halftime deficit.
Central's nine points to open the second half came on three-pointers by Feldhaus and Heather Hinkle, and with Brooks going 3-for-4 at the free-throw line.
"We just wanted to chip away at it," Central Coach Robert Cooksey said. "... We've got kids that are poised, and you don't have to say a whole lot. They pick up on what needs to be done and how they need to do it. That's the benefit of having kids who've won the region in the state tournament and have played excellent competition. They know what they've got to do."
One of the assignments involved boardwork.
"The thing the coach said (at halftime) was rebounds — we need to rebound the ball," Brooks said. "So we did that, and we controlled the ball most of the game, and we got a lot of steals. Once we got in our game and pushed it through, we kind of took the lead from there."
Dunbar didn't fold.
McEldowney's three-point play with 6:33 left put the Bulldogs ahead 57-55.
Tied at 61 and 63, Central took the lead for keeps when Feldhaus drained a three with 1:34 left, starting an 8-0 run that included three free throws by Brooks and two by Heather Hinkle.
MADISON CENTRAL (24-4) — A. Hinkle 9, Brooks 24, Feldhaus 14, H. Hinkle 7, Congleton 11, O'Bryan 4, Minter 3, Miller 1.
DUNBAR (23-6) — McEldowney 18, Hieronymous 0, Raglin 2, Brown 0, Kelsey 0, Fender 13, Muhammad 5, Todd 4, Parks 15, Jackson 3, Edwards 5.
Madison Central 21 15 17 20—73
Paul Laurence Dunbar 19 24 8 14—65