Marvel Comics recently debuted a new character – Riri Williams – who replaced Tony Stark in the role of Iron Man. She goes by Ironheart.
Should Williams need to take time off, any one of Madison Central’s starting five might just have the heart to fill the void.
The Indians’ first unit played the entire 32 minutes of a 52-49 win over Paul Laurence Dunbar in the final first-round game of the 11th Region girls’ basketball tournament.
Kasi Schneid drilled a go-ahead three-pointer with 1:30 remaining to help lift the Indians, who avenged a 56-55 loss to Dunbar in the final game of the regular season. She finished with five points and seven rebounds.
Schneid was 0-for-7 from the field and didn’t attempt a free throw in the first half.
“She’s always rose to the occasion” Madison Central Coach Robert Cooksey said. “She’s a gamer. Whether it’s soccer, whether it’s softball, whether it’s basketball, she is a gamer. She’s not afraid to be the hero or the goat, and that says a lot about her.”
Schneid is one of four seniors who start for the Indians along with junior Bailee Vanover. All five have gone the distance in most of their games barring foul trouble, said senior star Lindsey Johns.
“You kind of just get used to it, playing the whole game,” Johns said with a laugh as she described the Indians’ conditioning routine, which included a lot of summer running. She ended with a game-high 22 points, scoring seven of her nine points in the final period at the free-throw line.
Dunbar took a 38-36 lead into the final quarter after at one time leading by six points, the largest advantage for either team in the game. Madison Central didn’t take its largest lead, three points, until a Johns layup with 53 seconds left in the game.
Cooksey said the Indians’ game isn’t hard to figure out – they want to slow things down to give their best girls as good a chance as possible to play at a high level while going the distance.
“It’s kind of old-fashioned basketball but we feel like we’re more productive when we’ve got those five girls in the game,” Cooksey said. “ … You’ve got a lot of starts in between those five and we’ve gone with ’em.”
He felt like the Indians would see Dunbar again after a made free throw cost them a victory on the Bulldogs’ Senior Night a couple of weeks ago. Cooksey just didn’t expect it to happen so quickly.
“To be a winner in the district and draw them as a loser was a tough draw,” he said. “But our kids fought and scrapped. I really felt like, even when we got down five or six points, I always felt like we were still in the game.”
Cooksey was pleased with his team’s charity-stripe performance given its issues at the line most of the season. The Indians, 60.4-percent shooters at the line coming into Tuesday, made 16 of their 19 attempts.
Mallie Cornett finished with eight points and a game-high 11 rebounds for Madison Central, which will take on two-time defending champion Franklin County in the semifinals on Friday. The Flyers knocked out Henry Clay earlier Tuesday night.
“They put it on us pretty good down there at their place,” Cooksey said, referring to his team’s 59-33 loss at Franklin County on Jan. 30. “We’re happy to be in the situation. We want to embrace the moment and come out here and try to get a good game plan.
“Obviously playing five, we’re not gonna sprint up and down the floor. I’m sure they know we want to try and slow it down and I know they want to try and speed it up. We’ve got a lot of respect for ’em.”
Autumn Herriford, a senior who recently joined Dunbar’s 1,000-point club, led the Bulldogs with 16 points and had a game-high six assists. She was 4-for-6 from three-point range.
Madison Central 52, Paul Laurence Dunbar 49
Dunbar (19-12) — Herriford 16, Humphreys 6, Fullwood 2, Cecil 11, Cotton 14.
Mad. Central (24-9) — Cornett 8, Mack 6, Vanover 11, Johns 22, Schneid 5.