After first round playoff exit, Wiley discusses Central girls’ season

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Central’s Grace Kuehl brings the ball up the court on a fast break. (Photos by Bev Hamann)

Ashlyn Scherf looks for an open teammate in the Warriors’ first round playoff loss to West Central.

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


The Central girls basketball season began with three wins in a row, behind a formidable offense and a defense worthy enough to carry the load. It ended, however in the exact opposite fashion, with a three-game losing streak, an offense that struggled to score over 30 points a game and a defense that could not hold. 


The season ended last week with a 49-38 loss in the final regular season game against Turkey Valley, followed by a 44-33 loss to West Central in the first round of the playoffs. 


“We had an up and down season on the basketball court in terms of victories, but in every game, there were positive things from our ability to rebound, cause turnovers from the opponent or attacking the rim to get on an offensive run,” reflected head coach Mark Wiley. “We relied on our zone defense often too much, and we need to get more assertive with our man-to-man defense. Our ability to shoot the basketball was a struggle, and really becoming a great shooter is a year-round process. We had a lot of inexperience on the court and our youthfulness showed through.”


The game against Turkey Valley started off well, as Central took a four-point lead into halftime. But between adjustments, Warrior turnovers and a third period where the Warriors were outscored by 11 points, Turkey Valley was able to pull away to victory. 


Points were hard to come by, and only Delaney Scherf, with 15, scored in double digits. Abby Cummer and Ashlyn Scherf each had six points in the game, while Grace Kuehl had four, Lexi Loan had three and Carly Kluesner had two. 


The team shot a decent 41.2 percent from the field, which was higher than Turkey Valley’s 28.6 percent, but the Trojans had 22 more shot attempts and won the free throw battle, making 12 of 19 while the Warriors made nine on just 11 attempts. 


Cummer led Central in the rebounding category with 10. Ashlyn Scherf had six rebounds and Kuehl grabbed five. 


“We won the rebounding category, 36 to 27. We had 17 second-chance points in the game, which kept us in the lead during the first half. We had a lull in the third quarter on offense and Turkey Valley drew fouls to get to the free throw line,” Wiley said. “The turnovers were a major difference in the game. Pressure defense from Turkey Valley led to these turnovers and we did not distribute the basketball in the half court like we need to in order to be successful.” 


The Warriors limped into the playoffs with an overall 10-12 record, and going 4-6 in the 10 games prior to meeting West Central in the first round. 


What followed was a lopsided affair, as shooting troubles and defensive lapses allowed the Blue Devils to get out to a 16-point lead by halftime, after holding the Warriors to six points or less in the first two periods. 


“It was a tough first half on the offensive end and West Central had a good game plan against our 1-3-1 defense. We played man to man in the second half and got stops on the defensive end, just not enough. Offensively, we looked to attack better. We got the score back to single digits, had a chance at an inside shot, but weren’t able to convert. We battled better in the second half, just couldn’t get enough shots to fall from the perimeter…The difference in the game was shooting percentage, where West Central shot 49 percent from the floor,” Wiley explained.  


Haley Frieden led the team in the scoring column with 12 points. Ashlyn Scherf had six points, Hannah Asche had five, Carly Kluesner had four and Kuehl and Delaney Scherf each had three. 


Ashlyn Scherf led the team with six rebounds. Kuehl grabbed five, while Asche and Frieden each had four. 


Delaney Scherf had four steals to lead the way on the defensive end. Carly Kluesner and Madison Sylvester provided a spark off the bench, with Kluesner snagging two steals and Sylvester grabbing a fourth-quarter steal when Central was down nine.


“Rebounding was a tough category because we shot just 23 percent in the game and West Central collected 32 defensive rebounds off those misses. Nevertheless, we did grab 15 offensive rebounds, just converting 10 points off of those,” Wiley said. 


With the season over, Wiley spoke about the challenges, progress and players, comparing this season with the amazing run from last year. One of the new challenges was a lack of practices. 


“We had a total of seven practices after coming back from winter break in the month of January. We had some tough stretches where we had four games in a row without a practice. This wasn’t any specific fault of scheduling or individual; it was just harder to prepare with a younger team for opponents due to weather cancellations,” Wiley explained. “I don’t see missing components of the team, rather we were working each time we had practice to try to improve on our weaknesses.” 


Even so, Wiley praised the team that performed under restrictions previous squads have not endured. He commented on the character of the players and their ability to overcome adversity. He also spoke about the future of the program and the work and practice necessary for the returning players to improve next season. 


Wiley specifically wanted to recognize the senior players, Cummer, Maci Kluesner and Sylvester, and the leadership they provided to the younger players. 


“We have the ability to make great strides forward before next season. That means the 10 returning letter winners from this season need to put time and quality time in the gym. Not just shooting the basketball, but being better defensively and learning to play together more as a cohesive team on the floor. We all have weaknesses, including coach...We want to become the best version of ourselves to help the team be successful next season,” Wiley concluded. 

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