BY JOHN BOHNENKAMP
FORT MADISON – It was another Mya Merschman show.
But the play of her opponent, after one of its biggest struggles of the season, was in its own way impressive.
Central Lee’s 50-45 win at Holy Trinity on Friday night came down to the final minute before the Hawks were able to hold on, and much of that had to do with the Crusaders’ effort.
In the end, it was an education for both teams.
Merschman had a game-high 28 points for Central Lee (4-4), which also got 15 points from Makayla Morrison.
But the Hawks had to overcome 16 turnovers and seven missed free throws in the second half.
The game was exactly what Central Lee coach Jay Baldwin predicted.
“Well, it was one of those grinders,” he said. “And I told them before the game it would be one of those kind of games, the awkward ones you just have to fight through.”
Holy Trinity (2-6) made it difficult for the Hawks. The Crusaders had their moments of frustration, though — they scored one second-quarter point, committed 23 turnovers, and missed 18 free throws.
Those things, coach Tony Johnson said, are fixable.
“We said after the game that that’s the kind of effort we want every night,” said Johnson, whose team lost by 19 points at Danville on Tuesday night and left the Crusaders’ coaching staff searching for answers. “The shooting will come around. The free throws will come around. We’ve been in the mid-30s in turnovers the last couple of games, so we cleaned that up a bit.
“But the effort was the big thing. I told the girls that’s how we have to play every night.”
Central Lee scored the first six points of the game in the opening 28 seconds, forcing Johnson to call a quick timeout. But the Crusaders settled in, and made the game difficult for the Hawks.
“They got every bounce,” Baldwin said. “Some of those plays, I couldn’t believe. They made a lot of plays.”
Central Lee led 27-15 at halftime before the Crusaders rallied. They got to within 44-42 with 1:50 to play on Raquel Schneider’s layup, but Merschman answered with a jumper 20 seconds later, and the Hawks stayed in the lead.
“They kind of reverted back to the ‘Mya Show,’ and we’re trying to get away from that,” Baldwin said. “We’ve got to get the other girls involved. We’ll be better for that in the long run.”
Morrison hit two crucial 3-pointers to close out the third quarter to give the Hawks a 41-28 lead after Holy Trinity had gotten within six points.
“She hit a couple of big shots for them that hurt us,” Johnson said.
Schneider led Holy Trinity with 11 points. Brooke Mueller added 10.
But Johnson got big second halves from Kassi Randolph (seven points), Bailey Hellweg (six points) and Natalie Randolph (six points).
“We got a lot of contributions from different people, which was good to see,” Johnson said.