The Central Cougars defeated the Nashville Hornettes 37-33 in the championship game of the Class 2A Wesclin Sectional on Friday night.
It was the fourth consecutive season the teams have played for the sectional title, with the Cougars now having won three of them.
With the win, Central (29-3) advances to Monday night’s Jacksonville Super-Sectional, where it will face Athens. The Warriors defeated Litchfield 42-38 in the title game of the Litchfield Sectional on Thursday.
Down early, Central outscored the Hornettes 15-5 in the second quarter to overcome an early deficit and take a 17-14 lead into halftime.
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Central tried to extend its advantage in the third quarter, but Nashville senior standout Jordi Harre would not let the Cougars pull away.
Harre scored twice on step-back 3-pointers and also sank two free throws, tying the game at 23.
“What can I say about Jordi, she’s put up with me for four years” said Nashville coach Wayne Harre, of his daughter Jordi, who scored 12 of her team’s 17 second-half points. “She’s the smartest player I’ve ever coached, and I’ve coached boys as well.”
But Central all-state junior center Kendra Wilkin made sure the final outcome would belong to the Cougars.
Down 32-30 with just three minutes to play, Wilken received a technical foul for arguing a jump ball call. Cougars coach Nathan Rueter immediately removed her from the game.
“I pulled her to the side and reminded her that we talked to her about their strategy before the game” said Rueter. “You have no one to blame for this but yourself, now go out there and make a big play for us.”
Wilken, who was held to a single basket, listened to the advice, returning to the floor and scoring a game-tying bucket. She also assisted on the biggest basket of the game, a 3-pointer by junior guard Alicia Book, which gave Central the lead for good with about 40 seconds left.
Book later sank two late free throws to seal the win for the Cougars.
Nashville senior guard Emily Thompson opened the game with a 3-pointer, which helped Nashville sprint to a 7-0 lead.
Central opened the second quarter with 10 straight points, mostly on layups and including a 3-pointer from junior Grace Yaunches.
“We started off slow and they came out hot,” Wilken said. “We figured out what defense they were in and figured out what offense would work and we did a good job executing.”