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Perkins hopes young group grows from season of adversity

March 6, 2019

In a way, the loss Monday night by Central Community College-Columbus women’s basketball was the story of the season reduced into a 40-minute roller coaster.

After trailing by 10 at halftime, exploding to the lead in the third quarter then finding themselves in position for a regional championship midway through the fourth, the Raiders let it all slip away in a matter of moments.

The 2018-19 season began with five losses in six games, began to turn around after the new year with a 3-3 stretch in January, was peaking with a 4-2 mark in February and then all came crashing down Monday night.

Injuries and suspensions, as well as weather-related schedule changes, found ways to negatively impact the team at one point or another, sort of like how turnovers and rebounding were a Jekyll and Hyde affair at points in Monday’s game.

Simply put, CCC was on the brink of its first regional championship and never quite got there. In a trying season with many factors out of the Raider’s control, they too never quite arrived at the finished product they felt they could be.

For many, it was a valuable, albeit annoying, experience to be tested both on and off the court. That experience could bear fruit.

For a handful of others, it was a maddening way to end their time as Raiders.

“Being young is part of that, but we fought. We just kind of started off slow,” coach Billy Perkins said about the season-ending 68-60 loss to North Platte Community College.

CCC hit just 2 of 10 in the first 10 minutes, trailed by eight after the first and 33-23 at halftime before outscoring NPCC 23-7 in the third.

The Raiders were up nine early in the fourth and up five when the Knights scored the final 13 points.

“We fight, fight, fight, fight so hard to get the lead that when they started inching back in, we could never recover,” Perkins said.

Central had beaten North Platte twice already by scores of 68-62 on Jan. 11 in North Platte then 72-65 on Feb. 8.

The Knights needed a 78-67 win over Southeast Community College five nights earlier to earn a spot into Monday’s Region IX final. With the victory, North Platte advances to a game Saturday at home against United Tribes Tech.

The winner of that game advances to the 16-team national tournament that begins on March 19.

Thus, though Central came into the night 10-14 and were 3-10 at one point this season, it all could have been a happy ending. Could have. That’s the frustrating part.

“The hard thing is, we had beaten them twice. For us to come in and not really perform in the first quarter was really disappointing because we were one win away from doing something that’s never happened at Central that I know of,” Perkins said.

“For what we’ve been through, the ups and downs, maintaining focus, growing as a team and stay together as a team, shows the character of our girl.”

Central ended 10-15 scoring 63.5 points per game while shooting 39 percent and 27 percent from long range. Monica Brooks (13.9), Day Gardner (12.2) and Alexis Ramaekers (10.2) each averaged in double figures.

Brooks also pulled down 8.7 rebounds per game, best on the team, while Ramaekers set up an average of three assists and Garder swiped away at least one steal.

The Raiders were held to fewer than 60 points nine times - the area Perkins says needs to make the biggest improvement going into next season.

“Being more efficient on the offensive end,” he said. “When they’re double-teaming and triple-teaming our post, we’ve got to be better as a group to make that extra pass and be more efficient so we’re not just one and done.”

Barring transfers or departures, the roster will return nine next year. The post position, Brooks specifically, is likely where Perkins and Central will find its success.

Brooks, often not depended on as an offensive playmaker in high school, worked on that role all season. As with the team, she had her ups and downs.

Brooks’ season high was 22 points in a win over the Concordia JV in which she shot 57 percent. It was followed by seven points and a 3 for eight night in the following game.

But that was one of only three games in which she failed to score 10 or more.

“Monica is one of those kids that every coach wants. She puts in extra work in and out of the classroom. Her confidence should be a lot higher next year,” Perkins said.

“In high school, she wasn’t looked to be the scorer. Now, we’ve put that role on her. You could see her grow into a player who could take over a game.”

Closing their CCC careers were Gardner, Ramaekers and fellow sophomore Maddie Davis.

“Day was always going, Lexi was one of those hard-nosed, blue-collar players that every coach wants then you have Maddie that just goes, goes, goes,” Perkins said. “Those three are examples of how we should be doing it next year.”

Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sports@columbustelegram.com.