Central overcomes 12-point 4th-quarter deficit for OT win in opener

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With four new starters, the Central College women's basketball team displayed some veterans' poise, roaring back from a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit for a 59-55 season-opening victory at Grinnell College Thursday night.
Junior center Kendall Brown (Moravia) steadied the young Dutch with her fourth career double-double and a team-high 20 points with 11 rebounds. Freshman Jenna Clark (Story City, Roland-Story HS), one of three starters playing her first collegiate game, weathered some inconsistent outside shooting and put up 17 points. Sophomore point guard Cynthia Rangel (San Antonio, Texas, William J. Brennan HS), who missed her freshman season due to injury, added four assists and a pair of clutch free throws to seal the victory with 10 seconds left.
Central endured a 3-point opening quarter and a 4-point third quarter and still secured the win.
The Pioneers, 7-15 a year ago, jumped to a 12-3 lead after one quarter and stretched the margin to 26-15 with 2:22 left in the half before a late Central flurry, capped by an Emily Hay (sophomore, Stanwood, North Cedar HS) 3-pointer with 10 seconds remaining cut it to 28-25 at the break.
"We had four new starters and we were a little nervous," coach Joe Steinkamp said. "We really felt in the first quarter we got a lot of good shots but we just didn't knock any of them down. That led us to being a little anxious and rushing things. But the second quarter was a complete turnaround. We settled in and got some good shots and they started falling."
Grinnell regained command in the third period and was up 41-29 with 9:48 left in the game.
"We felt really good at halftime but then the same thing happened in the third quarter," Steinkamp said.
But a 15-3 Central burst tied it at 44-44 with 4:32 remaining. The Dutch stalled before a Hay 3-pointer gave them a 48-47 edge with 56 seconds left. Grinnell tied it 13 seconds later and both teams went scoreless the rest of regulation.
Central overcame an early 1-point deficit in overtime but took the lead for good at the 4:36 mark with a Brown bucket in the post. Grinnell cut it to two with 14 seconds left before Rangel delivered her only points of the night.
"(Rangel) plays with a great deal of confidence," Steinkamp said. "We felt really good about her going to the line."
Both teams struggled from the field with Central shooting 31.6 percent to Grinnell's 26.6 while holding a 49-48 rebounding edge. The Dutch came up with 13 steals.
"We did a really good job in the last five minutes and in overtime," Steinkamp said. "We had a lot of people step up and make plays. I was really impressed with our defense. We were really flying around."
Brown was a force on both ends.
"She made some really nice post moves and got a couple baskets off the pick-and-roll," Steinkamp said. "On defense she altered a lot of shots. She played a great all-around game."
Central makes its home-season debut Saturday, meeting Millikin University (Ill.) for the first time since an NCAA Division III tournament match-up in Decatur, Illinois in 1995. Game time is 2 p.m. at P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium. It's the season opener for the Big Blue, coming off an 8-17 season.
"They've got a new coach and a new system and it's their first game so we won't have any film on them," Steinkamp said. "They've got some good returning players. Their point guard is really fast and their post will be a handful. We know they'll give us a good challenge."
​​​​​​​Saturday's contest is part of a women's-men's doubleheader, with the men tackling Wis.-River Falls at 4 p.m. A video webcast and live stats will be available through the Central athletics website at athletics.central.edu.