The Bulldogs, after suffering what could have been a crippling blow midway through the 2008-09 season, rallied for a respectable finish.
Star point guard Iesha Barkley, averaging about 16 points and running the Central offense efficiently during a 5-0 start, was sidelined for the year after battling a nagging knee problem.
Instead of folding, though, Central bounced back to claim third place in the Greater Metro Conference and take Racine Case to the wire in a WIAA Division 1 regional title contest before finishing 14-8.
"We had high expectations coming in, we had a key injury to one of the best players in the area, but we didn't quit," coach Steve Hluchnik said. "We improved as the season went on and didn't go out quietly in the tournament."
After Barkley's premature exit, Hluchnik spoke with the team. "I said everyone needed to step up their games to weather the storm, and everyone did," he said.
Junior center Lauren Hibbard became a primary offensive option and wound up averaging a double-double of 11.4 points and 10.1 rebounds, along with 3.4 blocks per outing.
Senior guard Jessica Sammataro boosted her average to 8.4 points and freshman guard Mehryn Kraker took over the point and also put in about eight points per game.
"We slowed down a bit more and became a better decision-making team," Hluchnik said. "Our defense was tighter and we didn't allow many easy baskets."
Central loses seniors Barkley, Sammataro, Katie Crawley, Natalie Nelson, Holly Konecny and Mary Hankins, but returns the top three scorers from the Case game, Kraker, Hibbard and sophomore forward Janie Myles.
"Kraker can play the point and Myles and Hibbard form a good frontcourt," Hluchnik said. "We will be fine next year."
- John Rech, Staff Writer
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