By Jeff Nations
WOODSTOCK -- Central High School senior guard Katelyn Poston brought the star power to Monday night's Region 3A East quarterfinals against James Monroe.
Poston was nothing short of electric, especially in a first half that saw her score 21 of an eventual game-high 30 points.
But as stellar as Poston was in the Falcons' 70-57 victory, this was a night Central needed a full cast to dispatch the imposing Yellow Jackets. They got exactly that, as Poston's supporting cast admirably filled every role the Falcons needed to advance to Wednesday's semifinal road matchup against Richmond's John Marshall.
Central got real contributions from all nine players that saw time against the Yellow Jackets, from the dogged work in the paint by sophomore Brooklyn Pumphrey (six rebounds) to the unselfish and steady play of senior Sydney Plum, who talked Falcons coach Mallory Skarupa into not starting her because Plum thought she could have more of an impact coming off the bench.
Senior Mary Wakeman got better and better as the night went on, scoring seven of her 11 points in the critical fourth quarter as the Falcons simply would not let James Monroe grab the lead.
Cianne Fields and Daleah Payton played limited minutes, but made them count for Central.
All deserve credit for the victory, but here's a few Falcons who might well have earned the best-supporting award on Monday night.
Tamra Scott: Central's 5-foot-8 freshman forward had without question the most imposing task of the night, facing down a tall Yellow Jackets' frontcourt headlined by 6-3 center Monica Dit. Skarupa just wanted Scott to hold her own in the paint -- she did much more than that, grabbing a game-high 18 rebounds for Central.
"I'm only 5-8, so it's a tough height difference but we had to box out and get some good rebounds," Scott said. "Defense wins games, so we had to keep playing our defense. We had some awesome shots knocked down and we were making free throws. Everything just tied together tonight and we came out with an amazing win."
Skarupa said Scott did get frustrated on the offensive end as Dit proved a formidable shot blocker (she had five), but the freshman went to work as a rebounder and post defender.
"T had a tall order on her tonight with that No. 12 [Monica Dit]," Skarupa said. "She got down on herself a little bit, but she kept fighting."
Rebecca Truban: The minutes were down a bit for Central's defensive dynamo, who fouled out with 2:47 left in the third quarter. That doesn't mean Truban had any less of an impact, though, as she was credited with three steals and caused at least that many more turnovers with her dogged defense up top and uncanny knack for anticipating the passing lane.
"Usually I can tell when they're going to pass it -- you can tell by their eyes," Truban said.
Skarupa had high praise for Truban afterward.
"She's our little energizer," Skarupa said. "She's feisty, man. Lot of respect for her because you don't get the glory you get with the points and all that stuff, but what she does is so crucial."
Truban's loss could have been catastrophic for the Falcons with that much time left in the game, but her running mate Wakeman was ready and able to pick up the slack as Central's primary defensive pest. She had three steals of her own.
"Mary is excellent on defense," Truban said. "I'm really glad to have her as my wingman because we really vibe off each other and help each other out a lot. She's scrappy and she can anticipate, also."
Meredith Phillips: Poston proved to be a whirlwind scorer in the first quarter, knocking down back-to-back 3-pointers to open the game and scoring Central's first eight points. Poston had 21 in the first half, but it was a pace even the school's all-time leading scorer likely couldn't keep up an entire game.
Enter Phillips, Central's second player off the bench on Monday. The sophomore promptly buried an open jumper on her first look in the opening quarter, and she kept doing it the rest of the night. Phillips finished with 18 points (to go along with seven rebounds), providing the Falcons with a steady secondary scoring option.
"Once they hit me once, they knew that I was on so they kept looking for me for open shots, which definitely helps when I get open looks," Phillips said. "I knew that this team had a lot of tall players and I had to box out and be strong."
Skarupa wasn't surprised by Phillips' big night as a scorer, having seen that potential plenty of times already this season.
"She's shown us that before, so we knew she had it in her," Skarupa said. "It's just all a matter of her passing up a good shot for a great shot, and her shot selection was on point tonight."
So while Poston was sublime once again for the Falcons, the Yellow Jackets found out the hard way that Central is far from a solo act.
"We're definitely a team and we play as a team," Phillips said. "We all have capabilities to score and play defense."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>