By RICK SOLEM
It’s been quite a ride for Central High School’s girls basketball team.
A bumpy ride mostly, but a ride to the WIAA Division 2 state tournament all the same.
The Red Raiders (21-5) have grinded their way back to the tournament for the first time since second-place finishes in both 1994 and 1995.
At about 3:15 p.m. today at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon, Wis., the Red Raiders take on Deforest (25-1), the fifth-ranked team in Division 2.
How Central got here is simple: defense … and some luck. The Red Raiders’ opponents have averaged only 31.9 points and shot just 31.5 percent from the field during the playoffs. Central has also forced an average of 16 turnovers in those four games.
All that defense was absolutely necessary. Offensively, the Red Raiders have shot 31.7 percent from the field and averaged 10.5 turnovers.
To get by the Norskies, Central will need more of the same – luck, defense … plus more offense.
DeForest can put points on the board, averaging 57.3 a game. The Red Raiders have never scored 57 points this season and have scored in the 50s just twice. Central averages 40.3 points a game.
To get by the Norskies, Central will need to put it all together and get some more of that magic that’s gotten it here.
Magic like the winning 3-pointer by Jenna Kramer with under 5 seconds on the clock to upset rival Onalaska – a team the Red Raiders had lost to 34-27 and 36-32 during the regular season.
Or how they took down the 2011 and 2012 state champs in overtime – an extra period where they held New London to just one field goal.
And then there was Brittany Baldwin’s near triple double (15 points, seven rebounds, seven assists) in the win over Rice Lake.
What can the Red Raiders do to pull off the upset Friday?
DeForest is led by 6-foot junior Kayla Goth’s 13.3 points, 4.1 assists and 4.4 steals per game, while 6-foot teammate Cassidy Byrd averages 9.2 points and 4.8 rebounds.
The Norskies have five players 6-feet and over – three sophomores and two juniors – though it’s unclear if all see the court regularly. Central has two 6-footers: junior Faith Skinner, who’s played in 23 games and freshman Abbie Athnos, who’s played five games.
Baldwin, a 5-8 senior, leads Central averaging 11.9 points and 4 rebounds.
Both teams have played and beaten Baraboo this season. Central won 44-34, while DeForest destroyed its conference opponent 57-14 and 51-34.