College Basketball: Crews, Lower Columbia Edge Centralia

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Madi Crews was draining 3-pointers in the Hub City once again, but this time around it wasn’t in a Centralia jersey.

Crews was 4 of 5 from behind the arc in the fourth quarter, helping to lift Lower Columbia to a 53-49 win over Centralia in an NWAC West Division women’s basketball game at Michael Smith Gymnasium on Wednesday.

“I can’t really explain how good it feels to come out with a W and in my hometown,” Crews said. “I give it all to my teammates. They gave me great passes tonight and I was able to get them the assists.”

Playing in front of plenty of friends and family members, Crews had the gym roaring in the fourth quarter with every 3.

“Everyone’s been asking me since October, ‘When are you playing at home?’ So I’ve had this date kind of ingrained in my mind since the season started,” Crews, a four-year starter at Centralia High School, said.

Crews’ 12 points led the Red Devils, and teammate Bailey Hockett added 11.

Brianna Zaragoza-Jones led Centralia with 15 points, and Kylie Smith added 9 points and 10 rebounds.

“It’s a battle. (LCC coach) Chad (Meadors) does a really good job of coaching. His kids come ready to play every night,” Centralia coach Caleb Sells said. “They’ve got a few more sophomores than we do, but our girls were jacked up. We knew it was going to be a big crowd tonight — these are the kind of special games, win or lose, there’s not a whole lot of people that get to play in a scenario and an environment like this.”

The win gave the Red Devils a one-game lead over Centralia in the West Region standings, and a head-to-head sweep in the event of a tie for first. Two games remain in the conference schedule, though Centralia and Lower Columbia have both secured playoff bids.

“It’s going to hurt for our girls tonight, but they are going to look back on this and say ‘Remember that one time we played LCC in front of a sell out crowd?’” Sells said. “There’s not many people that can say that, and battled them to the end.”

The game also meant a lot to Sells, as Meadors is a close friend and the two coach together during the summer.

“He sits on my bench, I sit on his bench. Shane Schutz has been a great mentor for me, but Chad Meadors, it’s kind of weird that your rival is also one of your best mentors — calls you, checks on you, sees how you’re doing,” Sells said. “Not many people do that. He’s a pretty special dude. You always want to beat your brother, a little more than anybody else.”

The Blazers led 19-17 after the first quarter, but Centralia was held to 6 points in the second frame to trail at halftime, 27-25. Both teams scored 12 points in the third quarter to set up a battle in the last frame.

Centralia had a few chances to close the gap in the fourth, but Crews and the rest of the Red Devils were able to keep the lead.

Even though the West Division isn’t within reach for the Blazers, Sells expects his team to keep pushing with the playoffs on the horizon.

“Pride steps in. They are a prideful group of girls,” Sells said. “They don’t like to lose. I’m going to have to go address a very upset group of girls right now, and they should be, because they just battled their butts off. They’re going to want to get back, I don’t think I’m going to have to do a whole lot. They are going to want to get back out there and take it to somebody.”

Lower Columbia won the teams’ first match 69-59. Neither team would be surprised if they ended up playing a third time with much more on the line.

“I hope not, there’s a few other teams I’d rather play before playing them a third time,” Sells said. “Every time we play them, it’s a fun game. Chad’s a great coach. It’s fun locking horns with him. If we do play a third time, hopefully it will be just as fun as this one was.”

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