Central Catholic's Jen Vliet (14) battles for a loose ball with Whitmer's Jordyn Blood (22). Vliet scored 10 points in a 46-34 Central victory.
THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
Finding Michelle Murnen standing behind the 3-point line more often than not produced positive results for Central Catholic facing Whitmer on Thursday in a Three Rivers Athletic Conference girls’ basketball tilt.
The Irish's 5-foot-9 junior sharpshooter drained 4-of-6 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 16 points to lead Central to a 46-34 victory on the Panthers' home court.
"She can shoot it," Central coach Marty McGurk said, of Murnen. "When she gets her feet set she can stroke it. That was a big key for us tonight."
Murnen's 3-point shooting effort was the best this season for the Panthers' top outside shooting threat. She'd never made four 3-pointers in a contest.
"I just felt it and my teammates did a good job of running our offense," Murnen said.
Jen Vliet added 10 points and Sydni Harmon added eight for the Irish (7-3, 5-1 TRAC), who took a lead early over the Panthers (6-4, 3-3 TRAC) and never trailed in the contest.
"I thought we played really hard," McGurk said. "We wanted to limit them to one shot and we rebounded well. We wanted to play hard."
Keshyra McCarver poured in a game-high 17 points and Samantha Meinen added nine points to lead Whitmer, which trailed by as many as 15 points late in the game.
"They were patient offensively and waited for shooters to open up," Whitmer coach Sean Flemmings said, of Central. "We've got to make shots."
Both teams struggled to put the ball in the basket during the opening quarter. A total of only six points were on the scoreboard for nearly six minutes before Murnen sank a 3-pointer to give Central a 7-2 lead with 2:36 left in the quarter.
Murnen sank her second 3-pointer to help the Irish close the period with an 11-4 lead. A basket each from McCarver and Meinen accounted for the Panthers' points during the first quarter.
The Irish steadily increased their lead over the Panthers in the second quarter.
Central opened the second quarter with a 7-0 run to lead 18-4 when Vliet swished a 10-footer wth 4:01 to play in the first half. Meinen made 1-of-2 free throws with just more than three minutes remaining in the half to end the Panthers' scoreless streak for the period.
However, the Irish went into halftime with a comfortable 22-9 advantage. Murnen sank three 3-pointers in the first half to lead Central with nine points.
Allowing Murnen to get into a comfortable shooting rhythm early in the game allowed the Irish to establish control of the game's tempo, according to Flemmings.
"She's solid and Marty [McGurk] does a great job of getting her looks," Flemmings said.
Central came out in the second half and maintained hold of the lead the rest of the way and owned a 29-17 advantage by the end of the third quarter. Whitmer pulled no closer than nine points during the third quarter.
Contact Donald Emmons at: email@example.com, 419-724-6302 or on Twitter @DemmonsBlade.