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After three quarters of playing practically dead-even with the Centralia Trailblazers, the Lower Columbia College Red Devils put it all the together in the final 10 minutes.

LCC led 44-42 after three quarters, and rolled to a 71-56 victory in NWAC West Region women’s basketball on Saturday at Myklebust Gymnasium.

“We did a much better job in the fourth quarter,” LCC coach Chad Meadors said of the Devils’ 27-14 scoring edge in the final 10 minutes. “Shanay (Dotson) made some big plays for us, and Madi (Crews) knocked down some huge shots. Those two had to pull it out for us at the end.”

The victory, the fourth straight for LCC, moved them to 17-8, 7-2 in the region. Centralia, which was without leading scorer Kylie Smith due to an ankle sprain, slipped to 11-11 and 4-5.

Trailing 44-42 entering the fourth quarter, the Blazers scored the first seven points (highlighted by a 3-pointer from Devanie Kleemeyer) to take a 49-44 lead in the first 90 seconds. Centralia maintained a 53-48 advantage two and a half minutes later when the hosts began their comeback.

Over the ensuing 2:20, Crews nailed a pair of long 3s, and Dotson and Nizhoni Wheeler combined to hit three freebies for a 57-53 advantage.

“We tried to put a lot of pressure on them and force them to turn the ball over quite a bit,” Meadors said. “At the same time, it didn’t translate into buckets. We pulled it off until the fourth quarter, and it was super effective.”

In fact, the Devils’ backcourt pressure was so effective that Centralia managed one made shot and a free throw in the final four minutes. Dotson padded the Devils’ lead with a pair of layups and two freebies, all coming off steals by Crews and Kenya Lorton. LCC led 63-54 with 3:48 left, and never looked back.

“We had to fight, and that’s not the mode of operations for this team,” Meadors said. “I give a lot of credit to them for fighting and competing the way I want, particularly in the fourth quarter. It’s a heck of a win.”

For as well as the Devils played in the fourth quarter, they struggled in the beginning. LCC started the game missing its first eight shots along with allowing five turnovers over the first five minutes of the opening period. Centralia was unable to capitalize, managing six points over the span.

Hayley Niles broke the ice with a 3, and Nizhoni Wheeler added a pair of bombs as the Devils took a 13-12 lead after one.

“That’s as good of a defensive team as you’ll come across,” Meadors said. “They had a good gameplan, and we didn’t adjust fast enough. We missed a lot of shots in the first half as we were in too much of a hurry.”

Dotson finished with 18 points and six rebounds, and Crews added 16 points, five rebounds and four assists. Hayley Niles added 11 points, 13 rebounds and seven blocked shots, Cherita Daugherty had six rebounds, eight assists and five steals, and Wheeler came off the bench for 10 points, six rebounds and blocked two shots.

The Red Devils visit Pierce on Wednesday.

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Sports Reporter

Rick is a 29-year veteran of The Daily News, and the lead Lower Columbia College athletics reporter. In addition, he tracks former area prep athletes and assists several other beats. He is a Mark Morris grad with a business management degree from LCC.

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