POCATELLO — Time and time again, Preston came pressing at Century’s heels, one possession away from taking the lead.
Time and time again, Lexi Bull or Ashton Adamson made a big play to push the Indians back.
Bull and Adamson combined to score 15 of Century’s 16 points in the fourth quarter as the Diamondbacks (11-3, 8-0 4A District 4-5) held off an upset-minded Preston squad 51-45 at Century on Tuesday night.
“It just came from playing disciplined basketball,” Century coach Chris Shuler said. “Running our game plan, sticking to our offense, and stuff like that. ... We’re always counting on Lexi. She’s a great player, we expect that from her every single night. Then Ashton, in the second half, started driving to the hoop, and that helped too.”
PHOTOS: Century-Preston girls basketball
A game between two of the top teams in 4A District 4-5 didn’t disappoint, opening up in the second half after Century led 21-17 at halftime.
Bull found Preslie Merrill for a last-second layup to give the Diamondbacks a three-point lead going to the fourth at 35-32.
Preston (13-4, 7-2) cut the defending state champion’s lead to one point multiple times in the fourth quarter, but Century always had an answer, whether it was Adamson’s jump shot to make it 39-36 or, a few possessions later, Bull’s layup to push the lead back to three again, 41-38.
“It was real frustrating,” Preston coach Ryan Harris said. “This is a big district game. Right now we’re fighting for seeding for the district tournament, and seeding is going to matter. ... Not being able to quite get that last stop, not being able to get that last rebound, I felt like that was the key to the game.”
Bull, who scored 10 of her 29 points in the fourth, followed that up by reaching over Cassee Pugmire for an offensive rebound and throwing up a put-back attempt that hung on the front of the rim for a second before finally dropping in to give the Diamondbacks a 43-38 lead with 2:25 to go.
Preston cut the lead to three points twice in the final two minutes with a Pugmire 3 and a Mickayla Robertson jumper, but Adamson answered the first with a layup before Bull finally put the game away with another offensive rebound, snagging Merrill’s missed free throw and making two of her own to make it 49-43 with 27 seconds left.
“I tell the girls all the time, we’re going to get everybody’s best shot every single night,” Shuler said. “So we have to play like it’s everybody’s best game. There’s a little bit of pressure there, but I think these girls kind of thrive off of that.”
It was apparent from the start that it was going to be Bull’s game. The senior University of Wyoming commit scored seven of Century’s eight points in the first quarter, single-handedly erasing Preston’s 7-0 lead.
She added 10 more in the second quarter, matching the Indians’ 17 first-half points by herself. One first-quarter free throw from Merrill and a second-quarter 3 from Kyleigh Gardea represented all the non-Bull points in the first half for Century.
Preston’s Kylie Larsen went on quite the run herself early in the third quarter, scoring all 11 of her points in the period. The Indians knotted the score up at 21-21 early in the third but, just like in the fourth, couldn’t quite take the lead.
“Offensively, we tried to open it up and get up the court a little more (in the second half),” Harris said. “We weren’t able to do that as much as we wanted. Defensively, our adjustments didn’t work. I thought that Bull was a little more effective in the second half. That’s something we need to work on going into the next game.”
Bull added 13 rebounds to her 29 points for Century. Adamson had seven points — five in the fourth quarter — for the Diamondbacks, while Merrill and Kassidy Gardea, who hit two big 3s in the third quarter, each finished with six.
Pugmire led Preston with 15 points. Larsen added nine rebounds to her 11 points, narrowly missing a double-double.
Century hosts Pocatello on Thursday. Preston hosts Burley on Thursday.
CENTURY 51, PRESTON 45
Preston 7 10 15 13 — 45
Century 8 13 14 16 — 51
Preston — H. Meek 6, Marlow 4, Robertson 4, Harris 3, Ware 2, Pugmire 15, Larsen 11.
Century — Ka. Gardea 6, Merrill 6, Adamson 7, Ky. Gardea 3, L. Bull 29.