MUNCIE — It was hard for the Muncie Central Bearcats girls basketball team to describe the Jekyll and Hyde dynamic it had going on Saturday afternoon against visiting Richmond.
In the first quarter, the Bearcats could do no wrong. The second quarter, on the other hand, was a struggle. They saw just how good they could be with a 20-point first-quarter lead, and then they also saw just how vulnerable they are when they don’t rebound as Richmond nearly pulled off an impressive comeback.
Still, though, Central was far more Jekyll than Hyde as yet another monster game from Jayla Scaife was enough to catapult the Bearcats past Richmond 59-51 in a North Central Conference matchup at The Fieldhouse.
How do you explain a performance in which Central led 24-4 after one quarter, then seemed to be holding on for dear life as Richmond closed to within 33-30 midway through the third quarter?
“I just think we got ahead of ourselves a little bit, and we went a little bit faster than what we’re used to,” said Scaife, who finished with 29 points, 11 rebounds and nine steals. “We’re trying to keep the tempo up, so that was it.”
The tempo was certainly in the Bearcats’ favor early as they forced 11 first-quarter turnovers. They’re at their best when Ke’Chell Tate (nine points), Hadassah Harris (12 points), Jaylen Montgomery and Scaife are getting steals and quick baskets.
It just wasn’t sustainable Saturday, however, as Central seemed to run out of gas. After shooting 9 of 17 in the first quarter, it was only 1 of 14 in the second, going the first 6:19 without a point.
“It’s hard to maintain that amount of pressure, it really is,” Central coach Lisa Blalock said. “But we know that when we can put that kind of pressure on, it fuels our offense. That’s the goal, to be able to play with that intensity and effort at all times.”
Richmond, meanwhile, found its footing after the early hole behind Lexus Perkins, who scored six of her team-high 18 points during a 10-0 run to open the second quarter. Raya Fields added 12 points and eight rebounds for the Red Devils, who outrebounded the Bearcats 35-25.
“They had every reason to pack it in, and they didn’t,” Richmond coach Casey Pohlenz said. “We’re young, and we’re growing.
“For three quarters, we were pretty happy. We’re starting sophomores and juniors who haven’t played a lot. We’ll get there. If they fight like that, we’ll be just fine.”
Once Richmond pulled within three, Central reeled off a 10-1 run to close the third quarter, showing its ability to score in bunches.
“We’ve got to grow from this,” Blalock said. “No matter what happens, there are always things where you can point out what you did really well and where you have to grow. We just need to continue to work to get better.”
Scaife, a Dayton signee, scored 13 points in the fourth quarter, including a rebound and basket with 1:50 left to bump Central’s lead back to eight.
“I think I could’ve done better, like defensively and going for rebounds,” Scaife said. “But I think I did pretty good. There’s always room for improvement.”
Contact sports features writer Ryan O’Gara at (765) 213-5829. Follow him on Twitter @RyanOGaraTSP.