PELLA—A 20-point first-half Central College women’s basketball lead melted to six. Star forward Kendall Brown headed to the bench with her fourth foul.

And then Payton Rogers happened.

Rebounding energy and defense are the forward’s calling card but against the University of Dubuque Wednesday, Feb. 5, she jump-started the offense on a 21-2 run as the Dutch roared to a pivotal 76-56 triumph.

Rogers, averaging 5.6 points a game, had 12 points in the run, including eight straight, and finished with 20, easily a career high, while also pulling down 11 rebounds for a statistical double-double. A 51-46 advantage with 9:32 remaining blew up to a 72-47 bulge.

“What she brought was unbelievable,” coach Joe Steinkamp said. “She always plays with such energy and enthusiasm, but the ball just kept finding her. She would crash the offensive boards and get a bucket, she scored on some lobs over the top and she got out on transition. But more than anything, it was just her energy level. I love how hard she plays. She literally played herself to exhaustion.”

“I think during that run we showed some of our best basketball of the year,” Steinkamp said. “We were getting out in transition, we were crashing the boards, we were getting stops, we were making threes. We were just doing all the things that kind of make us go and it was really fun just to see a lot of different people be able to make plays during that stretch.”

The Dutch (12-9 overall, 4-8 American Rivers) strengthened their hold on sixth place in the league and inched a step closer to an elusive berth in the six-team conference tournament.

Central bolted to a 31-11 advantage with 8:03 left in the first half but Dubuque pulled within 36-26 at intermission.

“We got off to a terrific start,” Steinkamp said. “We played fast and were able to score a lot in transition. But then their pressure kind of got to us and during that stretch of the game we had some bad turnovers that allowed them to stay in the game. You knew they were going to make a run at some point. But I was really proud of our players for coming back.”

Guard Maci Gambell had 18 points, hitting four 3-point baskets. Brown, the league’s leading shot blocker, swatted away five more and finished with 12 points while guard Kelsea Hurley had 12 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals.

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