ELKHART — Skylar Axsom put forth a performance that at times suggested Elkhart Memorial couldn't bear to be without her, and yet, her Crimson Charger teammates also proved they could bear it, at least short-term, once they had to.
Axsom, Memorial's only senior, racked up game highs of 16 points and seven rebounds as the host Chargers knocked off Elkhart Central 46-41 in Tuesday's back-and-forth girls high school basketball city showdown.
"It's redemption," said Axsom, referring to the Blue Blazers snapping a 20-game head-to-head skid against Memorial with a 41-37 win last winter. "Our team really came together tonight."
The smooth and efficient Axsom did most of her damage in the paint on pretty feeds from Cydney Lapczynski, finishing 6-of-7 from the field to go with 4-of-5 at the line. Lapczynski, a junior, dished out nine assists.
The Chargers (5-5) were leading just 31-30 in the opening minute of the fourth quarter when Axsom picked up her fourth foul.
Memorial coach Steve Scott sat his top post player for nearly the next three minutes, yet over that stretch, his team actually extended its lead to 35-32.
"(McKenna) Curry came in and hit a big 3," Scott said of a basket that gave the Chargers a 35-30 advantage. "We are at our best when we get contributions from all six players we put out there, and we've gotten that the last two games."
Those games are a 56-51 win Saturday over a LaPorte club that came to Elkhart at 6-4 and the Blazers (7-4) — who came to Memorial Tuesday on their longest winning streak this millennium at four in a row. It didn't matter.
"We really started out rough this year, not playing the way we anticipated we could, but we had a big meeting before Saturday's game about committing, and getting down and playing defense, and playing as a team, and hustling more," Scott said, "and you know what, the last two games the girls have played absolutely phenomenal.
"I'm absolutely thrilled with them."
Scott called last Friday's 51-31 loss to NorthWood "a big-time wake-up call," while Axsom's hopeful these last two games are indicative of what's ahead.
"We're realizing that we're in the heart of our season, Axsom said, "and how you start is not how people are going to remember you finishing. That's what we have to keep in mind."
"She's been great all year," Scott said of Axsom. "She's an undersized post player, but she gets about as much out of her God-given ability as she can. She's 5-7 and usually guarding somebody four inches taller and 40 pounds bigger."
Axsom's basket just after returning to Tuesday's game put the Chargers up 37-32 with 4:03 to go, and she had another with 49 seconds left to basically wrap it up at 46-38.
Ay'zyana Billings-Tiller added all of her 10 points in the second half for Memorial to go with two steals, while Sierra Peete netted eight points.
Mady Miller led Central with 11 points, while Tylar Roberson scored nine, Jordan Ware eight and Trinitee Harris seven.
"Memorial got most of the 50-50 plays," Blazer coach Will Coatie said. "We've been priding ourselves on getting the 50-50s, but we got outworked tonight. All the credit goes to Memorial. They played really hard and together.
"Us, I think we kind of got caught up in the crowd at times, got too emotional, but it's also good to be able to play in an environment like this."
The Chargers led most of the first half, but never by more than five, before Central rallied for its first lead at 22-21 early in the third quarter.
Three more lead changes followed, with Memorial going up to stay at 31-30 on Kambria Dale's basket to open the fourth period.
The Chargers, who often mix defenses, stayed in a 2-3 zone all night.
"It was working, so we stuck with it," Scott said.
"They took away our shooters a little bit, but it's stuff we can work on," Coatie said. "We've just got to move on, take some lessons from this and see what happens."
ELKHART MEMORIAL 46, ELKHART CENTRAL 41
Central: Jordan Ware 3-6 2-2 8, Tylar Roberson 4-8 0-0 9, Krisen Hunt 0-3 0-0 0, Mady Miller 4-10 0-0 11, Trinitee Harris 3-9 1-2 7, Raleyah Ross 2-3 1-2 5, Makayla Roundtree 0-2 1-2 1, Jayda Miller 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 16-41 (.390) 5-8 (.625) 41.
Memorial: Skylar Axsom 6-7 4-5 16, Kambria Dale 15 3-4 5, Ay'zyana Billings-Tiller 3-8 2-4 10, Sierra Peete 3-7 1-2 8, Cydney Lapczynski 1-6 0-1 3, McKenna Curry 1-3 1-2 4. Totals: 15-36 (.417) 11-18 (.611) 46.
Scoring By Quarters
3-point goals: Central (4-17) - M. Miller 3-9, Roberson 1-4; Memorial (5-18) - Billings-Tiller 2-6, Curry 1-2, Lapczynski 1-4, Peete 1-5.
Rebounds: Central (26) - Roberson 6, Ware 5; Memorial (25) - Axsom 7, Billings-Tiller 5, Lapczynski 5.
Assists: Central (11) - Hunt 4, Harris 4; Memorial (11) - Lapczynski 9.
Steals: Central (6) - Ware 2, M. Miller 2; Memorial (4) - Billings-Tiller 2.
Turnovers: Central 13; Memorial 12.
Fouls: Central 19; Memorial 13. Fouled out - Hunt (1:42, 4th quarter).
Records: Central 7-4, Memorial 5-5.
Next: Central at SB St. Joseph Friday, 6 p.m. varsity as part of girl/boy doubleheader; Concord at Memorial Saturday, follows 1 p.m. JV.
JV score: Central 49, Memorial 36. Top scorers: Central - Abbey Miller 14, Jayda Miller 9, Lauren Kollat 8, Aujanae Miller 8; Memorial - Mya Reeves 14, Libby Lapczynski 12. JV record: Central 8-3.