At the conclusion of an effort that saw them lead through the first three quarters, the Central girls basketball team let victory slip from their grasps and fell to Park Hill South 40-39 on Tuesday at Central High School.

Junior Sydney Sample touched on the anticlimactic end that saw Central (9-7) give away a late lead before battling back in the last minute and failing to put up a shot that could have potentially tied the game.

“It’s just disappointing because we should have won that game. If we just would have done the little things right, we would have had it,” Sample said. “Next time we play them we just need to execute better and get the win.”

Early on, the Indians played good defense and hustled in transition. They held Park Hill South (7-9) to just six points in the first period, and were rewarded with a number of fast break buckets in the second that helped them jump out to a 26-17 lead at the half.

When they returned from the locker room, however, the well began to run dry. The Indians struggled to find the gaps in their half court offense, and entering the fourth period the Panthers cut the deficit to just two points, as the Indians led 30-28.

In the eyes of head coach Jared Boone, the team failed to come out with the same energy in the second half that they had summoned to start the game.

“We kinda didn’t attack, we sat back and got a little bit passive ... We weren’t able to get out and get those run outs that we got in the first,” Boone said. “We gotta learn to close out games. We’ve let a few games slip through lately, we’ve got to do a better job in late game situations.”

Faltering on offense and committing a few untimely fouls in the final quarter, Park Hill South took control late until a three-point shot from Ella Moody with under 30 seconds left.

A forced turnover on the Panther’s subsequent inbounds seemed to signal a shift in momentum, but ultimately failed to give the Indians a win.

Sophomore Ella Moody says the team must put forward a much more well-rounded effort as they head into the last stretch of the season.

“We weren’t really clicking that well tonight. We weren’t hitting our shots, not finding those open gaps,” Moody said. “We need to come out stronger on defense, know our rotations and block out and get the ball in fifty-fifties.”

Next up, the Indians will play the top-ranked team in the state as they host Liberty (16-0) on Thursday.

Boone knows it’ll take a top-tier performance if they hope to keep up.

“We’ve got to get better. They’re the number one team in the state and the number one team for a reason, we gotta get better fast.”

Park Hill South Boys 52, Central 29

Central senior A.J. Redman was honored by the team for scoring 1,000 career points with a pregame ceremony, with the four year varsity starter being given a decorative basketball commemorating his impressive career with the Indians.

Unfortunately, the Indians struggled in the game that followed. They trailed 22-12 after one half, and were outscored in each of the game’s final two quarters.

Redman and junior Will Small led the Indians with 10 points each. Park Hill South was led in scoring by senior Jake Powers, with 11.

Levi Smith can be reached