WEBSTER GROVES • St. Joseph's Academy senior guard Erika Pudlowski likes to work on her outside shot after practice.
She regularly spends a few extra minutes each day tossing up bombs from crazy distances.
"I make them from half court every once in a while," she said.
That long-range practice came in handy Wednesday night.
Pudlowski pumped in a career-high 21 points, including a 36-footer at the first-quarter buzzer, to lead the Angels to a 64-61 win over Parkway Central in the opening round of the 10th annual Webster Winter Challenge at Roberts Gymnasium.
St. Joseph's (14-4) has won nine of its last 10 and will meet Incarnate Word in a semifinal game at 8:30 p.m. Friday. IWA has won the tournament four times in the last five years.
Rock Bridge faces defending champion Kirkwood in the other semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday. The winners play for the title at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
Pudlowski picked the perfect time for the performance of a lifetime. The steady-handed point guard entered the contest averaging just 3.2 points per game. She had just six 3-pointers over the first 17 games.
But the 5-foot-7 sparkplug drained five 3-pointers against Central (15-2), which had a 15-game winning streak snapped.
And each one of Pudlowski's triples came just when the Angels needed them.
"Usually, she's much happier handing out an assist," St. Joseph's assistant coach Bob Goessling said. "It was great to see her contribute the way she did."
Goessling was filing in for Julie Matheny, who was out of town on a business trip but will return for the rest of the tournament.
Pudlowski's biggest blow came with the clock winding down in the first quarter. She launched a high rainbow that hit nothing but net to give the Angels a 19-12 lead.
She did the same thing at the end of the third period, canning a triple from well beyond the arc that pushed the lead to 48-41.
Pudlowski continued her marksmanship with another 3-pointer that bumped the cushion to 54-41 with 6 minutes 54 seconds left in the game.
"I was making them in warmups and they just kept falling," Pudlowski said.
Central put together a late run behind Olivia Stephens, who finished with 22 points. Her 3-pointer brought the Colts to within 60-59 with 1:39 remaining.
Pudlowski took over from there with four free throws in a span of 43 seconds.
Central had a chance to tie, but Annmarie Tyson came up with a big steal with 16 ticks remaining.
Tyson finished with 11 points and nine rebounds. Senior Alex Kerr, who averages 19 points per game, added 13 points and nine boards.
But it was Pudlowski's surprising offensive showing that made the difference. Her previous single game high was 12 points on Feb. 6, 2016, against Washington.
"That's what being a team is all about," Tyson said. "Every one of us, we just kept grinding. We work all season on pressure situations. Tonight was a pressure situation and we were able to handle it."
St. Joseph's controlled play for long stretches and built up leads of 28-14 and 54-41 before the Colts came charging back.
"We played hard against a team that's really well-coached and I think our girls are battle tested now," Central coach Brian Guilfoyle "This was a great learning experience and hopefully we can use this throughout the rest of the season."