Though the games played out opposite of what some expected, the Centralia Panthers still won them both.
The evening of December 3 the Panther girls and boys teams beat the North Callaway Thunderbirds on the Thunderbirds’ home court.
The girls won 64-34 and the boys won 46-42.
Mary Kate Bennett led the Lady Panthers with 24 points, followed by Claire Bennett and Ashlyn Crum with nine each and Jozelynn Bostick with eight.
John Durant led the boys with 13 points followed by Guy Moran with nine and Nic Brooks with eight.
Cody Cash led the Thunderbirds with 23 points. Ryelle Schmauch led the Ladybirds with 14.
The Lady Panthers took the lead from the start, but finished first quarter tied at 12. By halftime they had pulled ahead, 24-20.
Then they began to stretch the lead and finished the third quarter up 49-31 on the way to the 64-34 finish.
The boys climbed to a six-point lead in the first, only to see North Callaway come back and finish the first only two points behind Centralia who closed the quarter on top 14-12.
The Panthers began scoring more frequently and finished the half ahead, 30-19 in a spectacular fashion after Dallas Lewis sank a jumping three-point shot from the mid-court line.
“He’s a senior, a varsity athlete,” Panthers Head Coach Scott Humphrey said when asked if Lewis had practiced that shot. “Looking back, that shot probably won us the game. He knew the play, saw the opportunity for it and made the shot.”
Then Centralia hit a third-quarter scoring draught, only scoring four while North Callaway scored 15, tying the game at the end of the third 34-34.
“It wasn’t so much what their defense did as what our offense didn’t,” Humphrey said regarding the third. “We missed seven gimmes around the basket and they got hot on their threes. If you hold a varsity team to 42 points while playing on the road, defense is not the problem.”
“We hit some really good buckets,” Thunderbird Head Coach Matt Miller said of the second half. “I challenged the team in the locker room. ‘Contrail’s a good team, but so are you. You can play with them.’ They rebounded the basketball and moved the ball with confidence and played their backsides off.”
At the 6:26 mark in the fourth, North Callaway led 36-34.
Centralia got back on top moments later courtesy of a Durant three-point shot, but was never able to put enough points up to relax. Durant, Brooks, Wells kept up the free-throw and three-pointer production to give Centralia their two-point win.
Afterward, Humphrey said the two-point gap between Centralia – seeded number one in next week’s Centralia Tournament and six-seed North Callaway, indicates the tournament’s high level of competition. “Centralia could have easily been seeded two or three, North Callaway could have been seeded anywhere between three to five. And Macon, the eight-seed could have been seeded anywhere between five and seven. Bottom line, to win the tournament you are going to have to beat three quality teams.”
For the complete article, see next week’s edition of the Centralia Fireside Guard.