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Central snaps NC's two-game win streak

Posted: January 19, 2017 11:33 a.m.
Updated: January 20, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I photo/

NORTH CENTRAL’S TYLER FAULKENBERRY (12) delivers what amounts to being a high handoff to teammate DaShon Bethea after Faulkenberry came down with a defensive rebound in Tuesday’s loss to visiting Central.

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Turning a pair of late-game turnovers back into turnovers help short-circuit what was a two-game North Central boys’ win streak and helped Central leave The Castle with a 64-58 victory over the host Knights.

The Tuesday night loss took first-year NC head coach Kerry Hayes’ troops to 2-3 in Region 4-AA play heading into tonight’s road game at seventh-ranked Andrew Jackson.

North Central withstood a barrage of game-opening haymakers from the Eagles who jumped to a 14-4 lead in the game’s first four-plus minutes. The guests were then forced to come from behind in the fourth quarter before hanging on for dear life in a wild stretch run.

Trailing, 59-56, with just under two minutes to play, the Knights forced a pair of turnovers but gave the ball back to Central on both occasions while having nothing to show for their defensive efforts. That, Hayes said, should not take away from the effort which his team put in against the ninth-ranked Eagles.

“The guys are scrambling and playing hard,” he said. “We got the (two) steals and couldn’t capitalize and, that’s big. We just made too many mistakes down the stretch tonight.”

With Central going into a quasi delay game on offense following the second missed NC chance, the Knights had to foul and with 41 ticks left in the game clock put Kevon Wall on the free throw line. The junior guard, who led all scorers with 19 points and was perfect on all eight of his free throw attempts, dropped both home to extend the lead to 61-56.

NC got a short jumper from Esteban Rodriguez five seconds later before having to foul again. This time, it was Quan Chambers sinking one of his two freebies to make it a 62-58 lead with 21.6 seconds to play. Central then took all the wind out of the NC sails with Wall coming up with a steal and getting fouled on the play with six seconds showing on the clock. His two free throws sealed the deal.

The foul line would play a significant role in this game. Central made good on 19 of its 29 attempts and was perfect on all 10 tries in a first half in which the Eagles led, 35-29, at the break. The Knights went six-for-13 from the line in the opening half of play and finished by converting on 11 of their 19 chances.

“They hit a lot (five) of threes tonight and they made their free throws and we weren’t good from the free throw line tonight,” Hayes said. 

In a game in which the lead see-sawed, the Knights trailed, 50-45, heading into the fourth quarter after Central’s Devonta Robinson rained down a 3-point buzzer beater from the top of the arc to close the third stanza.

Unfazed, the Knights opened the final eight minutes on an 8-0 run which started with a 3-ball from sophomore Markell Portee who then got a steal and drove three-quarters of the court for a layin to even things at 50 with 5:53 remaining in the contest. A traditional 3-point play from Tyler Faulkenberry at the 3:21 marker put NC up, 53-50.

The Eagles’ response was a 9-0 run in which the guests went inside the paint and received a stickback and layup from 6-foot-5 sophomore center Devin Rushing before Daylan Robinson drove in for a pair which gave the 59-50 lead to Central with just more than two minutes to play. A 3-ball from Cam Holley, with 1:55 to go, drew the hosts to within 59-56.

At the outset, there was no indication given that this game would be decided in the closing minutes of play; not after Wall hit a pair from distance while Rushing added a pair of bunnies to help the Eagles to a 14-4 lead. The Knights battled back, however, closing the opening quarter on a 13-2 run over the final three minutes and 33 seconds to take a 17-16 lead into the second quarter.

A key to the surge was an active NC defense which was forced to set up in a zone after the Central post players created havoc inside against the man-to-man scheme. The Eagles never seemed comfortable in attacking the Knights’ 2-3 set.

“We came out and wanted to play man,” Hayes said, “but they have the big guys down low and they were throwing it over the top against us. We came out in a zone and made it tough for them. In the second half, though, when we got down, we had to come out of (the zone) and we had to match up with those guys.”

The rally was ignited by a pair of short jumpers from senior forward Zeidel Clark. A pretty stutter-stepping drive from DaShon Bethea closed the gap to 16-14 before Rodriguez took a feed on an inbounds pass and sank a 3-ball with 11 seconds left to give NC its first lead at 17-16.

Bethea, a senior, came off the bench with the Knights trailing by double figures. The point guard calmed things down and allowed the hosts to get into an offensive rhythm.

“DaShon came in and gave us nice boost but he got winded at the end of the game,” Hayes said. “Tonight, for whatever reason, we came out sluggish. I guess it was coming off the (Martin Luther King Day) break. That’s something we have to fix in practice. We have to get these guys back in shape but we’ll get them right.”

A Tyreek Jenkins free throw put NC on top, 24-23, with 2:44 left before halftime but the Eagles closed with a 12-5 run to carry the 35-29 lead into the locker room. The run included six points from Chambers whose trey at the buzzer came after taking a feed on the inbounds pass and taking two dribbles to get to where he would get a clean look at the bucket.

Central threatened to play run and hide with the lead in the third quarter but started struggling from the charity stripe after building its lead to 39-31 with less than six minutes to play in the third. But Holley stepped up and knocked down consecutive trifectas to trim the deficit to 39-37.

Bethea, who led the Knights with 12 points, was big in the third as he scored six straight NC points to keep the Eagles within close range. A Jenkins free throw with 18 seconds showing on the clock kept the deficit at two at 47-45 but Robinson’s trey at the buzzer sent the momentum, temporarily, back to the Eagles heading into the final quarter.

The final three turnovers in the closing two minutes of play was a microcosm of the Knights’ evening. Hayes said his team’s rash of turnovers provided Central with too many chances to escape with the victory.

“We had 19 turnovers and they had about 12,” Hayes said as he stared down a game chart. “We just couldn’t hold onto the ball tonight. We made a couple bad passes that (Central) capitalized on and they were able to get the lead.”

 

Central (64): B.R. Hatcher 1 1-2 3, Devin Rushing 4 1-5 9, Quan Chambers 4 3-7 12, Kevon Wall 4 8-8 19, Caleb Cofield 1 3-3 5, Davonta Robinson 4 2-2 11, Jay’qua Clyburn 1 1-2 3, Daylan Robinson 1 0-0 2. Totals: 20 19-29 64

NC (58): Zeidel Clark 3 1-2 7, Zach Jones 1 2-6 4, Tyler Faulkenberry 2 1-1 5, DaShon Beathea 3 6-7 12, Esteban Rodriguez 3 0-0 7, Jermaine Jenkins 1 0-0 2, Markell Portee 4 0-1 9, Tyreek Jenkins 1 1-2 3, Cam Holley 3 0-0 9. Totals: 21 11-19 58

Score by quarters: First: NC, 17-16; Halftime: Central, 35-29; Third: Central, 50-45; Three-point goals: Central 5 (Wall 3, Chambers, Robinson), NC 5 (Holley 3, Rodriguez, Portee)

 

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