ELDERSBURG — Tristan Kent called it the best game he’s ever played in.
A classic crosstown rivalry between Century and Liberty turned into an overtime nail-biter that saw the Lions come out victorious in the end.
There were 12 seconds on the clock when Kent converted a layup to force overtime. The Knights remained consistent from the 3-point line and drained 10 in the first half, forcing the Lions to play catch-up the entire game.
It wasn’t until Lions junior forward Peyton Scheufele sank a layup with six seconds remaining in OT to give Liberty its first lead, and the 79-78 victory to remain undefeated on the season.
School officials had to keep Liberty’s student section from streaming onto the court at the sound of the final buzzer.
The energy level was as high as it could be between both sets of fans during the entire game. The stands were packed and fans were crowded near and outside of the gymnasium doors trying to catch a glimpse of the action.
“They played a great game and shot lights out,” Scheufele said of Century. “Being down by 22 in the third was really hard to come back from, 14 in the beginning of the fourth, but we just tried to keep it together and we knew we could make shots and come back so we just wanted to keep it together.”
The Knights dominated the first half and used seven 3-pointers in a row from four different players to pick up a 23-9 lead. Knights’ senior guard Carter Truby score eight of his 18 points in the first quarter alone. Three more 3s, all from senior guard Jake Diehl, put the Knights up 36-15 as the Lions tried to find their rhythm.
The Lions (11-0, 4-0 in the Carroll County Athletic League) were down 40-31 at the half after erasing a big deficit in the second quarter. They continued to plug away, but couldn’t stop Century’s 3-point accuracy as the Knights sank three more, good for a 57-39 advantage, before the quarter came to a close.
Ten points from Kent, some free throws, and a trio of 3s from Cameron Blankenship and Jack Merchak contributed to the Lions’ 25 points in the final quarter that tied the game at 70-70.
The Knights (8-3, 5-1) garnered five free throw opportunities in overtime and went 8-for-10 from the line. But the Lions closed out the game on a 6-0 run to secure the one-point victory.
“We knew how good we should be this year and what we’re capable of and we knew we just had to start playing as a team,” Kent said. “In the beginning, we just started playing one-on-one against them and we were panicking a little bit. We came together, worked as a team like we usually do.”
Century senior forward Matt Huber scored 13 points and added six rebounds and three blocks. Jake Diehl scored a team-high 23 points, Jared Lamb scored 19, and Truby notched 18 for the Knights.
Scheufele had nine boards, Kent grabbed eight, and Connor Stewart notched six assists for the Lions.
Lions coach Brian Tombs told his players to forget what the numbers on the scoreboard read, just go out and play the way they have been all season.
In the end, it paid off.
“I give all the credit to my guys,” Tombs said. “They just came in, started chipping away and going, going, going. These are two superb teams and I give the most credit to George [Wunder], he’s such a great coach, they're always well prepared, and I don't think I've ever seen a team other than the Golden State Warriors shoot quite like that. You tip your hat to them, they made the shots they had to make and it was good.
“It was a blast, I love it for the community and I love it for Carroll County and high school sports. If you were in attendance tonight, you had to enjoy that regardless of what side you’re on.”
Century (78): Jake Diehl 23, Matt Huber 13, Tyler Gordon 2, Jared Lamb 19, Justin Wunder 3, Carter Truby 18.
Liberty (79): Cam Blankenship 20, Jack Merchak 12, Connor Stewart 7, Peyton Scheufele 11, Tim Cortese 2, Tristan Kent 27.
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Halftime: Century, 40-31.