ELDERSBURG — George Wunder and Jim Carnes stood next to each other in a doorway that divides Century’s gymnasium from the school’s athletics hallway, and the rival coaches exchanged glances.
Both men sported a similar look, but for different reasons — Wunder looked relieved to be finished with South Carroll after surviving a third meeting of the season; Carnes looked deflated after his Cavaliers held their own for the better part of three quarters, only to lose Monday’s Class 2A West Section 1 semifinal 66-49.
The Knights dispatched their county foe behind a 36-21 second half to advance in the regional playoffs. And Wunder didn’t exhale until the teams got through the post-game handshakes and retreated to their respective locker rooms.
“South Carroll is a team that worries me,” Wunder said. “They worried me in the first game, and the second game, and really worried me to halftime of the third game.”
The Knights (20-3) outscored South Carroll 24-15 in the third quarter and led 54-43 after three when junior guard Justin Wunder drained a 3-pointer from the left corner.
Wunder, the coach’s son, sank a pair of 3s in the fourth from the same spot during Century’s signature scoring streak — the second came with 4 minutes, 12 seconds remaining to give the Knights a 64-45 lead.
Jake Diehl, Century’s senior point guard, led the team with 16 points, while fellow senior guard Carter Truby scored 14 (10 in the third quarter) and Jared Lamb, another senior, added 12. Wunder scored nine, and the Knights collected seven of their 11 3-pointers in the second half.
The deep buckets led to Carnes and the Cavs feeling a bit downtrodden despite keeping pace until midway through the third frame.
“They played hard,” Carnes said about his players. “It’s demoralizing when you’re right there and then they hit a couple 3s … mentally it’s demoralizing.”
Senior guard Dylan Graham paced the Cavaliers (9-15) with 19 points, a game high. Graham had eight points in the second quarter, and a layup with 1:37 to play before halftime pulled SC within one at 29-28
Graham converted a three-point play with 57 seconds remaining in the third, and the Cavs trailed 48-43. But Century answered in a big way — Diehl drained a 3-pointer with 43 seconds to go from the top of the arc, and after a miss from Graham at the other end Wunder set himself in the left corner for the Knights’ final points of the quarter.
Carson Scott and Andrew Warehime each scored 10 for South Carroll.
Senior forward Matt Huber had 11 rebounds for Century, and Diehl grabbed six. Wunder collected three steals, and Lamb and Truby had five boards apiece.
“This game, we knew it was going to be a grind,” Diehl said. “Defense was really the key. That’s what it was going to come down to.”
Diehl and his coach both pointed to South Carroll’s inability to get second-chance shots in the second half, after the Cavaliers had their share in the first 16 minutes. Century’s long-range attack would start clicking, they said, but in the meantime the Knights felt they needed to clamp down and let their athleticism take over.
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“Coach Wunder kept preaching, defense, defense,” Diehl said. “And we’d hit our run eventually.”
Century won its 12th in a row, and the Knights move onto the sectional final Wednesday at home against Oakdale. The Bears of Frederick County took care of Liberty on Monday night to advance.
Century hasn’t lost since Jan. 11, and Diehl said this bunch doesn’t want the success to end anytime soon. He’s well aware of the Century team from 2017 that played in the 2A state final, and one from a decade ago that reached the state semifinals.
“We’re excited, but one game at a time — that’s our focus,” Diehl said. “Practice [Tuesday], then play one. That’s our focus right now.”
South Carroll (49): Carson Scott 10, Dylan Graham 19, Ryan Gallagher 1, Jake Anderson 2, Andrew Warehime 10, Mason Gavin 3, Dylan O’Neill 2, Colin Reno 2.
Century (66): Noah Riley 2, Jake Diehl 16, Matt Huber 7, Tyler Gordon 3, Matt Daniel 3, Jared Lamb 12, Justin Wunder 9, Carter Truby 14.
Halftime: Century, 30-28.