Noah Riley clenched both fists and hit the top of the scorer’s table with enthusiasm as he checked back into Century’s Carroll County Athletic League clash with Liberty.
He had a smile on his face in front of a packed gymnasium as he glanced up at the clock that showed the Knights with a three-point advantage, their first lead since the first quarter, with 11.6 seconds remaining.
Century erased a 15-point deficit in the second half to defeat the Lions 50-47 on Friday and captured the program’s sixth county championship and fifth county title since 2014. The Knights shared the CCAL crown with Liberty last winter.
“I think it’s awesome and the boys really deserve it,” Knights senior guard Matt Daniel said. “I think we played together as a team throughout the season and we’ve had our ups and downs but it was really important for us to stay together.”
“A lot of us started playing in September, rolling into October and November and that was one of our goals to come out here and win the county championship,” Riley added. “Now that we got that done, we’ll take it one game at a time and see where it takes us.”
Riley led the Knights with 21 points, six rebounds, and two steals. Junior guard Colby Owings scored 12 points and Daniel had 10. Owings and Daniel contributed four rebounds apiece for Century (17-3, 11-1 CCAL).
Riley also set a new program single-season record with his 61st made 3-pointer, breaking the record that was set by Kevin Steadman in 2015.
The Lions (11-10, 8-4) led 9-8 after the first quarter, despite a pair of 3-pointers Riley and Daniel. Liberty junior Steven Talbot hit the final layup of the quarter and the Lions continued to roll in the second.
They scored five straight points before Knights senior guard Justin Wunder hit a trio of free throws to bring the Knights within three, 14-11. Lions forwards Jayden Adams and Peyton Scheufele each landed a basket to give the hosts an 18-11 lead, but a jumper from Riley cut the Lions lead to 18-13.
Sophomore guard Elias Rimel sparked a 7-0 scoring run for the Lions that included a 3 from junior guard Justin Sheetz until a three-point play from Riley stopped the run. The Lions led 27-16 at the break.
“We came out and had a rough first half, but we played great defense and had a great halftime talk with [Coach George Wunder],” Owings said. “We came out and played better defense and hit some better shots at the end.”
The Knights used a 10-0 run at the end of the third quarter to chip away at their deficit. Owings scored 10 of the team’s 16 points, but Liberty continued to hold on to a 38-32 lead to set up another exciting final quarter between the county foes.
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Riley hit a 3 that trimmed the deficit by three, but the Lions remained ahead. Senior guard Connor Stewart used a steal-turned-layup to give the Lions a 45-41 lead, but Daniel responded with a 3 to bring the Knights within one. A pair of free throws from Owings put the Knights ahead for the first time since the first quarter.
The Knights took a timeout with 2:13 to play and the teams traded shots. A basket from Daniel gave the Knights the 50-47 lead, but the Lions weren’t yet finished.
Sheetz took a shot from the 3-point line with 1.7 seconds remaining just after coach Brian Tombs called a timeout. The shot sank through the net after the whistle was blown, so the points did not count. Adams took a 3-point shot at the buzzer, but the ball bounced off the rim and to the floor as the Knights started to celebrate.
Scheufele led the Lions with 14 points and Sheetz scored 10. Sophomore guard Shane Stewart did not return to the game after the first half because of an injury. A number of missed layups and unnecessary turnovers doomed the Lions in the second half, but Tombs said his team still got good looks and put themselves in positions to remain on top.
“I thought everything was clicking in the first half,” Tombs said. “Defensively, we were good the whole game and they had to pretty much earn everything that they got. Offensively, the first half I felt we were moving the ball much better and had some good looks where guys could take some shots and they were knocking them down.
“I just felt the energy in terms of understanding what we wanted in the first half was good. The second half got a little sloppy, too many turnovers but we got some good looks, we just didn’t knock them down."
Century (50): Noah Riley 21, Matt Daniel 10, Colby Owings 12, Justin Wunder 3, John Pavlick 4.
Liberty (47): Shane Stewart 4, Justin Sheetz 10, Connor Stewart 6, Peyton Scheufele 14, Elias Rimel 2, Nate Kent 2, Steven Talbot 3, Jayden Adams 6.