As the final buzzer blared, a sea of students in white stormed the floor at Century mobbing the Knights.
In a tightly contested game throughout, Century defeated Liberty 63-57 in the latest chapter of the storied rivalry between the schools. The victory carried extra meaning as Knights coach George Wunder earned his 300th career victory.
“I’m just proud,” Wunder said of the milestone. “It’s certainly not a ‘me’ achievement, it’s a program achievement. Just been fortunate to be the head coach here at Century High School. Proud of all the players who have worked hard and all the coaches who have worked hard to get to this point. For me, it just means consistency throughout those 20 years. It’s the relationships with the players and coaches. Being able to celebrate that tonight is pretty cool.”
Junior guard Andrew Marcinko led the way in the winning effort with a game-high 28 points.
“It was great to get Coach Wunder his 300th win at home against Liberty and it’s just a tremendous feeling,” Marcinko said.
After trailing at the half, the Knights (10-2 overall, 5-1 Carroll County) came out invigorated with energy on both ends of the floor. In the first four minutes of the second half, the Knights orchestrated a 13-2 run.
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That stretch flipped a five-point halftime deficit to a 38-32 lead. Century’s perimeter pressure forced several turnovers and created transition opportunities. Marcinko took full advantage of those opportunities with a pair of 3-point plays during the run. He scored 13 of his 28 points during the third quarter.
“They were really pressing out on 3s and I figured I could just drive right in,” Marcinko said. “Every time I got it and made it, they fouled me, so it worked out really well.”
While Marcinko galvanized the Knights’ offense, their defense limited the Lions to just seven points in the third quarter. Junior guard Tyler Downs scored all seven of Liberty’s (9-3, 4-2) points during the period as he led them with 23 points, the Lions’ main source of offense.
“They scored early, we came down walked it up, moved the ball around, but nothing with real urgency,” Liberty coach Brian Tombs said of the third quarter offensive struggles. “Against good teams, they’re going to make you pay. They just kind of came out and took it from us. I do like that we responded.”
Trailing by seven entering the final quarter, the Lions inched closer. Senior guard Shane Stewart found some offensive rhythm with several baskets down the stretch, trimming the deficit to 59-57 with 35.9 seconds remaining.
On the ensuing possession, Knights senior John Pavlick knocked down one of two free throws keeping it a one-possession game with 21.9 seconds left. Pavlick’s pivotal free throw was his 10th point of the evening, anchoring the Knights’ offense in the low post.
However, Liberty’s comeback hopes were thwarted when a shot by Stewart fell short as time wound down. The Knights tacked on a trio of free throws, securing a key rivalry victory in front of a capacity crowd.