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Boys Basketball: Century streaking after slow start

Century senior Zach Tucker talks about how the season is going for his team. (Tom Worgo/Carroll County Times)

Early this season, the Century High boys basketball team quickly went from floundering to flourishing.

After a 2-0 start, the Knights then proceeded to lose back-to-back games to Williamsport by 12 points and to Gerstell Academy by seven. But the senior-laden Knights (10-2) haven't lost since that rough patch, reeling off eight straight victories.

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Century coach George Wunder might have been able to predict a streak of some sorts this season, since winning streaks have been pretty common for the Knights over the past three seasons.

They put together five- and six-game winning streaks last year, and compiled a whopping 17-game run in 2014-15.

"It's not something we focus on too much," Wunder said of the winning streak. "We are just trying to refine our skills, get better and prepare for our next game."

The Century boys basketball team scored the last four points of the third quarter and the first five of the final quarter to break open a close game and defeat

If there's one certainty about a Wunder-coached team, it's that the veteran coach will win.

Count on it.

Century won 17 games last year and more than 20 in each of the prior two seasons.

It's easy to see the 2016-17 Knights — who returned four starters from last year — being as good as those squads.

"I feel our confidence is growing with every practice and game," said Wunder, who has a 210-132 record in 16 seasons at the helm, including 125-30 mark against county opponents. "We have skilled kids at every position. We have a point guard [Zach Tucker] who can score and does a great job of making players around him better.

"We have a shooter in Adam Rolfes. And we have Chris Norman, who gives us 30 solid minutes a game of scoring, defense and rebounding."

No player puts up better statistics than Tucker, a 5-foot-11 senior.

He's averaging 24.9 points per game, up from 18.8 last year. He scored 32 points against Westminster and had 31 versus Franklin, Francis Scott Key, and Winters Mill.

"The most important thing is that he has gotten a lot stronger, which has helped him finish around the basket more," Wunder said. "He's a more consistent shooter. He's definitely one of the top players I have coached in my tenure at Century and he does a lot of things out there for us."

Tucker also averages 3.2 assists, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.7 steals, and is an 85.6 percent free-throw shooter (89-for-104).

He scored 29 points in Century's 72-54 win over Manchester Valley on Friday.

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"He absolutely loves basketball," Wunder said. "In the offseason, you will find him playing basketball six days a week."

Tucker said he focused sharply on passing in offseason workouts.

Century Knights head coach George Wunder watches the action as his players defeat the Mavericks of Manchester Valley 72-54 on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017.
Century Knights head coach George Wunder watches the action as his players defeat the Mavericks of Manchester Valley 72-54 on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017. (Alan White / Carroll County Times)

"I am finding other people for open shots a lot better this year," he explained. "Last year, I forced up more shots than I needed to. But this year, I can create and get my own shots."

Tucker's backcourt running mate, Rolfes, is a 6-1 shooting guard. He is a marksman and sure ball-handler who is averaging 9.8 points per outing.

"He is shooting at a really high efficiency from the three-point line," Wunder said of Rolfes, who is shooting 40.2 percent from 3-point range. "And he can also put the ball on the floor."

Senior Anthony Perrone (6-0) is other backcourt scoring option.

Norman, a senior forward, is a cornerstone of the Knights' inside game, which also features 6-1 junior forward Zach Owings, who was promoted from last year's JV. Norman, a three-year starter, is a force on the boards who can score inside or outside and is averaging 12.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game this season.

"He can do a little bit of everything for us, and he is a complete player," Wunder said. "He has been tremendous defensively for us. He can guard really anyone on the court, from a point guard to a team's center. He gives us a lot of versatility because of his athleticism."

Century is also getting contributions from senior guards Ashley Roberts (6-0), Bryce Harrell (6-0), and Scott Murri (5-8).

"We have a lot of weapons across the board," Tucker said. "We have guys that shoot, create for others and rebound. Now, we are coming together and utilizing the weapons that we do have."

With the Knights on their way to another standout season, the state semifinals are one of the goals. Century last reached the final four in 2009. But the Knights came close in 2014 and 2015, losing in the state semifinals to Oakdale.

Century also won county championships during those seasons, and is 5-0 against Carroll foes this winter.

"We have a lot of guys that can shoot the ball well," Century assistant coach Chris Anderson said. "It would be nice if we had more of a post presence. But our kids just work really hard and we try to turn weakness like that into strengths."

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