Century senior Zach Tucker discusses his team's close triumph over rival Liberty. (Tom Worgo / Carroll County Times)
Century boys basketball coach George Wunder said he reminded his team at halftime: Don't let Liberty come back and make it a very close game.
But the Lions did just that. The Knights' 12-point lead at the intermission shrank to three points in the second half, and the last time with two seconds remaining on Jack Selby's 3-pointer.
But Chris Norman's free throw with 0.6 seconds left visiting Century assured of a 59-55 victory.
With the win, the Knights pushed their winning streak to 12 games.
"We stayed together as a team and didn't panic when things went down hill," said Century senior point guard Zach Tucker, who dropped in a game-high 31 points. "It's the experience of the seniors stepping up and leading everybody."
Norman, a senior forward, finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Liberty had four players in double digits: Justin Brookhart (14 points), Nick Tilson (11), Selby (10), and Steven Goetz (10). Two numbers jumped out to Liberty coach Brian Tombs — the Lions' 24 turnovers and their going 6-for-16 from the free-throw line.
Century, meanwhile, finished 17–for-22 from the line.
"If you told me we were going to have those stats and only lost by four points, I would have laughed at you," Tombs said. "Free-throw shooting was a big one. We also had too many turnovers. You just can't make those mistakes against a team that is as good as Century."
Century (14-2, 8-0 county) went ahead 51-40 on a Norman free throw with 3:40 remaining in the fourth quarter. Liberty, however, rallied. The Lions cut the deficit to 53-48 with 1:25 left on a layup.
Century boosted its lead to 56-49 43 seconds later, but the Lions wouldn't quit. They trimmed the margin to four with 11.8 to go and then three on Selby's 3-pointer before the Knights escaped with the victory.
"It was a great road win for us," Wunder said. "Liberty has a lot of great players."
After struggling with its shooting and ball control early in the third quarter, Liberty picked up its play in the middle of period.
The Lions closed the gap to 38-32 with 2:50 remaining on Justin Brookhart's layup. Liberty cut the lead to three points about a minute later on another Brookhart layup.
Century held a 42-35 advantage at the end of the third quarter.
The Knights pushed its advantage to 18-10 in the first two minutes of the second quarter on a Norman 3-pointer and put back.
Century increased it lead to 25-14 with 4:11 remaining, and the Knights led by as many as 14 points late in the quarter. Tilson's layup right before the buzzer sounded made it Century, 36-22, at the intermission.
Tucker, the county's leading scorer, had 17 points in the first half.