On the heels of an opening-night loss on the road against Marriotts Ridge, Centennial first-year coach Christian Sanders talked to his group about energy and the importance of bringing it for a full four quarters.
The message was received loud and clear.
On Friday night against visiting Reservoir, just two days after handling rival Mt. Hebron, Centennial (2-1, 2-1) set the tone early on and then made big plays late en route to a statement 74-73 victory over the previously unbeaten Gators (2-1, 2-1).
“That first game we felt like we just plain didn’t show up. We didn’t bring the energy we knew we needed and I challenged them to refocus … and it started with practice,” Sanders said. “We’ve been a completely different team since then, on both ends of the floor.”
Jeong Hwang exploded for a career-high 25 points to lead the way for the Eagles, while Joey Sedlacko (20 points) and Shane Taylor (17) were right behind him. The trio combined to hit 10 threes, including four in a first quarter that saw Centennial shoot over 75 percent from the field and jump out to a 28-15 lead.
Taylor attributed the fast start to the tremendous amount of respect the Eagles have for Reservoir, which had won its first two games this winter by an average of 24 points.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game and we knew it was going to test our mental toughness … we just came ready to play,” Taylor said.
Centennial's Shane Taylor talks about the Eagles' 74-73 victory over visiting Reservoir on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019.
On the other side, Reservoir battled back from its early deficit behind inspired play from Robert Hill (22 points, 16 rebounds) and Kaleb Glasper (21 points). The Gators got back within three at the half, 43-40, and took a lead of as many as five points during the second half.
But come crunch time, Centennial simply had an answer for everything.
With Reservoir leading 67-66 with three minutes remaining in regulation, the Eagles responded with a 7-0 spurt. The run included a layup from Hwang, to go along with a 3-pointer and put-back from Taylor to take a lead Centennial held onto the rest of the way.
Reservoir never quit, getting threes in the final minute from Rashod Ballard (12 points) and Jaylen Manning (13) in the final minute. However, a made foul shot by Centennial’s Bryson Baker with two seconds left proved to be the deciding points.
“We made some very good adjustments, started running their shooters off the line, and we got ourselves right back in it. Credit to Centennial in the end, though, because their kids made some very clutch shots,” Reservoir coach Ian Pope said. “We came up short, but this is a very resilient group of kids and if there is such a thing as a good loss, this is it. Early in the season, on the road … we learned a lot tonight.”
On the other side, Sanders said he was thrilled with the composure of his team as Reservoir made push after push to try and complete the comeback.
“It felt great to see us execute the x’s and o’s. When we got into trouble and got sped up, we doubled down with what we know and it really paid dividends today,” he said.
Centennial 74, Reservoir 73
C (2-1, 2-1): Jeong Hwang 25, Joey Sedlacko 20, Shane Taylor 17, Matthew Schickner 5, Brandon Bonner 4, Sean Lee 2, Bryson Baker 1.
Re (2-1, 2-1): Robert Hill 22, Kaleb Glasper 21, Jaylen Manning 13, Rashod Ballard 12, Aria Ameli 5.
Half: 43-40 C.
Marriotts Ridge 54, River Hill 52
Carter Ryan (7 points) hit buzzer beaters at the end of the first half and at the end of regulation, the second of which lifted the Mustangs to the two-point victory. On the deciding play, Ryan grabbed the rebound on a missed floater by Austin Avent and flipped the ball high off the backboard just before time expired. The ball went in and the Marriotts Ridge student section erupted.
Kaden Bryan scored a team-high 18 points, while John Miller chipped in with 12 for a Marriotts Ridge team that now sits as one of only two county teams that are still undefeated — joined by Wilde Lake.
“It’s very exciting for us right now. We do have a young team, but more than anything we are just a much different group than last year when we had a lot of seniors. This year, though, you can see that they all want to win for the team,” Marriotts Ridge coach Tim Brady said. “We are just so scrappy and are playing hard.”
River Hill, which was led by 29 points from Nick Marshall, has lost each of its first three games this season by one possession.
MR (3-0, 4-0): Bryan 18, Miller 12, Ryan 7, Paige 5, Tran 4, Avent 4, James 3, Smith 2, Groman 1.
Ha (1-2, 2-2): Adou 11, King 11, Maire 10, Alexandre 10, Bennett 7, Thomas 4,
Half: 40-27 WL.
Long Reach 65, Mt. Hebron 64 OT
Darelle Raymond (12 points) hit the game-winning free throw with 2.7 seconds left in overtime to lift the Lightning to their first county win of the season. Kojo Addo led Long Reach in scoring with 20 points, while Da’Vaun Yarbough and Raymond each had 12.
Justin Michelotti (21 points) and Evan Ichrist (19) were the leaders in the loss for Mt. Hebron.
LR (1-2, 1-2): Addo 20, Raymond 12, Yarbough 12, Olivis 6, Simms 5, Oduro-Dompreh 4, Brown 4, Kelly 2.
Barry Evans scored a career-high 25 points to lead the way to the victory for the Scorpions, who raced out to a 19-8 lead by the end of the first quarter. Truth Norton (16 points), Ahmed Diaby (13) and DJ Hopkins also contributed double-digit scoring efforts.
Atholton, which lost its first game of the year, was led by 15 points from Raymond Brown.
OM (1-1, 1-2): Barry Evans 25, Truth Norton 16, Ahmed Diaby 13, DJ Hopkins 12, Stevie Jackson 7.
A (2-1, 3-1): Raymond Brown 15, Darren Miller 12, Jordan Oates 11, Jack Anderson 9, Jabari Rankin 6, Justin Jennings 4, Adrian Nwakalor 4, Deven Daniel 2, Ian Swartz 1.
Half: 33-29 OM.
Howard 52, Westminster 50
Darrion Harris scored a game-high 18 points to lead the way for the Lions in the non-county road victory.
The Dragons jumped out to a 16-2 lead by the end of the first quarter and never looked back. Igor Yoka-Bratasz (18 points), Jordan Brathwaite (14), Jarod Robinson (11) and Noah Batchelor (10) all scored in double figures.
The Yellowjackets won their second game at the Bishop Walker Tournament, getting a game high 19 points from Jordan Praylow to bounce back from a loss to SEED (DC) a day earlier. Saihou Mbergan (12 points) and DT Hamilton (11) also scored in double figures.
CCA (5-4): Praylow 19, Mbergan 12, Hamilton 11, Felder 8, Richards 6, Knox 6, Ogunmola 2.