At the time, the chase-down block by Centennial’s Brandon Bonner to negate a wide-open layup appeared rather inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. Down 14 points in the early stages of the third quarter on the road against Wilde Lake, the Eagles were reeling.
However, something little can sometimes make all the difference.
Sparked by a suddenly renewed energy on the defensive end, Centennial rallied to put together a 16-0 run in the middle of the third quarter and never relinquished that momentum the rest of the way en route to an eventual 57-51 win over the first-place Wildecats.
“We came in at halftime and talked about the offensive deficiencies, but the real message was that to make up for it we had to double-down defensively. And that’s exactly what we did,” Centennial coach Christian Sanders said. “That block, regardless of the score … it was important. Nobody expected it and it started shifting things. Then Marco Benavides comes in off the bench and gives us ridiculously huge minutes. Before you know it, everyone is picking things up.
“Little by little you could see the wind coming out of their sails and we fed off of that.”
Centennial junior Bryson Baker talks about the Eagles' 57-51 road win over Wilde Lake on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020.
Jeong Hwang (18 points), Bryson Baker (16) and Shane Taylor (11) did the heavy lifting offensively to complete the comeback. Baker was especially key late, as the junior guard made seven of eight from the foul line in the final 90 seconds to help Centennial (4-1, 8-2) maintain its lead.
Baker also was an important piece defensively in the third quarter, registering three steals in the period.
“We were really energetic on defense and we were active on the ball. By doing that, we were able to get stops and push in transition,” Baker said. “[Our defense] made them uncomfortable.”
On the other side, Wilde Lake (3-1, 6-2) suffered its first loss in league play and saw a four-game winning streak come to an end. The Wildecats, which were led on the evening by Marcus Mitchell (15 points) and Brince Shelton (14), ended up shooting just 6-27 from the field in the second half after racing out to a 33-21 lead at the break.
“For us, it was absolutely a tale of two halves,” Wilde Lake coach Deon Wingfield said. “That first half we moved the ball really well, going side to side. Then we came out in that third quarter and didn’t move it, started missing shots and our confidence disappeared. And as we lost confidence, they gained it.”
Wilde Lake never trailed at any point during the first half. Mitchell scored seven of his points in the first quarter and the Wildecats took a 14-9 lead by the end of the period. The lead ballooned to 12 points by halftime, with Shelton and Kyjuan Adams (10 points) getting in on the action as well. Following a layup by Kwaku Boampong with 5:55 left in the third quarter, Wilde Lake had its largest lead of the game at 37-23.
That lead appeared like it was going to grow when a steal got Adams free on a fast break on the next possession. But before he could lay it in, Bonner (8 points) tracked him down and pinned the ball against the backboard.
Wilde Lake didn’t score again for five minutes and, by the time it did, Centennial had taken the lead.
A 3-pointer by Taylor midway through the fourth quarter gave the Eagles their largest lead of the night, 49-42. Wilde Lake did close to within three points in the final minute, but Baker’s clutch foul shooting made sure the Wildecats never got any closer than that.
Sanders, who is in his first year as varsity coach after 10 years leading the Eagles’ JV program, said the comeback win is just the latest example of the toughness of this Centennial team.
“Not much was mentioned about us in the preseason … our junior class took some lumps last year and we had a lot of unknowns. But I think we’ve used that to kind of sneak up on some people,” he said. “After coaching almost all of them for the last two years, I knew what we had and I knew how resilient they are. They’re not fazed by these hostile road environments and they don’t panic when we get behind.”
Wingfield, meanwhile, is looking at the setback as an opportunity for growth. With a game against Marriotts Ridge (4-1, 7-3) on tap for Friday, there’s no time to dwell on the past.
“It’s a lesson for us and we can absolutely learn from this game,” Wingfield said. “I want the guys to understand that the world is not coming to an end and we can continue to build. We have to allow this to make us better and not make some of those self-inflicted mistakes that cost us in the second half tonight.”
Centennial 57, Wilde Lake 51
C (4-1, 8-2): Hwang 18, Baker 16, Taylor 11, Bonner 8, Sedlacko 2, Benavides 2.
The Gators exploded in the second half to pull away after the game was tied at 24-24 going into halftime. Aria Ameli led the charge with a season high 18 points, all coming in the final two quarters. Bobby Hill also finished in double figures with 13 points.
Cooper Haberern led the way in the loss with 20 points for the Lions.
Re (3-2, 5-3): Ameli 18, Hill 13, McKenna 8, Manning 8, Ballard 7, Jerry 6, Glasper 4, Ha 2.
The Scorpions won their seventh straight game and their second straight county game by double figures. Ke’mari Simpson set the tone with a career-high 24 points, including 16 in third quarter when Oakland Mills broke open the game for good. Barry Evans was right behind with 22 points, while DJ Hopkins added 12.
Kojo Addo led Long Reach with 19 points, including a 6-for-7 effort from the foul line.
OM (4-1, 7-2): Simpson 24, Evans 22, Hopkins 12, Diaby 6, Lincoln 5, Ndiritu 4, Abraham 4, Gray 4, Norton 2.
Deven Daniel and Jordan Oates scored 14 points apiece to lead an overall balanced effort in the Raiders’ convincing win over the Gladiators. Eight different Atholton players finished with four or more points.
Bisi Owens scored a game-high 19 points in the loss for Glenelg.
A (3-2, 7-3): Daniel 14, Oates 14, Brown 7, Miller 7, Anderson 5, Rankin 5, Nwakalor 4, Swartz 4.
The Mustangs used a balanced scoring effort that saw six players score between seven and 10 points to defeat the Golden Bears. John Miller (10 points) was the only player to score in double figures for Marriotts Ridge, which bounced back from its first county loss at the end of last week.
Ha (1-4, 4-6): Bennett 12, King 12, Aodu 7, Thomas 7, Johnson 2, Hewitt 1.
Half: 24-20 MR.
Glenelg Country 62, Gerstell 43
The Dragons stayed alone in first place in the MIAA A Conference Black Division, leading from start to finish on the scoreboard and in the rebounding battle. Glenelg Country out-rebounded Gerstell 38-13 on the evening, with Jordan Brathwaite (23 points, 9 rebounds), Noah Batchelor (7 points, 15 rebounds) and Jarod Robinson (12 points, 7 rebounds) all making significant contributions to the cause.
Glenelg Country, which also got a 12-point game from Noah Charles, was ahead 18-4 after the first quarter.