Centennial retains first by defeating Wildecats Defensive changes make the difference


All season Centennial has played predominantly a man-for-man defense.

And that was what the Eagles played for three quarters yesterday against a pesky Wilde Lake team that wouldn't quit for three quarters.

But in the fourth quarter, Centennial coach Jim Hill switched to a zone, and the Eagles quickly pulled away to a 17-point lead, cruising to a 58-50 victory.

The win kept Centennial (13-3 overall, 8-1 league) in first place.

"We don't like to play a zone much, but we didn't think they could shoot well outside," Hill said.

"The [2-3] zone helped us defense [Carl] Jackson and it helped us on the boards. I thought we dominated the boards in the second half."

The 6-foot-8, 250-pound Jackson has committed to Penn State for next season, and he had 15 points, 13 rebounds and six blocked shots. But it wasn't enough.

Three players guarded Jackson every time he touched the ball.

That opened things up for Jackson's teammates Jeremy Young (10 points, six rebounds) and Jeff Johnson (12 points).

"They cut Carl off nicely," Wilde Lake coach Paul Ellis said. "He had a hard time touching the ball. They are a tough team to play, because they are patient, run their offense and shoot well outside. And they create turnovers and score off of them."

Wilde Lake (5-10, 3-6) turned the ball over 24 times, most of them on forced turnovers or steals.

Solid defense fueled by quickness has been a Centennial strength all season, and it continued to bolster the Eagles yesterday.

The three-point shot also has played a role in Centennial's success, as the Eagles sank five of them against Wilde Lake.

Brian Otten (six points) sank a three-pointer late in the third quarter that put Centennial ahead for good, 34-32.

Centennial center Matt Laycock (18 points) made two three-pointers, including one at the end of the third quarter that gave the Eagles a 39-34 lead.

Centennial went on a 16-4 run to start the fourth quarter, and led 55-38 before substituting its second team.

Denny Chapman (16 points) scored seven points during that run, including a three-pointer.

"G.A. Mitroka and Neil Adler helped us on the boards in the second half," Hill said.

Adler, a substitute, sank a driving basket to start the fourth quarter. Mitroka scored nine points.

Centennial shot 24-for-50 from the floor. Wilde Lake was 22-for-52.

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