Talk about redeeming yourself.
Mount Hebron point guard Tony Yanero had just played a first half that was, to say the least, forgettable. He had committed a handful of costly turnovers, he had gone nearly two quarters without scoring, and, by halftime, Hebron was trailinghomestanding Centennial, 37-27, and Yanero was one big bundle of frustration.
Then, as suddenly as Centennial had taken command earlier, the Vikings took off on a wild second-half comeback ride, with Yanero driving the bus.
And as Hebron celebrated its dramatic, 58-53 victory before a packed gym, Yanero had to be the team's most satisfied player. His game-high 19 points -- including 15 in the second half -- and five assists dragged the Vikings (2-0 county, 7-3 overall) from the brink of defeat.
Yanero was all nerves in the first half, all ice after that.
His two pull-up jumpers capped a 13-2 Hebron run that caught Centennial late in the third period. His own five-point run gavethe Vikings a 49-40 cushion two minutes into the fourth period. And,after the Eagles ran off nine straight points to tie the game at 49 with 2:38 to go, Yanero nailed a 15-footer, then hit four consecutivefree throws in a one-and-one situation in the final minute to seal the victory.
"I tried to do too much in the first half. I was too erratic, and I lost my confidence," Yanero said. "Coach (Scott Robinson) gave us a good pep talk at halftime. He told us to pick up our defensive pressure. As a team, we picked it up. We've got great chemistry."
The Vikings displayed that quality Friday night. They beat a solid Centennial team, despite an off night from forward Phil Tonkins.The team's second-leading scorer, Tonkins fouled out with 2:38 left in the game after failing to score.
Before Tonkins left the game, freshman guard Kurtis Jestes (eight points) fouled out late in the third period after coming off the bench to spark Hebron. Robinson spentthe last two minutes reaching deep into his bench, as the Vikings hung on.
"After Kurtis and Phil fouled out, I was worried," Robinsonsaid. "But all 12 guys have been great. They are so receptive to everything we've taught them. Tony has been Mr. Clutch all year."
Robinson, a first-year coach at Hebron who spent seven years coaching atLoyola (Baltimore), has been preaching defense this year. The Vikings came to Centennial, having given up just 49 points a game.
And it was defense that revived Hebron, after Centennial -- bolstered by three, three-point baskets -- outscored the Vikings, 24-17, in the second quarter to take a 34-27 halftime lead.
The third quarter started with a familiar ring for the Vikings. Yanero committed a turnover,and Centennial's Ken Ulman (11 points) hit his third three-pointer of the game to make it 37-27. Then the game began to turn around.
Hebron forward Jim Zurad (13 points, 13 rebounds), who was superb inside, turned an offensive rebound into a layup. Forward Dominic DeVita (13 points) made another layup. Jestes nailed a 17-footer. Zurad hit a three-pointer. And the Vikings' pressure defense forced three straight turnovers. With 2:46 left in the quarter, Centennial's lead had dwindled to 37-36, and Eagles coach Jim Hill called a timeout.
But Hebron was off and running. Yanero hit two straight shots. Jestes andDeVita each hit one. Yanero then scored five straight to make it 49-40 with 5:50 left in the game. The Eagles made one last run behind forward Charlie Stewart (13 points), who scored successive baskets to close the lead to 49-48. Keith Krider tied it at 49-49 on a foul shot with 2:38 left.
Then Yanero took over one last time.
"Coach brought a mentality from Loyola that's carried over at Hebron: no surrender," Yanero said.