Centennial's full-court press and clutch free-throw shooting were the key ingredients in a 64-62 Eagles victory against visiting Oakland Mills yesterday.
Coming into the game, both teams were tied with Hammond for first place with 6-3 league Boys basketball
records. There are now only four league games remaining.
The contest came down to the final two seconds, similar to an earlier Centennial overtime victory against Oakland Mills (8-10, 6-4).
Following a Centennial turnover on an inbounds pass with two seconds left, Oakland Mills' Michael Hill (11 points) missed an in-and-out three-point attempt at the buzzer, leaving Centennial (14-4, 7-3) with the victory.
Hill, Oakland Mills' leading scorer, was held to one point through the first three quarters before scoring 10 in the fourth quarter.
It is usually Oakland Mills that wins games with its full-court pressure and clutch free-throw shooting. But yesterday the Scorpions made 16 turnovers and Centennial made just eight.
Centennial's biggest lead was 25-14 in the second quarter, but Oakland Mills fought back behind strong offensive efforts from Antoine Barnes (17 points) and Chad Barr (14 points, 11 rebounds). The Eagles' lead was cut to 32-29 at halftime.
After both teams shot poorly in the third quarter, with Centennial 3-for-13 and Oakland Mills 4-for-11, Centennial clung to a 42-41 lead heading into the final period.
Oakland Mills then went on a 6-0 run to start the quarter and led 47-42 with 7:07 to play.
In the next four minutes, however, Centennial made seven free throws, and its full-court press led to steals by Damian Biggs and Seann Jones that were converted into easy baskets. Kurt Weitzel also added a basket.
That 13-2 Eagles run put them ahead 55-49 with 3:10 to play, and five seconds later, Barr fouled out for Oakland Mills.
Damian Biggs and Brian Hulka paced Centennial with 17 and 16 points, respectively.
Centennial, which shot 19-for-27 (71 percent) at the foul line, made five free throws down the stretch, including 4-for-4 by Biggs, to preserve the victory despite Hill's last-quarter efforts.
Oakland Mills shot only 21-for-55 (38 percent), and Centennial shot 22-for-47 (47 percent).
"Those two fourth-quarter steals were what broke it open," Centennial's Hulka said.