Mount Hebron's ardent home-court cheering section tried to rattle Centennial's Will Latta by making fun of his haircut every time he went to the foul line in the fourth quarter. They chanted, "Chia Pet."
But Latta ignored the insult and sank five of six free throws down the stretch to spark the streaking Eagles to a 55-49 upset of No. 13 Mount Hebron (12-2, 4-2) last night.
Latta (10 points), a senior substitute swing man who played almost two full quarters because Centennial starters Dave Hudson and Kurt Weitzel got into early foul trouble, hit two crucial free throws with 55 seconds left to gave the Eagles a 49-48 lead.
With four seconds left he sank two more free throws that put the Eagles ahead 53-49. He sank five of six free throws and scored seven points in the fourth quarter.
"I heard 'Chia Pet,' but once I stepped up to the line I shut everything out and didn't hear anything but swishes," Latta said with a laugh. "I'm usually a pretty good free-throw shooter, but today I found out I could make them in the clutch."
Fourth-quarter free-throw shooting decided the game, as Mount Hebron shot 3-for-14 at the line that period, and Centennial was 11-for-14. Overall, Mount Hebron was 11-for-25 at the line and Centennial was 12-for-20.
Centennial senior Seann Jones also hit five of six free throws and scored nine of his 19 points in the fourth period.
Two free throws by Jones gave Centennial a 51-48 lead with 28 seconds left.
With 12 seconds left and the Vikings still behind, 51-48, Kurtis Jestes sank one free throw and deliberately missed the second. Mount Hebron regained possession when the rebound bounced out of bounds off a Centennial player.
With five seconds left and the score 51-49, Mount Hebron's Royal Antoine was fouled and he missed the first shot. His second shot missed the rim, and that violation gave possession to Centennial.
Latta then was fouled and sank two free throws. He also scored the final basket after a Centennial steal at midcourt.
It was Centennial's third straight league victory after the Eagles (9-5 overall) had lost their first three league games.
"Everyone has been talking about how we were going to finish last in the county and how we'd never beat Mount Hebron and we were just sick of hearing it," Latta said. "'This will shut up a lot of cynics."
Jones, in addition to his game-high 19 points, guarded Mount Hebron's leading scorer, Jestes, and held him to 13 points, 10 below his season's average.
Mount Hebron played without 6-foot-6 center Patrick Ngongba, who was sidelined with a sprained ligament in his foot.
Centennial made 16 turnovers in the first half, but trailed by just four points because Mount Hebron shot only 7-for-26 from the field.
The Eagles played more intensely in the third quarter and went ahead 36-32, but Mount Hebron, helped by Mark Jensen's three fourth-quarter three-point baskets, went ahead 48-41 with three minutes left to play.
"We played decent man-to-man defense," Centennial coach Jim Hill said. "We started in a 2-3 zone but we weren't covering their outside shooters so we switched to man."