Phil Kiracofe, at 6 feet, is not one of the bigger players on Centennial's team. But the senior forward played much taller last night in the Class 2A East quarterfinals against Howard.
The unusually aggressive Kiracofe scored 14 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as the county champion Eagles defeated the Lions, 60-52, before a lively crowd at Howard. Centennial will travel to Central tomorrow for a semifinal.
"Phil's leadership pulled us through," Centennial coach Jim Hill said. "He took control of the team."
Centennial (17-6) led by 29-28 at halftime, after Howard's Derrick Weatherspoon sank a three-pointer in the closing seconds. Louis Matthews kept Howard (7-16) in the game with a 14-point first half, and he finished with 24 points before fouling out early in the fourth quarter.
"Centennial is the most disciplined team I've ever played against," Matthews said. "We were really pumped and ready to play and kept coming back. Both teams played good games."
Kiracofe grabbed eight of his rebounds in the second half, including two in the closing minute as the tenacious Howard team struggled to come back.
"We turned it up in the second half," Kiracofe said.
Kiracofe's teammate, 6-6 senior center Pat McAfee, played a dominant second half, scoring all 12 of his points then. He also grabbed eight rebounds.
Kirk Tyree scored nine points and had five rebounds. Scott Kincaid scored nine points, and Kevin Laycock scored eight.
Centennial beat Howard badly on the boards in the first quarter and jumped to a 19-13 lead. The Eagles built that lead to 11 in the third quarter, 46-35, before Howard went on a 9-3 run to trail 49-44 after three quarters.
Darius Hammond's outside jumper made it a three-point game, 52-49. But Hammond missed a one-and-one that could have cut it further. Hammond, who scored 32 in the opening playoff game against Lackey, scored seven against Centennial.
"We doubled him most of the game," said Hill.
Brian Neidig's three-point basket put the Eagles ahead 55-49. McAfee's layup made it 57-49 with 2: 02 to play, and the Lions lacked firepower down the stretch, missing two three-point attempts.
Centennial shot 37 percent (21-for-57) from the field. Howard shot only 31 percent (19-for-60).
"We were definitely worried about Howard because they are as athletic as any team in the league," Hill said.
It was the third time the Eagles have defeated Howard. One of those was an overtime game.
Class 3A East
River Hill 70, South River 51: Dyami Jenkins scored 17 as the host Hawks (14-10) cruised to an easy win over the Seahawks (1-22). Brian Davidson had a game-high 18 points for the Seahawks.
Douglass-PG 68, Long Reach 67: A three-pointer from Anson Jones pulled the Lightning within one, but that's as close as it would get against visiting Douglass from Prince George's County. Josh Gross scored 22 points to lead Long Reach. Robert Francois added 13 and Kelvin Jones added 12 for the Lightning, which finished 14-7.
Class 1A South
Glenelg 52, South Hagerstown 51: South Hagerstown (10-13) made a basket with four seconds remaining, but time expired before it could call a timeout as the Gladiators won for only the second time this season. Glenelg (2-19) took its first lead at the end of the first half, and then went on an 8-0 run in the third.
Oakland Mills 59, Poolesville 53: Tied at 44 with four minutes to go, Andre Brooks made six of his 10 consecutive free throws in the fourth quarter, to lift the Scorpions (15-6) over the Indians (7-16). Oakland Mills went 13 of 16 from the line in the fourth quarter.
Cyril Chesson led Oakland Mills with 16 points. Poolesville's Andrew Randolph led all scorers with 22.
Class 4A North
No. 5 Douglass 71, No. 14 Northwestern 67: The Ducks charged out to a 14-point lead in the third quarter, but had to hold off the host Wildcats, whose fourth-quarter rally, led by Gordon Clark, fell short.
Clark scored 18 of his game-high 27 points in the last quarter, but it wasn't enough to offset the strong guard play Douglass received. Senior Dontae Truitt led the Ducks (16-4) with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
No. 2 Southern-B 76, Mervo 68: Junior guards Melvin Scott and Darshan Luckey teamed for 44 points and 18 rebounds to lead the Bulldogs (18-5) past the host Mustangs.
No. 13 Walbrook 74, Woodlawn 67: Daevon Haskins scored 21 points, Lamont Keaton had 17 and Jamaal Booker added 13 to lead host Walbrook (17-4) past Woodlawn (11-13) in a battle of Warriors.
Haskins, a junior, dished out 12 assists and Booker, a sophomore, had a game-high 15 rebounds for the winners.
Lake Clifton 68, Dulaney 31: The Lakers (15-6) had four players reach double figures in their easy win over the visiting Lions.
Class 4A East
Arundel 59, No. 9 Westminster 55: The Wildcats held the high-powered Owls' offense to a single field goal in the third quarter and upset top-seeded and visiting Westminster (20-3).
The Wildcats (10-13) erased a nine-point halftime deficit to lead, 45-43, by the end of third quarter.