Aberdeen’s defense stood up and forced Centralia to work a bit harder in the first half. However, after a few sage words from Ron Brown, the Tigers found their stride in the second half.
The Bobcats nearly erased a bad start with a defensive second quarter to get to within six at halftime. After that, the visiting Tigers executed their game plan and shot well to run off with a 72-55 Evergreen 2A boys basketball win at Sam Benn Gym.
Zack Ball led Aberdeen with 18 points, with Veek Cheema adding 12 points and eight rebounds and Charlie Dietrich 10 points and nine assists for Aberdeen (0-5, 3-9). Patrick Neely led all scorers with 19 points, with Baylor Scott and Trevor Baumann adding 15 points each for Centralia (4-1, 11-2).
“We knew coming in that this was an excellent shooting ball club, scored 100-plus in one game and I thought we played some good defense on them at times,” AHS head coach Leonard Barnes said. “We started a bit slow, but at times, we played tough defense. There are a lot of good things we can take away from this game. We lost, but we gave great effort tonight.”
“We have to rely upon execution, but we do have some good shooters,” longtime Centralia head coach Brown said. The Tigers shot 8-for-11 from behind the 3-point arc in the contest and finished with a 54-percent clip from the field overall.
“We’re balanced, with just three or four guys who can go off at any time,” Brown added. “The execution, taking care of the ball and shooting a good percentage, that what we have to do. In the end, you win games like that.”
Centralia’s fast-paced start left Aberdeen behind for a bit in the first quarter, leading 7-0 before Ball’s mid-range jumper landed in the basket with 4:30 left in the frame. Ball’s conversion was the Bobcats’ first field goal in eight attempts to start the game.
The pace slowed down to allow Aberdeen to execute its half-court offense and the hosts found some rhythm on offense. But, Centralia kept its hot shooting going for an 18-9 lead after one quarter.
With Barnes imploring his players to knuckle down on defense, the Bobcats responded in the second quarter. Following an inside basket by Baumann, the hosts swiped four consecutive steals for three easy layups to trim the deficit to 20-15 with 6:10 left. Cheema benefited from a Dietrich steal for a layup, while Dietrich and Deon Schlesser scored on steals and Ashton Williamson added a steal as well.
After Williamson’s steal, Brown then called his first — and only — timeout of the game to get his charges back in order. Aberdeen used the momentum gained from the quick surge to stay close for a 31-25 halftime score.
“I really want to point out Schlesser and Devan Harke’s energy and play on defense (in the second quarter),” Barnes said. “The guys on the bench, especially those two, really got us back in the game. We just didn’t shoot well at times and that continues to be a nemesis for us. We don’t shoot well in stretches and it has been that way all year. Centralia played really, really well.”
“Once we gave them those three layups, it changed the momentum and that’s when Aberdeen got a little life,” Brown said. “We don’t make those mistakes and should never give up those types of shots to a team we had on the ropes. Aberdeen’s scrappy, they hit good shots.”
The five-point margin after the second-quarter surge, along with a lone free throw from Ball at 31-26 early in the third, was the closest Aberdeen got to Centralia.
The Tigers picked up where they left off offensively with hot shooting from Baumann, Justice Tasby (13 points) and Neely. Scott’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer gave Centralia a 51-38 lead after three quarters.
Aberdeen got to within 10, 61-51, with three minutes left in the fourth, but had to foul to slow down the clock. The Tigers converted 8-of-9 free throws, with Neely adding his third trey of the night in the final minutes to secure the win.
On Thursday, Aberdeen stays home to take on Capital.
Cent 18 13 20 21 — 72 Abe 9 16 13 17 — 55
Centralia (72) — Kerner, Blaser 2, Jackson, Scott 15, Neely 19, Waring 6, Housden 2, Tasby 13, Studeman, Baumann 15. FG — 27-50 (.540). FT — 10-13.
Aberdeen (55) — Dietrich 10, Cheema 12, Harke, Williamson, Schlesser 9, Nord 6, Ball 18, Taylor, Ontiveros. FG — 22-55 (.400). FT — 4-6.
JV — Centralia 64, Aberdeen 58. Cole Edwards 16 points and Chandler Craig 14 points for AHS.