To mark what may have been Ron Brown’s final Sam Benn Gym appearance, Centralia’s Evergreen 2A Conference boys basketball champions shot down Aberdeen’s upset bid.
Hitting 72 percent from the field in the first half, the visiting Tigers wrapped up the undisputed league title with an 85-61 victory over the Bobcats in Aberdeen’s season finalé Tuesday night.
The Bobcats, who were eliminated from postseason contention by last Friday’s loss at Capital, concluded the campaign at 3-9 in league and 7-13 overall.
In his 53rd season as Centralia’s head coach, Brown saw his team (14-6 overall) go 10-2 in league play. Since the Tigers will not be part of the combined 2A/1A league Aberdeen is joining next season, this could be the veteran coach’s Benn Gym swan song “unless I last 8 or 10 more years,” Brown said with a smile.
One of the conference’s top defensive teams, the Bobcats probably would have liked their chances had they known they would have exceeded the 60-point barrier.
The Tigers, however, were on fire — although, in this instance, it was more of case of taking high-percentage shots and making an exceptionally high ratio of them. Operating primarily within 10 feet, Centralia connected on 21 of 29 field-goal attempts in the first half in building a 46-34 lead at intermission.
The visitors came down to earth somewhat in the second half, but still hit 54 percent of their field-goal tries. Centralia also made 12-of-13 free throws — in stark contrast to Aberdeen’s 12-of-29 performance from the stripe.
“We score 85 and we miss 4-5-6 lay-ins in the second half,” Brown observed.
“We knew going in they were an excellent shooting team,” AHS coach Leonard Barnes said. “They’re not very big, but they have a lot of people who can shoot the ball well and they really share the ball very well. I thought there were times we didn’t play very good defense, but they didn’t miss many looks.”
Senior wing Oscar Jackson, who sandwiched a couple of three-balls around a succession of close-in shots, led a quintet of Centralia double-digit scorers with 18 points. Patrick Neely added 16 points for the Tigers.
Nine of the 10 Bobcats who suited up scored. Junior guard Addam Follett scored a team-high 12, with junior post Jacob Black coming off the bench to contribute 10 points and five rebounds.
Aberdeen was playing catch-up from the outset. Deon Schlesser, one of four Bobcats honored in pre-game Senior Night ceremonies, opened the game with a lay-in, but the Tigers capitalized on Aberdeen turnovers to reel off the next 12 points en route to a 23-10 bulge late in the first quarter.
The Bobcats struggled for the remainder of the night to reduce the margin to single digits.
Their most serious challenge came late in the third quarter. Aaron Taylor, Austin Floch, Follett and Cole Edwards combined to sink of 7-of-10 free throws in about a 90-second span — a sequence that began with a personal-technical foul combination — to trim the deficit to 56-48 with 1:43 remaining in the period. Jackson answered with a three-ball and Gavin Kerner added a rebound basket basket to restore a 13-point spread.
Centralia pulled away in the fourth quarter.
Lorenzo Ontiveros led Aberdeen rebounders with six. Floch had four steals, one more than Follett.
Barnes thanked seniors Schlesser, Ontiveros, Taylor and Veek Cheema and assistant coaches Brandon Barnes, Brian Shay, Aaron Cleverly and Mark Buckman.
“We knew we were young and I thought we grew,” the Aberdeen coach summed up. “I thought we made a lot of progress from last year. Several of our games could have gone either way. I thought our defense was good. We need to get to the gym and get more shots up.”
Centralia 25 21 15 24 — 85
Aberdeen 18 16 14 13 — 61
Centralia (85) — Jackson 18, Scott 14, Neely 16, Waring 3, Housden 6, Bartel 12, Kerner 10, Blaser 4, Wasson 2. FG — 35-65 (.538). FT — 12-13.
Aberdeen (61) — Follett 12, Schlesser 6, Cheema 3, Ontiveros 5, Taylor 5, Campbell 8, Edwards 4, Floch 8, Black 10, Craig. FG — 23-56 (.411). FT — 12-29.
JV — Centralia 62, Aberdeen 58. Four Aberdeen players scored nine points each.
C Squad — Aberdeen 61, Centralia 43. Zach Williamson 10 points for Aberdeen.