Centralia ends Cougars' campaign
Orphans' defense takes down Bresse Central, 41-34
BENTON – The first venture into Class 3A boy's basketball for the Breese Central Cougars produced a regional championship last Friday night and a trip into the sectional semifinals against 3A stalwart Centralia on Wednesday.

The Cougars found out the hard way that there is a big difference in physicality between the two classes.

The Orphans were too rugged a foe on this night as they held the Cougars off of the offensive glass and took control of the contest in the fourth quarter.

Centralia prevailed 41-34 in front of a large crowd at Benton's Rich Herrin Gymnasium.

Coach Jeremy Shubert's club could manage just four offensive rebounds, one in each quarter, and failed to get to the foul line enough to earn easy points.

“They (Centralia) executed better than we did tonight. They got the loose balls early, which I thought was a factor,” said Coach Shubert. “They had a stretch there where they got three or four offensive rebounds and they outrebounded us tonight. But credit to my kids, they came back and tied it, evened it up.”

On the other hand, the Orphans took care of the sectional semifinal win by nailing 7-of-11 charity tosses the final quarter.

Head coach Lee Bennett's team improved to 18-9 on the season and have a showdown with the host Rangers on Friday night in the sectional title game.

The Rangers beat Cahokia, 48-43 on Tuesday night to advance.

Six-foot-two junior guard/forward Javon Williams, Jr. and 6-foot-4 senior forward Dawson Berry shared scoring honors with 14-points apiece for the Orphans.

Both came up with big scores in the final frame as Centralia broke a 26-all tie as they outscored the Cougars, 15-8.

“He (Williams) didn’t finish very well and we didn’t finish around the basket as well as we usually do. But I thought we made enough plays and got some stops on the defensive end in the fourth quarter,” said Coach Bennett. “It wasn’t pretty but it was good enough. That’s a very good basketball team we beat tonight.”

Central got a 12-points each from 6-foot-3 senior Jack Strieker and 6-foot-8 junior Tyler Joest in the loss.

Strieker nailed four 3-pointers in the first half but was held scoreless in the final 16-minutes.

Central had many chances to get the victory in a game that they knew would be a physical struggle.

After getting Centralia in foul trouble in the third quarter where Cougars could have picked up some easy points from the foul line, Coach Shubert saw his club hit just 4-of-5 foul shots, compared to 13-of-17 from the Orphans.

Centralia weathered the third quarter foul problems and then went on a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter to secure the win.

Williams, who spent a lot of the night running the spread offense on top for Coach Bennett, drove into the lane for a nice score to give the Orphans back the lead for good.

He added a pair of free throws before again getting to the goal on a drive. When his second shot found the mark, Centralia led 32-26 with 3:16 to go.

During the fourth quarter, when they needed to rally, Central committed four of their 12-turnovers and hit just 2-of-8 field goal attempts.

Forced to send Centralia to the line late, the Orphans cashed in the free ones and booked a return trip to Benton on Friday night.

Senior's Carter Truong and Kolby Schulte each hit 3-pointers in the fourth quarter for Central.

But it wasn't nearly enough.

Williams added another score by grabbing a long rebound off of a missed 3-pointer by Strieker and then sprinted to the other end of the floor for a lay in and a 39-31 lead with just :34 left.

After the Truong 3-pointer, Centralia junior forward Johnathan Keeler closed the book with two more free throws with just :19.8 left.

“We had some good looks but we just couldn't get the ball in the hole. They screened us and we couldn't get to the offensive glass. They scored in transition more than we can afford them to do,” said Coach Shubert.

The Cougars closed out their season at 26-5 with their first ever 3A Regional championship last Friday night.

Central was in contention for most of the contest and they had the Orphans in trouble a couple of times in the third quarter.

Trailing 22-16 at halftime, Breese Central emerged from intermission with an 8-0 run to open the second half to grab a 24-22 lead.

After a Schulte drive in the lane, Joest scored six-consecutive points as the Cougars got the ball inside.

He made a pair of free throws at the 3:01 mark.

This was significant as the Orphans had reached seven-personal fouls for the half which put Breese Central in the bonus for the remainder of the game.

Centralia had committed three offensive fouls in the stretch and the Cougars had the momentum.

Using a football saying, the Orphans' defense “stiffened” the rest of the way.

In foul trouble, Centralia ran some clock in a spread offense and got to the foul line with Berry adding two made free throws.

A basket by junior forward Jordan Maines gave Centralia back the lead.

Sophomore Simon Thomas scored for Breese Central on a cut to the basket to close the quarter and tie the game for a final time.

“They (Centralia) made more plays tonight and they got to the free throw line more than we did,” said Coach Shubert. “They shot 17-free throws and we shot five. When you can do that and execute like they did. That is a testament to the physicality that they see each and every night. Night in and night out, playing the 3A and 4A teams that they do.”

The Cougars finished just 12-of-34 from the floor, 6-of-16 from the arc.

Centralia ended up 13-of-37 overall, 2-of-4 from the 3-point line.

The Orphans will hook up with the 31-2 Rangers on Friday night in what will surely be in front of an overflowing crowd and frenzied atmosphere.

Benton hasn't won a boy's basketball sectional title since 2003 while Centralia will be looking for its first since 2011.

The two programs have a combined 31-sectional titles in boy's basketball.

“I told the guys they are going to go down in the history, from what Central has done from the late 90's on basketball-wise, as one of those great teams by what they accomplished this year,” said Coach Shubert. “It is just a testament as to how hard these kids worked.”

Breese Central
Centralia (41) – Meskil 0 0 0-0 0, Long 0 1 2-4 5, Patrick IV 0 0 0-0 0, Keeler 0 0 2-2 2, Maines 3 0 0-1 6, Berry 3 1 5-6 14, Williams, Jr. 5 0 4-4 14.
2FG-11, 3FG-2, FT-13-17, PF-11.

Breese Central (38) – Schulte 1 1 0-1 5, Truong 0 1 0-0 3, Menkhaus 0 0 0-0 0, Haselhorst 0 0 0-0 0, Strieker 0 4 0-0 12, Thomas 1 0 0-0 2, Ratermann 0 0 0-0 0, Joest 4 0 4-4 12.
2FG-6, 3FG-6, FT-4-5, PF-18.

Fouled Out
– None.
Technical Fouls
– None.