Century 'tips' Central
Josh Tabb's tip-in at buzzer beats Breese Central, 57-55
CENTRALIA - The Century Centurions, the small school from Ullin, Illinois, have been searching for a big win against a quality opponent since the arrival of Ray Nelson and Josh Tabb two seasons ago.

With much hype and hoopla, this junior guard tandem have peaked a lot of interest around not only Southern Illinois but all over the state.

But try as they might this club hasn't received the true respect that they have wanted. Coming close to toppling favorite teams in the past two seasons only to fall in the end, this program was searching for a big win.

Saturday at the Centralia 'Union Planters' Shootout against Breese Central, they finally got one.

With the game tied at 55-all with :02.9 left in regulation Tabb, while playing the point on the press, stole the inbound pass by Central.

He put up a quick shot that was off the mark in the lane.

But the athletic Tabb reached up and tipped in his miscue.

As the ball fell through the basket the horn sounded and jubilation erupted on the Century bench and in the Centurions crowd.

Coach Andy Palmer's club had that elusive victory, 57-55 in front of a stunned Central Cougars crowd that was certainly thinking the game was headed to overtime.

"It's huge for our program to get a quality win," said Century coach Andy Palmer. "We beefed up our schedule this year to play great teams. This is a big confidence booster for us. Central is a great team that went to Peoria last season. A win over them is huge in the big picture."

Central, champions of the Mater Dei Holiday Tournament and riding a winning streak of nine games, succumbed to the quickness and athletic ability of Century in the second half, especially on the boards.

"That is just athleticism getting off the floor," said Central coach Stan Eagleson. "We didn't block out well tonight. We turned the ball over too much and their athleticism had something to do with that."

Contrasting styles of play often times make for great games.

In this case, it rang true.

Central, the more physical team, relied on the inside strength of Adam Buehne and Adam Brichler for their points in the paint.

Meanwhile, Century relied on its quickness and outside game.

Tabb and Nelson got the Centurions going early.

A Nelson 3-pointer and a Tabb spin move in the lane gave the Centurions an 8-4 lead with 4:19 to go.

But Central's Buehne showed he could step out to the arc and score by hitting a 3-pointer, which was followed by a pair of trifectas by guard Ryan Meyer.

The second Meyer bomb completed an 11-2 run to give the Cougars a 15-10 lead with exactly 1:00 left in the opening stanza.

Then J.R. Nicholson did something that he has done a lot of this season on the next Century visit to the offensive end. He put in a shot as a result of a Ray Nelson assist.

His short bank along the baseline ended the first quarter at 15-12.

Central's Brichler got into the scoring act in the second quarter as he took a 'kick out' pass from Buehne and nailed a 3-pointer making it 18-12 Cougars.

Century got a big contribution from junior guard Rob Reichert on this night.

He hit a 3-pointer while being left open on the right wing.

That shot started an 8-0 run that featured another Nelson to Nicholson score in the paint and a Nelson pull-up 3-pointer on a fast break.

That bucket pushed Century ahead 22-20 with 4:32 left before halftime.

At this point Buehne flexed his scoring muscle again, scoring on the inside and outside on consecutive trips.

He scored on a turn around baseline 10-footer and followed it up with his second 3-pointer from the right side that gave the Cougars back the lead.

Nelson ended the half with back-to-back baskets. His second shot, a 15-footer from the right elbow gave his team a 28-27 halftime edge.

"We had some kids step up tonight and do the job," added Palmer, who picked up his 200th win earlier in the week. "J.R. Nicholson scored underneath for us and Reichert hit a couple of big shots."

While the Cougars were content on firing away from the perimeter in the first half, it was clear that their game plan in the second half was to pound the ball inside.

Buehne and Brichler (with eight points apiece) combined to score all 16 of Central's third quarter points.

"We thought with our size advantage tonight that we really needed to have Brichler and Buehne carry our scoring load," added Eagleson. "Our shot selection in the first half was as bad as it has been this year. But in the second half the kids did a much better job getting it inside."

Josh Tabb, who had just a single basket in the first half, got going for Century in the third quarter as the two teams traded six lead changes.

The 6-3 junior scored six points in the quarter on two rebound put backs and a fast break lay in that gave his team a 38-35 lead.

After a Nicholson turn around shot that banked home, Central's Brichler scored on two separate attempts in the lane.

His second shot from the left block gave the lead back to the Cougars 41-40.

After a Century miss, Central held the ball for the final :47 of the quarter.

The patience paid off as Buehne rebounded his own miss with :02 left to make it 43-40.

Century seemed to be fresher team to open the final quarter.

They blitzed the Cougars with an 'eye-opening' 9-zip run.

Tabb, Nicholson, Nelson and Reichert hit on consecutive possessions.

Reichert ended the run with another 3-pointer from the top of the arc, making it 49-43 Century with 5:07 to play.

But anyone who thought that the Cougars were finished at this point was sadly mistaken.

Central jumped right back into the game with an 8-0 run to snatch back the lead.

A Meyer basket followed by two short shots from close to the basket by Brichler evened the score at 49.

Then out of the blue Central's Donny Petterson, a 6-0 junior, put back a rebound to give his team a 51-49 lead with 2:24 left.

It was at this point that Coach Palmer turned to Tabb and Nelson to carry the team's offense and the two didn't disappoint.

They each scored baskets, sandwiched around a Meyer score on a fast break.

But Tabb's shot was a rebound of his own missed shot while being fouled by Buehne.

Tabb knocked down the charity toss with :42.5 to go making it 54-53.

Central looked poised to take the victory away from Century as the Cougars worked the ball inside to Brichler, who was fouled by Nelson.

The 6-4 senior put his team up 55-54 by making both free throws with :28.6 left.

The Centurions were very calm on the ensuing possession.

They worked the ball to Nelson as he got a pass from Tabb and entered the lane on a drive.

His shot was no good, but Nicholson snuck in behind the Central attempt to rebound and was fouled by Petterson trying to put the ball back up.

"We had defensive help to rotate on Nelson when he took the shot, but we didn't get a body on Nicholson and he got the rebound," said Eagleson.

The Cougars used a timeout before the free throws to give Nicholson a minute to think about his task at hand.

And the ploy nearly worked as the 6-2 senior missed his first attempt.

But his second toss found the mark to even the game at 55-all with just :2.9 to go.

Nearly every man, woman and child in attendance must have been thinking overtime at this point.

However Tabb had other ideas. His steal and heroics at the end gave the program a much-needed victory.

"This win is a big feather in out cap, especially when we sit down to seed the regional set up next month," said Palmer. "When we can come in a say that we beat a team the caliber of Breese Central, that will help us."

Nelson and Tabb scored 18 and 15 respectively for the 11-2 Centurions.

Nicholson added 12 points while C.J. Williams and Reichert added six each.

Central (13-4) got 24 points from Buehne and 19 from Brichler. Meyer stepped up with 10 and Petterson added two points.

While Coach Palmer looked at the game as being a bit of an upset, Central's mentor had a bit of a different spin.

"I think we played a good team even tonight," finalized Eagleson. "If we take better care of the ball we win it by three or four. Century is one of the better teams in the state and we're not far behind them."

Breese Central

Century (57) - Reichert 0 2 0-0 6, Nelson 6 2 0-1 18, Tabb 7 0 1-1 15, Williams 1 1 1-2 6, Nicholson 5 0 2-4 12. 2FG-19, 3FG-5, FT-4-6, PF-12.
Breese Central (55) - Petterson 1 0 0-0 2, Meyer 2 2 0-0 10, Brichler 7 1 2-2 19, Buehne 7 2 4-4 24.
2FG-17, 3FG-5, FT-6-6, PF-14.
Technical Fouls - None.