Words: Josh Horen
The Centennial Eagles Boys varsity basketball team survived what would have been a huge second-round playoff upset, beating the Atholton Raiders in dramatic fashion, 49-47.
Senior Andrew Hohmann kicked off the game with a smooth baseline jumper, and from then on, Atholton had no answers for the Eagles offense. With 4:50 remaining in the first quarter, senior Hayden Ford threw down a thunderous two-handed dunk which sent the crowd into an absolute frenzy, and set the tone for the first quarter of play.
It was basket, after basket, after basket for the Eagles. Senior Sean Taylor nailed a three-pointer to extend the lead to 10-4. Shortly after that, Senior Kaleb Addisu played “dirty,” dumping in his first two points of the game, converting on a tough finish in the paint. Junior Ryan Hollwedel sent a beautiful pass to Hohmann to connect for a transition lay-up to put the Eagles up 14-4.
After a three-pointer for the Raiders, Centennial senior Corey Eudell got out in the fast break and ended the quarter with a lay-up, closing out the quarter with a 16-7 lead. The Eagles were dominating on the defensive end. Not only were they creating turnovers, they were creating offensive chances.
Taylor started off the second quarter with a contested finish and Centennial’s lead was then 18-7. It seemed as if Atholton would never pick up their offense or even defense for that matter.
However, Atholton cut the Eagles lead to 20-13 after nailing a three-pointer. The Raiders were gaining more ground offensively and creating more turnovers which is exactly what they needed if they wanted to win the game.
Following that three-pointer by Atholton, both teams scored nine points each to end the quarter at 29-22, Centennial. Although Atholton’s offense clearly improved from the first quarter, they only shaved the lead down to seven points. Centennial’s offense went step for step with the Raiders but they lost some discipline on the defensive side. The Raiders had more open looks and were creating more chances but just could not close that gap.
The third quarter was when the game started to take its shape.
After Ford nailed one free-throw, the Raiders went on a 5-0 run, hitting a quick two-pointer, and then connecting on a three-pointer. Atholton cut the lead to 30-27, and you could feel the sense of fear rising throughout the gym.
Shawn Hill and Taylor did all they could to not let the lead slip away from them. Hill hit a free-throw and Taylor hit yet another three-pointer, and the Eagles had a familiar seven-point lead again. Everyone watching knew that not even a seven-point lead was safe at this point in the game. Atholton was gaining momentum, and gaining it fast.
After taking that seven-point lead, the Raiders answered with an impressive run of their own, rattling off nine straight unanswered points. They took their first lead of the game with 2:34 remaining in the third quarter, and now Centennial had a big challenge ahead of themselves.
Atholton was trying to protect a 36-34 lead; however, it’s hard to do that when Taylor is hot from beyond the arc. He hit his fourth three-pointer and regained the lead, 37-36. The Raiders ended the quarter with a lay-up to take the lead back and headed into the fourth quarter with a one-point advantage, 38-37.
The third quarter was all Atholton, as they were playing like a team that desperately wanted to knock the one seed out in the second round.
The fourth quarter began with an Addisu free-throw and a Hohmann two-pointer to take the lead 40-38. The Raiders then nailed a three-pointer to take a one-point advantage.
After minimal scoring and emotions running very high, Centennial’s season essentially came down to none other than Taylor.
With seven seconds remaining in the game, the Raiders fouled Centennial’s Taylor. Atholton was in the double bonus so Taylor automatically got two shots. The Eagles were trailing 47-46 and all eyes in the gym were on Taylor at the line.
Taylor sunk the first one to tie the game and a collective sigh of relief was heard from the Centennial fans. Soon after that shot, Taylor sinks the next one. That sigh of relief quickly turned into an absolute roar from the student section, Taylor had just nailed, arguably, the two most clutch points of his career.
“I knew that I practice free throws all the time and I have done these situations over and over again in my head. I just had to keep my form and do my routine and knock them both down so we could move on,” said Taylor
Hohmann now knows that it is one game at a time in these playoffs.
“After tonight’s game, we now understand that no team can be overlooked or taken lightly, just because of what seed they are,” said Hohmann.
The Eagles narrowly escaped defeat, extending their win streak to nine straight games, moving onto the third round of the MPSSA playoffs. On Wednesday, February 28, the Eagles will take on their biggest rival, Mount Hebron, at home in a win-or-go-home game.
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