Words: Giana Han
Contributions from Mike Moore
Generally people hate Mondays, but Monday Mar. 9 was a day of triumphs and victories for Centennial High School.
The Eagles celebrated not one, but two wins today when Austin Kraisser won the wrestling state championship and the boys’ basketball team pulled out a win over River Hill for the regional title.
From the moment the teams walked onto the court for warm-ups, the competition was fierce. The Centennial fans started counting the number of missed shots the Hawks had, and the River Hill fans soon picked it up on the other side. The names were announced , and both sides tried to yell over the players names,
When the national anthem would not play, the River Hill fans started to sing it themselves. The rest of the gym quickly picked up the tune. However, after the Eagles shouted “RED!”, the Hawks started to race to the finish line while the Eagles attempted to keep the song slow.
At tip off, the gym was rocking, and River Hill’s Charles Thomas IV tipped the ball to his teammate, starting the game. The ball changed possession several times before Thomas IV scored the first points of the game.
Thomas IV continued to dominate the floor. The Eagles hung behind, Isaiah White helping to keep the team in the game with nine points for the quarter. In the last 0:00.8 seconds of the first quarter, Thomas IV dunked the ball, pushing the Hawks ahead, but, luckily for the Eagles, a technical was called, and the quarter ended with the Hawks up only two, 18-16.
In the second quarter, the Hawks played without Thomas IV, but they still kept their level of play up. Chad Strothers found himself in foul trouble, and Michael Merkey stepped in and hit a foul shot and scored a field goal. According to Connor Clemens, the foul trouble got the team down at first, but it ended up helping because the team was able “to get a bunch of contributions from a bunch of different guys.”
Clemens and Tom Brown hit a few key shots, but at the end of the half, the Eagles were still behind by two, 27-29.
“We were down two last time we played them at the half. I just told them we were getting out hustled,” said Head Coach Chad Hollwedel.
“We’d been down before,” said White, “so it wasn’t anything new, but it was definitely a little bit of pressure. Coach just told us to stick to what we do.”
The Eagles came out of half time strong, but so did the Hawks- and they had Thomas IV back on the floor. However, Kevin Wilson kept up strong defense while Tom Brown played help defense.
“We did such a good job with Charlie last time with Kevin. Charlie came and was completely ready to play and absolutely destroyed us in the first [quarter] to the basket. He played like he wanted to win a championship,” said Hollwedel. “We just kept fighting, trying to keep him off the boards with help and being up and fronting him with Kevin.”
With the Eagles working hard on both offense and defense, the third ended in a tie, 38-38.
At the start of the fourth, the five starters were back on the floor for Centennial. However, the Hawks were playing an effective zone, shutting down the Eagles’ inside game.
“We knew we had to push and beat their zone because their zone killed us last game. Once we started to get the ball going in transition, we were getting easy buckets,” said Brown.
Jump shots from White and put backs from Brown put points on the board for the Eagles.
However, in the last minutes, the Hawks pulled ahead. A time-out was called by the Hawks when they received possession of the ball with a minute left. They were clearly playing keep away to maintain their one point lead with players passing up wide opens shots created by the Eagles scramble for the ball.
The Eagles had to foul to stop the clock until they reached seven fouls, and the Hawks were shooting one and one. River Hill missed their first foul shot, but the Eagles missed their chance and had to foul again.
Once again, River Hill missed the foul shot, and the Eagles did not capitalize on the turn over.
With seconds left in the game, River Hill missed a third foul shot and the Eagles got the rebound. A pass to Clemens on the wing led to a jump shot with less than a second left in the game.
The gym was silent as both sides waited. When the ball fell through hitting nothing but net, the Eagles stormed down into the court. With Clemens’ shot, the Eagles became the 2015 3A Regional Champions, winning the game by just one point, 49-48.
“The kids did it,” said Hollwedel. “The kids that went out, hit shots, and made plays. I really have no idea how it happened down the stretch other than that that ball came off and Connor hit the shot to win the game.”
“Connor, he hit those base-line shots all season long. It was natural for him, he just got it, called the shot. I don’t know how he did it, but he did it,” said White.
“We were only down one, we only needed two. We didn’t need any crazy shots. Chad went to the basket, lost it, but he managed to get it to me in time, and I hit the shot,” explained Clemens, the hero of the hour.
White finished with 22 points and six rebounds, and Brown contributed 10 points and five rebounds. Clemens had nine points (including the game winning shot) and five rebounds.
“As seniors, as anybody in the program, we’ve never been this deep before, so it was new to us, but we believed in each other, and we knew that if we played hard, as we always did, we would come out on top,” said White who led the team in both points and rebounds.
Meanwhile, over at the University of Maryland, Austin Kraisser was competing for a state title. Unlike the basketball game, the outcome was not in question for even a split second.
Kraisser emerged the victor with a resounding score of 21-4.
A lot of work went into this title. Kraisser said, “ I had to put in a lot of work to get here and had to push myself in every practice this year to make myself better each and every day.”
His hard work paid off, and Kraisser won his second state title in two years.
“It means a lot to me to win my second state title, and it is a great accomplishment,” said Kraisser. “It feels good to be able to relax after having a lot of pressure on me to win.”
Come out and support the Eagles at the Xfinity Center at University of Maryland for the state semi-finals on Mar. 12 at 5 p.m. against Milton Wright.
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