FREDERICKTOWN — The South came out on top in this epic battle of Knox County on Tuesday.
Centerburg, from the southern portion of the county, held off a late charge from their northern rival, Fredericktown, to pull out a 38-34 victory in a defensive battle in Mid-Buckeye Conference action at Fredericktown.
“It was the usual Fredericktown-Centerburg game. It’s like this every year,” said Centerburg coach Jim Simpson. “We could be the best team or the worst team, it’s still going to be a war. We know each other so well. We know it’s going to be close. We just happened to be on the right end tonight.”
It didn’t look like it would be a defensive battle early on. Both teams went to their big guns offensively as the score was knotted at 14 after one quarter. Centerburg (3-0 overall, 2-0 MBC), which hit on 6 of 8 shots from the field, got 12 points from seniors Brandt Lambert and Skyler Simpson in the first quarter, while Fredericktown (1-1, 1-1) got all 14 of its points from Tyler Hathaway and Thomas Hinkle.
The defenses turned up the pressure in the second quarter as just one point (a Fredericktown free throw) was scored in the first 4 1/2 minutes. The Trojans took a slim 21-20 lead into the locker room.
Centerburg locked down defensively in the third quarter, allowing the Freddies just one basket as the Trojans built up a 31-22 lead heading into the final eight minutes.
“I thought the key in the third quarter was we got them playing and making them do things they did not want to do. Our defense made it a lot tougher on them,” said Simpson.
“In the third quarter, I thought we looked awfully tired. Fatigue was definitely an issue,” said Fredericktown coach Kirk Manns.
The Freddies were able to get their second wind, thanks to their defense, in the fourth quarter. Centerburg made just one basket in the first four minutes of the quarter, and Fredericktown was able to close the gap to four points. The Freddies eventually pulled within two, but Centerburg hit its free throws when it needed down the stretch to hold on for the victory.
“Give credit to our kids. There’s no quit in them,” Manns said. “We just fought a little harder and was able to get back in the basketball game. When we got the ball with 15 seconds left, we were just one play away from the win. Sure, we’re disappointed with the loss, but we did everything we could.
“We played hard enough to win, we rebounded well enough to win, we played defense well enough to win.”
The Freddies hit on just 13 of 45 shots on the night, but were able to stay in the game with a lot of second-chance opportunities. They pulled in nine offensive rebounds on the night.
“That hurt. We gave up a lot of second shots. We’d make the stop, but they’d get the rebound,” Simpson said.
Hinkle had a strong game to lead the Freddies. The senior scored 17 points and pulled down six rebounds to lead the Freddies in both categories. Hathaway finished with eight points, while C.J. Ruhl had five points and three assists.
“I think as a basketball team we’re improving day to day and week to week. It’s just a matter of time before we get things going,” Manns said.
Lambert led the Trojans with 15 points, nine rebounds and three assists. Simpson added nine points and Lyle Lindsey had four.
The teams return to action Friday. Fredericktown will travel to Danville, while Centerburg is at Northridge.
Centerburg rallied from a nine-point halftime deficit to force overtime, then went on to beat the Freddies 38-30 in the junior varsity contest.
Zach Schneider and Jacob Teale both scored eight points to lead the Trojans. Nick Myers added seven.
Fredericktown got nine points apiece from Nathan Cubbage and Jordan Radel. Nash Cunningham added five.