CENTERBURG — The Centerburg Trojans shut out the East Knox Bulldogs in the first quarter, then hung on to stay undefeated in the Mid-Buckeye Conference with a 49-36 win on Tuesday evening.
The Trojans came out roaring with a potent offensive attack and a defense that simply would not concede the inside.
“We just wanted to keep them from getting inside and, at the same time, contest the outside,” said Centerburg coach Jim Simpson. “We did what we wanted in the first quarter. Anytime you can blank someone in the first quarter, that’s pretty good.”
“We just played as a team,” said Trojans’ center Skyler Simpson, who had 10 points and nine rebounds. “We just focused on keeping them out of the paint. We made them shoot from the outside. We know if we keep them out of the paint we have a pretty good chance of winning.”
The Trojans (8-1, 6-0 MBC) hit on all cylinders in the opening quarter. Forward Drew Osborne (six points, five rebounds) had a steal and a layup for the Trojans. Skyler Simpson hit a 3-pointer; teammate T.T. Thompson (two rebounds) also had a basket. Guard Lyle Lindsey’s 3-pointer finished off the quarter.
The Trojans were up, 18-0, before center Luke Branstool (13 points, eight rebounds) dropped in the first bucket for the Bulldogs (4-6, 1-5 MBC) — an offensive putback in the opening seconds of the second quarter. Teammate Nick McCamment (five points) added a putback of his own. Branstool came right back with a layup, which he got off a steal. East Knox’s Drew Faucett (six points, three steals) hit a 3-pointer with under three minutes to go in the half and, suddenly, the Bulldogs were only down, 22-10.
Centerburg forward Brandt Lambert (10 points, four rebounds) got a putback and then hit a 3-pointer with less than a minute to go. That kept the Trojans treading water. The Bulldogs, however, were chipping away with baskets by Branstool and forward Khai Haralson (11 points, seven rebounds). Faucett landed another 3-pointer at the end of the half to cut the Trojans lead to 24-17.
“Our mental game was a little low,” said Skyler Simpson. “We have a problem with, if something goes wrong with us, we can’t move on from that mistake. We just have to move on. One little mental mistake can lead to another if you don’t get over it.”
“We got too comfortable and we let them do some things that we had tried to keep them from doing,” said coach Simpson. “We let them sneak back in there and make a game out of it.”
“We went back and relied on what we know how to do and played basketball,” said East Knox coach Don McDaniel. “I talked to them [after the first quarter] about settling down and moving the basketball against the zone. We knew we were going to face a zone. We worked on it but, in the first quarter, we were throwing the basketball at each other’s feet. It was bouncing off of our hands. We couldn’t do anything with it.”
Branstool grabbed a steal to open the second half, taking it all the way for a layup. Later, Haralson fed Branstool, who hit a spectacular dunk and shrank the Trojans’ lead to 28-21.
“What [Centerburg] did was, and I guess everyone is going to do, they collapsed down on Luke [Branstool] and forced somebody else to do something,” explained McDaniel. “Once somebody starts to do something, that opens it up back inside. We’re too good of a basketball team for a one-dimensional defense to take Luke away.”
The Bulldogs continued to be effective inside as Haralson hit a bucket and Branstool hit another, with a minute to go in the third, to chop Centerburg’s lead to five, 30-25.
“We were rattled in the first quarter,” said McDaniel. “It was just very, very difficult to get them settled down. Once we got them settled down, they played basketball the way they know how to play basketball.”
The Trojans answered with a 3-pointer from guard Troy Lemke in the final seconds of the third. Skyler Simpson got a basket and converted on the free throw. Lemke got a layup off a steal and also hit a free throw with 6:18 left in the game. With a 39-27 lead, the Trojans seemed to regain a measure of their confidence.
“Turnovers killed us,” said coach Simpson. “Some of them were forced and a lot of them were unforced, where we just threw the ball away. When we got ourselves situated in the last quarter we got back our composure, hung onto the lead and we were a little more patient.”
“We got a good ripping from the coach,” laughed Skylar Simpson, when asked about the Trojans’ turnaround. “Stuff like that can motivate you.”
Once the Trojans widened their lead again, they were 14-of-18 from the free-throw line in the final quarter.
“Centerburg is a pretty decent basketball team,” said McDaniel. “You can’t spot them 18 points in the first quarter and expect to get back into it. We did get back into it and the kids played hard. We continued to move the basketball and attack the zone. We were able to get it inside. We even got a dunk on them, inside against their zone. Then, we got a little bit undisciplined.”
The East Knox Bulldogs jayvee team got 15 points from Cody Totten in its earlier win over Centerburg, 37-31. Caleb White had 11 for the Trojans.