CENTERBURG — Centerburg High School senior Lyle Lindsey had a hot hand on Friday night, but it was Johnstown senior Riley Cannon who stole the show.
Lindsey went 6-of-8 from three-point range to help give Centerburg an eight-point lead with 4 1/2 minutes to go, but Cannon gave the Johnnies a 57-56 win by outscoring the Trojans, 8-6, down the stretch. Michael Kessler also had six points for Johnstown in the final four minutes of Mid-Buckeye Conference action.
The loss spoiled Senior Night in Centerburg (15-4, 11-2 MBC), but didn’t affect the team’s MBC title, which it secured with a win over East Knox last week.
“This was just one of those games,” said Centerburg coach Jim Simpson. “There was a change in momentum. We would get it going our way and then they would get it going their way. It was just like this when we played the first time. It is not like they outplayed us or we outplayed them. Tonight, luck was on their side and they pulled it off. It was a really good game. It is just disappointing to lose your last home game, especially for our seniors, but we still won the league and we are proud of that.”
Centerburg, which led by as much as eight twice in the second half, found itself behind early after a 10-2 run by Johnstown (12-6, 9-4 MBC) ended the first quarter. A 3-pointer by Matt Smith with 59 seconds to go out the Johnnies ahead, 17-12, after one.
Brandt Lambert and Skyler Simpson turned the deficit into a lead in the first five minutes of the second quarter. Simpson scored six points and Lambert four to push their team ahead, 22-19. Johnstown managed only three free throws in the quarter, including one by Cody Green with 2:35 to go, but a putback by Drew Osborne and two free throws by Lambert gave Centerburg a 26-20 halftime advantage. Lambert was a perfect 6-of-6 in the first half from the free-throw line.
As good as the Trojan offense was in the first half, the real story was the defense. Centerburg held Cannon without a field goal in the first half. That changed in the second half, however.
Kessler got Johnstown going with a jumper to open the third quarter, but a free throw by Osborne and a 3-pointer from Collin Bumpus opened up a 30-22 lead less than a minute and a half in. The lead quickly vanished, however, as Kessler hit a 3-pointer and Cannon scored three straight buckets to put Johnstown on top, 31-30. Lindsey responded with a pair of 3s for Centerburg in the final three minutes, offsetting two Johnstown layups and keeping Centerburg ahead, 36-35, after three.
Lindsey and Simpson then hit back-to-back 3-pointers to open the fourth quarter to stretch the advantage back out to seven less than a minute into the final period. Another 3 by Kessler and a jumper pulled the Johnnies within two, 42-40, before a layin by Osborne and another 3 by Lindsey stretched the lead back out to seven. Green scored a layup with 4:35 to play to make it a 47-42 game, but eight seconds later Lindsey hit his sixth 3 of the night to stretch the lead back out to eight, 50-42.
That led to the 15-6 run by Johnstown to close the game and set up a furious finish. A three-point play by Cannon put Johnstown ahead, 55-54, with 34.1 seconds left, and that lead stood up after the two teams traded free throws — two by Troy Lemke for Centerburg and two from Kessler for the Johnnies. Kessler’s pair came with 13.1 seconds left and gave Centerburg one last shot. After getting the ball upcourt, the Trojans called a time out with six seconds left to set up a play. Lindsey ended up with the ball as time wound down, and his last ditch jumper missed its mark to end the game.
“We had a target on our back and they had nothing to lose,” Simpson said. “We had a shot down the stretch, but the way it worked out, they had the momentum and we didn’t. We could never hold onto (the lead) and make it last. They got the ball down there and scored with it.
“It really came down to who made a run last. We would scored six or eight points and they would score eight points. It came down to us not hitting buckets and turnovers. Turnovers tonight really hurt us a lot, especially down the stretch. It was just one of those things. The ball didn’t bounce our way.”
Lindsey’s 20 points led all scorers. Simpson and Lambert each finished with 12 points apiece for Centerburg, and Osborne had five points, 10 rebounds, two steals and two assists.
Cannon finished with 19 points, eight rebounds, six assists, three blocks and two steals for Johnstown, while Kessler dropped in 18 points. He also had six rebounds and three steals. Green added 11 points for the Johnnies.
“I don’t think we did anything different (on Cannon); their shots just weren’t falling in the first half,” said Simpson. “We had trouble picking him up, and we couldn’t buy a bucket inside.”
In reserve action, Johnstown edged Centerburg, 35-33. Harley O’Flaherty led Johnstown with 12 points, while Centerburg (12-7) got seven points from Nich Pitzer. Tyler Smith and Nick Myers each added five points.
Centerburg won the opening freshman game, 33-27, over the Johnnies. Aaron Katzeman scored 16 points to lead the Trojans (12-6), and Robert Hakes scored seven points. Vaughn Green led Johnstown with 11 points.
Centerburg has one more game on Monday to close out the regular season. The Trojans will travel to Danville in an effort to get their game, which has already been postponed twice due to poor weather conditions, in. They then open postseason play on Wednesday, playing Amanda-Clearcreek at Gahanna-Lincoln High School.
“We’ve got Danville on Monday, so we are going to have to find a way to pick ourselves up and realize that we’ve still got a lot to play for,” said Simpson. “It is a new season coming up, and we’ve got to fight for it. Hopefully, we can get a tournament win and get things headed back in the right way.”
Johnstown, meanwhile, hosts Loudonville in a makeup conference game tonight.