COLUMBUS –– When you’re in the playoffs, eventually, you run into a team that is the proverbial “team to beat.”
In Centerburg’s case, that happened Tuesday night, in the district semifinal game against Africentric Early College.
The Trojans were overwhelmed by the Nubians as they fell, 78-35, at Columbus Fairgrounds Coliseum.
“Give them credit, they’re a great team,” Centerburg head coach Jim Simpson said. “We got caught up in their pressure and we couldn’t handle it.”
Africentric was a buzzsaw throughout the game, cutting through Centerburg’s defense with precise shooting both from inside and outside. For the game, the Nubians hit 59 percent of their shots (29-for-49). They mixed up their post play effectively with solid outside shooting, like a machine churning on all cylinders.
If Africentric was a buzzsaw, then Kalomo Figueroa-Jackson was the blade. The 6-foot-5 senior was nearly perfect on the day, scoring 28 points and shooting 8-for-9 from three-point range.
He and fellow senior Marquice Taylor make the one-two punch that has knocked out many teams this year. Tuesday was no exception, as the pair combined for 48 points in the game.
“We knew Jackson and Taylor were pretty good shooters,” said Simpson. “We wanted them to go out and prove it. They made their shots in the game.”
Centerburg fought valiantly. Garrison Myles was the on-court leader from the start, leading the way with 15 points. Drew Osborne, who was named to the Second Team All-Central District prior to the game, was held to just six points, due to being guarded by Figueroa-Jackson throughout the game.
The Trojans started the game like they were the heavy favorites. Myles and Nich Pitzer hit their first two shots to put Centerburg ahead, 4-0. Africentric went on a quick 10-0 run which saw Taylor and Figueroa-Jackson score eight of those points. Myles broke it up with a bucket, and after Osborne scored on a three-point play to start the second period, the Nubian lead was just 12-10.
“I thought we did a good job in the first quarter,” Simpson said. “We did what we wanted to do. But then, our kids just got tired.”
Myles scored again later in the period on a full-court pass. The bucket kept the Trojans close, 19-16. But Africentric adjusted its defense to begin taking those passes away. Throughout the rest of the game, Centerburg tried the long pass to avoid the full-court press. Virtually every time, an Africentric player intercepted it.
“We felt like, if we could put full-court pressure on them, then they couldn’t run their offense on the half-court,” Africentric head coach Michael Bates said.
“We worked on their speed this week,” Simpson said, “but we just couldn’t keep up.”
Centerburg did appear tired by halftime. When the Nubians ended the half on a 14-1 run, the Trojans left the court looking like they had already played a full game. Africentric, on the other hand, appeared rested and full of energy.