CENTERBURG — For the first time, the Centerburg Trojans are champions of their own tournament.
The girls basketball team played hard when it mattered, defeating the Mount Gilead Indians, 67-64, in overtime in the championship game of the Shelley Whited Holiday Classic on Thursday.
The game was close throughout; the Trojans (8-1) never held more than a 12-point lead, yet they never trailed. Throughout the game, Centerburg would widen the lead, then Mount Gilead (3-7) would close the gap, bringing the game to a tie on several occasions.
“It was a wacky game,” said Centerburg head coach Todd Nauman. “We want to keep playing and get them tired, but then they burn a timeout, or something happens that they have a chance to catch their breath. That didn’t help our cause.”
Claire Harvey picked up where she left off from Wednesday’s semifinal game, scoring a team-high 25 points against the Indians for a two-day total of 48 points — a Centerburg record in the tournament.
“It’s a good thing Claire came out the way she did tonight,” said Nauman. “Two nights of back-to-back solid performances. And not just as the leading scorer. I thought she made some good defensive choices out there. She drew some fouls when we needed them.”
The Trojans had to contend with Mount Gilead’s two top stars, seniors Jessie Baldridge and Ashley Ohler. The two seniors weren’t enough to match Centerburg’s firepower, but they had help on Thursday. Shelby Rizor (12 points, seven rebounds) and Christen Sweeney (10 points) hit shots when needed, opening up the floor for the seniors. Baldridge, in particular, was the first player all season to match size and strength with Centerburg’s Mackenzie Stoyle and Tristen Simpson, gathering 22 points and 16 rebounds. By contrast, Stoyle and Simpson combined for 18 points and 14 boards.
Harvey kicked things off right away, scoring the first basket of the game just four seconds in. She added a 3-pointer less than a minute later, and scored on a basket-and-foul play two mintes after that. After another three-point shot at the midway point in the first, Harvey had already collected 11 points.
With the Trojans leading, 23-12, late in the first, Mount Gilead fought back. The Indians knew Centerburg would once again use a full-court press, and they were ready, heaving long passes down the court to get ahead of the defense. The strategy put the Indians on a 10-0 run, bringing them to within a point.
Ohler (18 points, seven rebounds, four assists, four steals) would later hit a shot that tied the game at 30 late in the second.