CENTERBURG — Centerburg’s Carter Jones and Hayden Hankinson combined to go 18 of 22 at the line in the fourth quarter, as the Trojans outscored the Freddies 23-14 in the final period to pick up the 64-55 Knox-Morrow Athletic Conference win.
“During practice, if we miss, we have five pushups, so we got pretty strong at the line,” Jones said. “That helped us.”
A score by Hankinson with 20 seconds left in the third sent the game into the fourth with the score tied at 41 apiece, and that was when the Trojans started getting paraded to the charity stripe. Dalton Hall splashed home a three to open the quarter, but there was only one additional field goal in the 23-point quarter for Centerburg.
Jones went to the line for 12 free-throw attempts in the fourth, knocking down 11 of them. In the same period, Hankinson shot 9 of 12 at the line. Fredericktown struggled on the offensive end of the floor and that turned into the two Trojan post players getting their freebies.
“We couldn’t get into any sort of flow and just turned the ball over,” Fredericktown coach Derek Dibling said. “We made some pretty uncharacteristic, just bad passes at times. I think we lost our heads a little bit and played outside of what I know we’re capable of doing.”
To open the game, both teams had balanced scoring with four players on each squad putting up points. The scoring was balanced between teams as well, with the score knotted at 14 heading into the second.
Fredericktown’s Nick Cunningham had the hot hand coming out of the break and he racked up eight-straight points, including six from behind the arc, to open the second quarter and give Fredericktown a 22-14 advantage with 5:30 to go before intermission.
“He was able to get loose for a couple shots,” Dibling said. “Obviously, he is a guy that can get pretty hot pretty quick.”
Fredericktown opened a double-digit lead, but then the scoring cooled off for the Freddies and Centerburg, led by Jones’ six points and Hankinson’s four, was able to largely keep pace. Jones nailed a 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer to cut the deficit to 30-28 heading into the locker room.
“We have good leadership on this team,” Centerburg coach Skyler Brusco said of the comeback in the second. “They are all in. They have a kind of refuse-to-lose attitude right now. They’re worried about one thing and that’s playing hard.”
Mick Mead sprayed home a three after halftime to give the Trojans a 31-30 lead just into the third quarter. Both teams traded blows in the third, before the Hankinson bucket to tie it at 41 and send the game to the fourth, where the Trojans hit free throw after free throw to secure the win.
“It was a big one for us,” Jones said of the win. “We try not to look too far down the road, but beating Fredericktown is really good for us. It feels good tonight, but it’s back to work tomorrow.”
When the dust settled, Jones and Hankinson both had stellar nights for the Trojans, with a large part of both of their games being spent in the paint. Jones finished with 30 points, including three shots from behind the arc, nine boards, an assist and two steals. Hankinson turned in 19 points, four rebounds and a block.
“We felt like that was a spot where we could do well,” Brusco said. “Obviously, we’ve got good players down there in the front court. We’ve got Hayden Hankinson and we’ve got Carter. Carter is starting to shoot the ball better as well, so that makes it even tougher to guard.”
Hall came off the bench and hit two 3-pointers, finishing with eight points. Mead turned in five points and Hayden Sutton, who spent a lot of his energy on the defensive end of the floor, had two points. Mead notched three boards, three assists and two steals, while Sutton finished with four boards, a dime and a steal.
Cunningham turned in a solid game for the Freddies with 20 points and three boards. Jake Partington was also in double figures with 12 points, seven rebounds, an assist and two steals. Clem Cunningham had seven points, three rebounds, four assists and a steal. Lincoln Cunningham and Terry Fearn contributed six points apiece. Fearn had six rebounds, an assist and three blocks. Mason Finnell chipped in the remaining four points.
With the contest in the books, both teams are now sitting at 7-4 and 5-2 in the KMAC, which puts them in a tie for second in the league. Both teams return to action on the road Tuesday, with the Trojans playing in Cardington and the Freddies taking on Northmor. JV action starts at 6 p.m. for each team.