MOUNT VERNON — Highland needed just one basket to tie Centerburg at the start of the fourth quarter of their KMAC contest at Mount Vernon Nazarene University’s Ariel Arena on Friday.
But that basket never came.
Instead, the Trojans held the Scots scoreless for the entire fourth quarter, turning a 37-34 lead into a big victory, 56-34.
“I thought, offensively, we were more patient,” said Centerburg coach Skylar Brusco. “Defensively, we picked it up in the full court and got after them. I also thought we pounded the ball inside, and that was the key for us. We played more inside-out.”
Centerburg (6-1, 4-0) got some breathing room right away in the fourth, as Landon Griffith drained one from long distance for a 40-34 lead. Dalton Hall followed with a bucket, and things began to snowball. Highland (0-5, 0-4) had six fouls in the third quarter, and the Trojans were in the bonus the entire fourth quarter, making 3 of 4. Hall added a triple and another basket later in the period, and Centerburg ran of 19 straight points for the win.
“We just knew that we weren’t playing the best and we just had to prove that we’re a good team,” junior Carter Jones said. “So we all talked about it, got on the same page, came out strong and started rebounding.”
“They don’t have as much height as we have, so we kept the ball inside and just kept doing what we have been doing all season,” senior Hayden Hankinson said.
The Scots worked well inside and outside at the start of the game, as Branton Howard made two 3-pointers in an eight-point first quarter that left Highland up, 16-14. Defenses made the going tough for both teams in the second quarter, but triples by Howard and Drew Santo kept the Scots in the lead, 24-22, at halftime.
Highland made two more treys in the third quarter, but the Trojans’ offense began to assert itself. Carter Jones scored seven for Centerburg, and Landon Griffith sank a 3-pointer to put the team into the lead by the end of three, 37-34.
“It’s just our mindset,” Hall said. “We need to get our mindset right. We are known as a second-half team. We’ve just got to get our mindset into having that mentality for the whole game.”
The Trojans made five 3-pointers in 20 total field goals, and six of the Scots’ 14 shots were from behind the arc. But while Centerburg made 11 of 15 shots (73 percent) on its free throws, the disciplined Trojans committed just four fouls for the entire game and never sent Highland to the line.
Centerburg also domninated rebounds, 32-20, and made eight turnovers to the Scots’ 14.
Jones had a double-double to lead the Trojans with 18 points and 16 rebounds, and also made three steals and blocked a shot. Two others scored double digits, Hayden Hankinson with 13 points, and Hall with 11, and Hayden Sutton and Griffith recorded six points apiece. Sutton also had three steals.
Howard made three triples in scoring 11 points for Highland, and Santo added six points. Gavin Hankins posted five points, and Jordan Bellamy and Landon Remmert contributed four points apiece. Bellamy also grabbed seven boards.
Centerburg will be off until Saturday, Dec. 28, for a home nonconference game with Utica at 3:30 p.m., and Highland will host Loudonville at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
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