In the first half, Michael Starcevich could hardly miss. In the second half, Logan Dabney could hardly be contained.
Once again on Friday night, Centerville looked like a team that can hardly be stopped.
The seventh-ranked boys basketball team in all of Class 3A couldn’t be slowed down on the road by Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont. Despite a sharp-shooting start by the Rockets and 21-point effort from Christian Bambrook, EBF couldn’t stop the Big Reds from winning their 13th straight game, as Centerville methodically pulled away for an 84-60 win.
“I give all the credit to these kids,” Big Reds head coach Matt Kruzich said after the Big Reds most recent impressive win. “Anything I ask them to do, they’re giving me 100 percent. They’re getting after it. I can’t ask for anything more then that.”
For the third straight Friday night, Centerville left an opposing SCC coach singing the praises of the red-hot Big Reds.
“They’re a great team and their record indicates that,” EBF head coach Travis Stout said. “For the most part, I thought our guys played pretty darn good overall. We didn’t turn the ball over a lot like we did when we met them earlier this year.
“The difference I thought, was (Centerville’s) ability to get to the rim on a lot of baskets. That and second-chance points really started to pile up on us.”
Those second-chance opportunities were at the heart of a key one-on-one battle in the paint between Dabney and Bambrook. The final meeting between the seniors narrowly went to Centerville’s star, as a strong second half left Dabney with a game-high 22-point, 14-rebound double-double to Bambrook’s 21 and nine.
“Christian’s a good player. We’ve been battling it out since seventh grade,” Dabney said. “We both know we’re going to have a heck of time guarding each other and playing against each other.”
Dabney’s personal effort came as a by-product of a smoothly-run transition game by the Big Reds. Centerville’s crisp passing up the court and in half-court sets gave Dabney several high-quality looks in the paint.
“It’s easy for me to score. When I have guards coming in playing like that, I get used to the easy looks,” Dabney said. “Coach has actually been telling us to slow the pace down lately, but in this game we started picking that pace back up.”
“That was reminder we had in practice this week that we are a track team first,” Kruzich added. “We’ve kind of built our reputation and high-scoring ability by running the floor. We kind of wanted to get back to pushing the ball up the court.”
Centerville’s winning up-tempo style has drawn the attention of another local team that has had the same kind of success. Frank Williams and Gary Ross, members of the eighth-ranked Indian Hills Warriors, attended Friday’s game to watch the Big Reds showing.
“I went over there and watched them once,” Starcevich said of the Warriors. “They’re a good team. They’re run-and-gun and I feel like we have the same kind of technique.
“We both hit a lot of shots and win games.”
Starcevich put on a shooting display for all in attendance on Friday, hitting his first five shots while scoring 11 of his 19 points in the opening quarter to keep Centerville in front. EBF got as close as three midway through the first half, but were kept at bay by Starcevich’s game-best 17 points in the first two quarters.
“We just rotate every night. We have different top scorers every night,” Starcevich said. “Whoever’s got the hot hand is going to shoot it. If you’re feeling it, you’re going to take the shot.”
EBF (8-10, 1-7) will be off for a week before heading to Albia for an SCC matchup next Friday. Stout hopes the rest will help the Rockets make a surge toward the postseason.
“We’re not as deep as we need to be to compete night in and night out in this conference, but on any given night anybody can beat anybody,” Stout said. “We’re looking at continuous improvement in a couple of key areas. Hopefully that’s something we can work on this week.”
No. 7 Centerville (13-1, 7-0) will look to extend their winning streak Monday at home against Oskaloosa. While 13 straight wins has been impressive, it was that eighth win that stands out as a turning point to the season for Kauzlarich.
“As soon as we got that Mount Pleasant win, our attention span in practice, our energy and our attitude went to a whole new level,” Kruzich said. “These kids want to get better. They want to make this postseason run. We have to concentrate game by game, but at the same time we have a big goal going for us.”
No. 7 (3A) Centerville 84, Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont 60
C’V 25 19 19 21 — 84
EBF 17 13 16 14 — 60
Centerville (84) — Logan Dabney 22, Michael Starcevich 19, Payton Busch 12, Garrett Faris 12, Kolton Gonnerman 12, Levi Sebolt 5, Jesse Stufflebeem 2. Totals 34-69 11-13 84.
3-point goals — 5-18 (Starcevich 2-4, Faris 1-2, Busch 1-4, Sebolt 1-4, Dabney 0-1, Jes. Stufflebeem 0-1, Gonnerman 0-2). Rebounds — 37 (Dabney 14, Busch 6, Faris 6, Starcevich 4, Gonnerman 3, Sebolt 2, Jeremy Stufflebeem, Jes. Stufflebeem). Assists — 23 (Busch 8, Starcevich 4, Dabney 3, Faris 3, Sebolt 3, Gonnerman 2). Steals — 8 (Gonnerman 3, Busch 2, Starcevich 2, B.J. Gavigan). Blocks — 2 (Dabney 2). Total fouls — 14. Turnovers — 13.
EBF (60) — Christian Bambrook 21, Trevor Leffler 19, Brandon Plate 8, Trevor Swartz 8, Christopher Welch 4. Totals 25-65 3-6 60.
3-point goals — 7-25 (Leffler 3-9, Plate 2-4, Swartz 2-9, Dakota Shepherd 0-1, Jevin Jensen 0-2). Rebounds — 28 (Bambrook 9, Jensen 9, Plate 3, Shepherd 3, Swartz 2, Leffler, Welch). Assists — 22 (Swartz 9, Jensen 6, Plate 4, Bambrook, Shepherd, Jackson Voyles). Steals — 7 (Jensen 2, Welch 2, Leffler, Plate, Voyles). Blocks — 3 (Bambrook 3). Total fouls — 15. Turnovers — 11.