Courier sports staff
Trying to beat a team three times in one season is tough to do. Fourth-ranked Centerville found that out on Friday night.
In the end, the Big Reds overcame an early deficit to beat out their top challenge for the South Central Conference crown. Centerville outscored Chariton by 19 points over the second and third quarters to pull out a 52-44 Class 3A, District 12 win at Knoxville High School, giving the Big Reds a second straight district title.
The Big Reds didn’t make it easy on themselves. Chariton won the first eight minutes against a tentative Centerville team, leading 15-10 after one quarter.
“The first quarter was kind of rough for us,” Big Reds head coach Matt Kruzich said. “We came out kind of nervous. I think we were playing more not to lose. We started to finally settle in a little more in the second quarter.”
Centerville outscored the Chargers 16-7 in the second quarter to edge ahead by four at halftime. The Big Reds then came up with the most decisive quarter of the contest, outscoring the Chargers 15-5 in the third quarter to build a 41-27 lead.
Chariton tried to rally its in the fourth quarter to keep their season alive, cutting the deficit in half to seven with a minute to go. Centerville was able to put away Chariton from the foul line, hitting 11-16 from the charity stripe.
“We kept making free throws,” Kruzich said. “We’ve put a lot of time into that and it’s really paying off for us.”
Michael Starcevich and Garret Faris each scored 14 points to lead Centerville while Payton Busch had 12 points and six assists. Daric Laing, who hit the game winning 3-pointer in the final seconds of Chariton’s 47-46 district-semifinal win over Oskaloosa, led the Chargers with 11 points to close out a 16-7 season.
For the second straight season, No. 4 Centerville (20-2) will play for a berth in the Class 3A boys state basketball tournament. The Big Reds face Grinnell (19-4) Monday for the Substate 6 title in Oskaloosa at 7 p.m. The Tigers also beat a conference rival for a third time on Friday, topping Pella 58-44 at Southeast Polk High School for the District 11 championship.
“We’re going to have to deal with a lot of physical play in the post,” Kruzich, who will be looking to lead his third Centerville team to state, said. “We’re going to have to switch our defense and make a lot happen out front. Hopefully, our press can take a little bit of a toll on them.”
“The guys know what it’s all about. Hopefully we can go out there and make a good showing, but it’s going to be a physical challenge.”
Class 3A, District 12 Finals
No. 4 Centerville 52, Chariton 44
Chariton 15 7 5 17 — 44
C’ville 10 16 15 11 — 52
Chariton (44) — Daric Laing 11, Bryce Cunningham 8, T.J. Hockenson 8, Willie Felderman 6, Alex Wright 5, Christian Bengtson 4, Carl Williams 2. Totals 20 FG 1-8 44.
3-point goals — 3 (Cunningham, Laing, Wright). Total fouls — 14.
Centerville (52) — Michael Starcevich 14, Garret Faris 14, Payton Busch 12, Kolton Gonnerman 7, Logan Dabney 5. Totals 19 FG 11-16 52.
3-point goals — 3 (Starcevich 2, Busch). Rebounds — 27 (Dabney 8). Assists — 9 (Busch 6). Steals — 9 (Starcevich 4). Blocks — 3 (Dabney 3). Total fouls — 13. Turnovers — 10.