CENTERVILLE — After a slow start to the season, the Centerville boys basketball team may be catching fire at the right time.
The Big Reds held off Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont, 69-62, in a see-saw South Central Conference battle at Lakeview Gymnasium that saw the two South Central Conference teams slug it out in an affair that saw a significant number of lead changes on the night.
"We've been trying to get our team to play a more up-tempo pace, and we felt like we accomplished that," assessed the Big Red head coach, Tom Hill, after seeing his team respond from an 0-8 start to the season.
The game opened in a fast and furious pace on both offense and defense. Mason Bauman opened the scoring for Centerville with two lay-ups out of the gate to put the home team up 4-0.
The Rockets post player, Ethan Davis, would exert his presence during the quarter by putting 12 points on the board during the span. With EBF leading 23-15 and just 1:30 to play, Centerville quickly closed the gap on a 3-pointer by Bauman and a drive to the hoop by Brady Kauzlarich. Merrick Mathews' final twisting lay-up at the buzzer cut EBF's lead to 23-22 after one quarter.
The second quarter featured five lead changes. Driving the baseline to open the period, Matthews put the Big Red up 24-23 on a lay-up.
EBF held a 29-27 lead with 4:30 remaining in the half when Trayton Smith hit a 3-pointer from the stratosphere to give Centerville a narrow one-point lead. Battling back, the Rockets responded with a 3-pointer to take a 32-30 lead.
In the closing moments of the half, Brody Tuttle hit a 3-pointer from the right wing to send Centerville to the locker room with a 33-32 edge. Following a quiet second quarter, Davis would awaken during the third period with 10 more points as EBF would answer back.
Kauzlarich would notch 10 points himself in the third quarter battle for Centerville, including 3-point goals from the right baseline and the left wing to open the Beg Red scoring. The two teams would enter the final frame with EBF holding a 50-49 edge.
The final period would dictate who would win the contest. Centerville's Kauzlarich would start the quarter off giving the Big Red momentum on a 3-point jumper from the left base line.
Following two fee throws by Tuttle, Kauzlarich hit on two more free throws as the Big Reds jumped to a 58-53 lead, the biggest lead of the night for either team.
Holding a 62-55 lead with 1:24 left in the game, Centerville would proceed to connect on nine of 11 free throw attempts. The final seven consecutive attempts would ultimately clinch a thrilling SCC win for the Big Reds.
"Coming off the Knoxville game (a 56-40 Centerville loss on Friday), I felt we played a great first half, before a poor performance in the second half," noted Hill. "We needed a complete game like this. I was also glad that we went 11 or 12 deep."
Kauzlarich scored 28 points on the night, followed by Tuttle and Bauman with 14 each. Davis scored a game-high 31 points for EBF while Brooks Moore was also in double figures with 14 points.
Up next for Centerville (4-10, 3-6 SCC) is a trip to Osceola on Friday to face off with Clarke. EBF (7-9, 6-5) travels to Knoxville on Friday to take on the Panthers, who need a win a two losses by Albia to earn a share of the SCC title.
Teams 1st 2nd 3rd 4th Final
EBF 23 9 18 12 62
Centerville 22 11 16 20 69