CENTERVILLE — It's been a struggle at times over the past two seasons for the Centerville boys basketball team to put points on the board.
On Friday, in the first home game of the season, the Big Reds found ways to score that even their own players couldn't describe.
"That lob at the end of the first half that Ryan threw to Drennan? I don't know what that was," Centerville junior Conner Stephens said. "That was crazy, but it got us fired up."
Stephens would finish with a game-high 17 points on Friday, including one of Centerville's three shots to end quarters. The final seven points for Stephens would prove to be the biggest with all seven coming in the final two minutes of a 62-56 South Central Conference win over Davis County at Lakeview Gymnasium.
"It's been way more fun already this season out there on the court," Stephens said. "I think that comes down to our experience. We didn't have a lot of experience last season. Now that we've got more experience, it's going to make us that much better."
Centerville turned things around after opening the season with a 62-38 loss at Central Decatur, scoring just five points in the first quarter against the Cardinals while falling behind 38-11 at halftime. Just three days later, Centerville scored 16 points in the first quarter alone against the Mustangs taking the lead on a pair of free throws after a steal in the final seconds by Moorman to snap a 14-14 tie.
"We didn't perform anywhere near like we have in practice in that Central Decatur game," Centerville head boys basketball coach Tom Hill said. "I'm going to chalk that up to being our first game. This was our first game on our home court in front of our home crowd. We had to adjust to some things we wanted to do because of how tight the game was being officiated. Our guys were very coachable and did some good things."
Centerville matched the Mustangs throughout a tight battle, making more of their opportunities from the foul line by sinking 10-14 from the charity stripe to counter Davis County's 3-11 free throw shooting performance in the first half. Moorman's finish on a lob from Sinnott sent the Big Reds into the locker room with a 31-28 halftime lead.
"I thought Drennan and Brandon Shinn really played some great defense on (Justin Matheney). They're going to be two guys we count on this season as role players," Hill said. "There were a lot of good things our guys did. They did what they were supposed to do.
"It's fun coach these guys. I'm trying to give them a little more freedom this year, as long as they let me coach them when I have to. They're really responding to that and I want to keep giving them those opportunities."
Matheney would lead all scorers with 21 points, including 10 of Davis County's first 14 points in the game. The Mustangs would trade basket for basket with the Big Reds in the third quarter as the teams would exchange 13 ties and eight lead changes in the first 22 minutes before a 7-0 run to close the third quarter culminating by the last-second 3-pointer by Stephens gave Centerville a 49-42 lead.
"They came in here and beat us last year," Centerville senior Brody Tuttle said. "We had to get some back against them this season. We had the ball moving the whole game. We got the open shots and hit them when we needed to."
Stephens hit his biggest shots with the game hanging in the balance after Davis County cut a 10-point Big Red lead down to 52-51 with two minutes left. One missed shot could have allowed the Mustangs, with a rebound, to shoot for a late lead with a chance to walk away from Lakeview Gym with a win for the second straight year.
Instead, open for just a moment, Stephens took and sank a clutch 3-pointer to put the Big Reds back up four. Down the stretch, Stephens made sure that lead help up finding Sinnott for a lay-up with 1:18 to go before sinking four free throws in the final 17.5 seconds swishing the final three after banking the first attempt in to salt away the Centerville victory.
"I'm glad the bank was open late," Stephens joked. "I've been way more confident in my free throws this year. It was a good time for them to go in."
Tuttle secured a double-double by securing a rebound on Davis County's final shot, clinching a 15-point and 10-rebound night for the Big Reds. Sinnott added 13 points for Centerville while Tucker Marshall scored 11 points before fouling out for the Mustangs.
"We just got outplayed," Davis County head coach Mike Bunnell said. "Outrebounded. Outphysicaled. It was just a rough night for us."
Davis County (1-1, 0-1 SCC) heads to Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont on Tuesday. The Rockets opened their season erasing a five-point halftime deficit, winning 56-46 over Albia (1-2, 0-1 SCC) to improve to 2-0 on the season with their 13th straight conference win.
Centerville (1-1, 1-0 SCC) hosts Cardinal in SCC action on Tuesday.