GREENVILLE — As the final minute ticked off the clock with the ball in Central junior Jacob Timmermann's hands and a tie game, the Cougars felt awfully good about their chances.
Timmermann hit a driving layup with 2.9 seconds left that lifted defending state champion Central to a wild 56-54 semifinal victory over Robinson at the Class 2A Greenville Sectional.
Central (22-9) won despite falling behind 11-0 at the start of the game. The Cougars advanced to the sectional final at 7:30 p.m. Friday and will play Teutopolis (24-3), a team it split two games with this season.
"I'm comfortable when Jacob has the ball," said Central senior center Kyler Scheer, who finished with 26 points and was 12-for-14 at the foul line. "I think him with the ball with the last few seconds left, it made me feel pretty comfortable that something good was going to come out of it."
It did and Timmermann was fouled on the play, but missed the free throw. Robinson (25-5) got a timeout with 2.3 seconds left, then got the ball across halfcourt and called another with 0.4 seconds remaining.
Most of the more than 1,700 fans in attendance knew exactly where the ball was headed at that point. Especially since Robinson senior guard Aaron Siler had already fired in 10 of his 14 3-point shots and scored 36 points.
Siler got off a running 3-point try that was well short, one of the few he failed to connect on.
"Aaron's one of those guys that if you put a ball within about two feet of him he'll find a way to get it up," Robinson coach Mack Thompson said. "Obviously we wanted to get the ball in his hands if at all possible. We just ran out of time."
And Central fans were finally able to breathe a sigh of relief.
"That's a very, very good basketball player," Central coach Stan Eagleson said of Siler, who had 33 points in Robinson's 59-50 win over Central on Nov. 23. "Siler is a load. We put our two best guards on him and what did he have, 36?
"You've just got to keep after him and hope his legs eventually will go."
Rather than foul the Cougars, Robinson allowed more than a minute to run off the clock before Timmermann hit what proved to be the game-winning layup.
"That didn't bother me at all," Eagleson said. "We'll take that last shot there."
Central tried Timmermann and Justin Becker on Siler, but Siler had no trouble scoring.
"He doesn't come out and that takes out of you doing what he does offensively, cutting through screens and trying to get the ball," Eagleson said. "Obviously it takes a lot out of you trying to guard him, too."
Scheer was the difference for the Cougars. He hit 7 of 10 shots, was close to unstoppable inside and when he wasn't scoring and rebounding he was drawing fouls on Robinson's big men.
Robinson forward Derrick Nicholas fouled out with 3:19 remaining. While Scheer picked up a few bruises as the result of being slammed to court at least twice, he just picked himself up and kept killing Robinson with free throws.
"They were a lot more physical than I am, they were a lot bigger than I am, too," Scheer said of the 6-foot-4, 235-pound Nicholas and 6-5 Michael Akande. "I just had to stay strong."
A 54.1-percent foul shooter this season, Scheer hit 12-of-14 against the Maroons.
"He's been coming on and coming on the whole last month of the season," Eagleson said. "The Nicholas kid is a big, strong, tough kid and I thought Kyler did a whale of a job against him (with) scoring, getting him in foul trouble and limiting him from scoring."
Austin Rickhoff had nine points for Central and Becker had eight.
Siler, being recruited by Division II Southern Indiana as well as Parkland College, drained his first three 3-pointers. He fired in an incredible 18 points in the third quarter without missing a shot, including four 3s.
"They got down 11-0 and they fought back and made it a good game," Thompson said. "It was back and forth, back and forth We lost, but I think it was a matter of we just ran out of time. That game could have went on forever."
An 8-0 run got Central back in it after the Cougars trailed 11-0, but Siler nailed a fourth 3-pointer to end it. The scrappy Cougars helped force 10 Robinson turnovers in the first half and began turning that defense into offense.
Scheer dropped in a short shot just before the half ended to tie it 22-22 as the Cougars outscored Robinson 14-6 in the second quarter to climb out of the early hole.