BREESE — Two of the Central Cougars' main concerns this season have been erratic free throw shooting and finding other players to contribute around talented senior guard Jacob Timmermann.
Both potential negatives were turned into positives Wednesday as sophomore Logan Kohrmann scored 19 points and Central hit 24-of-30 free throws in a 58-46 semifinal win over Carlyle at the Class 2A Mater Dei Regional.
"Free throws have kind of been our nemesis this year," Central coach Jeremy Shubert said. "We could have a few more positives on the win side if we'd have hit our free throws throughout the year, but better late than never. Hopefully that continues Friday night."
Central (21-8) will be playing its eighth game of the season in Mater Dei's gym at 7 p.m. Friday when the Cougars take on the host Knights (19-9) for the regional championship.
Central has won five straight regionals.
The teams split two games this season, with Central winning 49-38 in the championship game of the Nashville Invitational Tournament. Mater Dei won 53-41 at home.
"I told our kids we need to come out with more intensity than when we played them over here in the regular season, because they're going to come out fired up and ready to go," Shubert said. "Jacob really likes to play in the gym here. He always says 'Coach, I'm not afraid that we're playing over there and they're the No. 1 seed."
Foul trouble to star senior Matt Hilmes hurt the Indians (21-9) all night as they saw a six-game win streak come to an end. Hilmes picked up his third foul late in the first half and his fourth early in the third quarter when Carlyle was on a 10-0 run that had cut Central's 32-18 halftime lead to 32-28.
Carlyle had beaten Central twice in three games this season and the Cougars seemed to be slipping back into a familiar pattern. That's when Cougars' freshman Jack Strieker stepped up to nail a 3-pointer to end Carlyle's run and revive some badly needed momentum.
"That was just a killer," Carlyle coach Andy Palmer said. "We were hoping (to cut it to) maybe eight or nine by the end of the third quarter and we had it to four."
"Jack Strieker had a hell of a game," Shubert said. "Jack hit some shots, he got some rebounds. He's quick off the floor and that's what we need to help us on the defensive end.
"He was really the only one that didn't want to shoot in the 3-point contest and here he hits two two 3-pointers tonight -- and two very big 3-point shots."
Strieker finished with nine points while Timmermann, Austin Shidle and Mitchell Rule all had eight.
Palmer had a tough time saying goodbye to a solid group of seniors who shared the Cahokia Conference championship this season. The Indians lost 52-39 to Central in the regional final last season.
"It's disappointing," Palmer said. "Twenty wins is a great accomplishment and to share the conference (title), all that's good. But this is the ultimate prize, to have a chance to win the regional tournament.
"Unfortunately these guys didn't get to experience that. I'm very proud of them."
Hilmes went to the bench in foul trouble for long stretches of the second and third quarter. He led the Indians with 11 points, while Logan Zachry had 10 and John Becker added nine.
"When you're best player (Hilmes) is not on the floor, it's a tough deal," Palmer said. "The bad part is that second foul on him wasn't on him. They called it on the wrong number and didn't change it.
"I didn't think he was anywhere around the play. Then I thought the kid dribbled out of bounds and then (Matt) ended up getting a foul on him."
Central was in command from the opening tip, grabbing leads of 6-0 and 13-3 before Carlyle fought back with an 8-0 run to trim the deficit to two.
A 3-pointer by Kohrmann at the end of the first quarter gave the Cougars a 16-11 advantage.
With Carlyle missing five straight 3-point attempts, the Cougars pushed their lead to 26-13 with a 13-2 run. Still within striking distance down 41-30 after the third quarter, the Indians watched the Cougars wear out a path to the foul line.
Central sank 15 of its 19 free throws in the final quarter to nail down the win.