Scoring may not be one of the top priorities for Central point guard Kolby Schulte, but on Saturday night the junior seemed to provide them when his team needed them the most.
Down by nine in the early going against Highland, the 5-foot-8 Schulte helped the Cougars battle back to grab a 34-33 lead to open the final quarter when he split a wide-open lane for a layup in the period’s final seconds.
He then tallied six more key points in the final quarter — two of those baskets off steals in the final minute and 20 seconds — to help the Cougars defeat the Bulldogs 56-47.
“I’m usually not too worried about scoring,” said Schulte, who finished with 13 points. “My main job is to distribute the basketball. But coach says when the shots are there, I’ve got to take them.
“Fortunately, they went in for me tonight. They’re a tough team.”
Central coach Jeremy Shubert praised Schulte for a performance which helped Central (21-2) reel off its 10th straight win.
“I think Kolby was really tired tonight,” said Central coach Jeremy Shubert, whose team was coming off an 83-47 win over Carlyle on Friday. “But he made those two steals and that was pretty much the game right there.
“That’s the benefit of having a good point guard. When Kolby plays well, we play well.”
The 13 points from Schulte, along with a team-high 18 from senior Logan Kohrmann , who hit all six of his free-throw attempts in the final quarter, helped offset a strong effort from Highland senior Austin Elledge.
Held scoreless in a 45-40 loss to the Cougars in an opening night game at the Mater Dei Invitational on Dec. 26, Elledge did everything he could to carry Highland to victory.
The 6-2 senior drained his first four shots of the game and scored 10 points in the opening quarter as they Bulldogs opened a 17-11 lead. Elledge would finish with 24 points, hitting 10 of 14 shots – including three 3-pointers – before fouling out with around a minute remaining.
Elledge scored four points in the early moments of the third quarter, helping Highland grab a 33-28 lead over the No. 2 ranked team in the Associated Press’ Class 2A boys basketball poll.
But it would be more than seven and half minutes before the Bulldogs scored again, as Central fed off some strong play at the defensive end to go on a 15-0 run.
Five different players scored for the Cougars during the surge, the biggest possibly being a 3-pointer from Chase Schneider just seconds after a double technical foul had been called on the Cougars’ Jack Streiker and Highland’s Will Michael as they went to the floor while battling for a rebound following a missed shot at the Bulldogs’ end of the court.
“That was about the most emotion we’ve shown,” said Shubert of the double technical. “But our kids didn’t let it carry over, and that’s one thing they do very well. They kept their heads and executed a play that got Chase that wide-open shot.
“He knocked it down and we finished strong from there.”
Bulldogs coach Matt Elledge agreed the sequence following the double technical was one of the keys to the game’s outcome. Highland trailed 38-33 when Schubert hit his 3.
“I thought their kids made three plays right there that really broke our back,” said Highland coach Matt Elledge, whose team fell to 11-11. “There was that 3 and then the back-to-back steals that led to layups.
“Down the stretch we’ve just got to make better decisions. We were right there going into the fourth quarter, but we stagnated offensively and they made plays.”
Highland also had an extending scoring drought in the first half, managing just two points in the final 7:03 of the second quarter, allowing Central to rally from a 24-16 deficit into a 26-26 all tie at halftime.
After his big first period, Elledge added five more in the second quarter, but foul trouble in the second half slowed the Bulldogs senior.
“I knew Austin had not forgotten what happened the first time we played them,” said Matt Elledge. “And I thought, he and the team did a good job picking out their shots.
“But he needs to learn to do a better job of dealing with foul trouble. We were having trouble scoring without him on the floor.”