Playing two state-ranked teams and crosstown rival Mater Dei in less than a week meant the path through the Nashville Invitational Tournament was loaded with potential roadblocks for the Central Cougars.
They drove right through one of them Thursday night, erasing a six-point deficit in the final 1 minute, 22 seconds and flying back to defeat the host Nashville Hornets 51-48 and remain unbeaten at the tourney.
“Every night is a battle. I tell you the teams here, they’re top-rate,” said Central coach Jeremy Shubert, whose 17-2 squad is ranked second in Class 2A and knocked off 13th-ranked Nashville (13-7) to end the Hornets’ seven-game win streak. “I had one of my administrators say ‘Get ready for the gauntlet’ and when you’ve got Nashville, Mater Dei and T-Town back to back to back ...
“I don’t think there’s any other Class 2A teams in the state that have that kind of situation three nights in a row, but it’s good for the kids. It’s good for the kids and it’s good for the fans. It’s just tough on my voice.”
Central and Mater Dei (13-3) are both 2-0 heading into their clash at 8 p.m. Friday that will go a long way toward deciding the tourney champ at this round-robin event.
Central senior scoring ace Logan Kohrmann piled up 12 of his game-high 24 points during a torrid first quarter and added a late steal to help preserve the win.
The Cougars trailed 46-40 after Nashville’s Ryan Brink nailed a jumper with 1:22 remaining. Down but not out, Central had enough gas left in the tank for an 11-2 run to close out the game.
I don’t think there’s any other Class 2A teams in the state that have that kind of situation three nights in a row, but it’s good for the kids. It’s good for the kids and it’s good for the fans. It’s just tough on my voice.
Central coach Jeremy Shubert
“The kids didn’t panic, to their credit,” Shubert said. “That’s seniors. You’ve got to have senior leadership not to panic a little bit.”
That inspirational late run included a 3-pointer by Kohrmann and a shot by Jack Strieker that gave the Cougars a lead with 30 seconds remaining. Nashville had three turnovers in the final 30 seconds and never got closer than 49-48 a shot by Missouri football recruit Royce Newmen with 10.4 seconds to play.
Also big for the Cougars was Mitchel Rule hitting three of four free throws in the final 20.7 seconds and a tight, swarming defense that frustrated the Hornets all night.
“Six-point lead with (1:22 left) and don’t take care of the basketball is the bottom line,” said Nashville coach Brad Weathers, whose team battled back from an eight-point deficit late in the third quarter in an intense, emotional contest . “We worked awfully hard, there was a lot of the night that was very good for us. We were down eight at one time, worked really hard.
“Central made it really difficult for us to score inside and to even get some looks. We worked really hard and got that lead, but we made some poor decisions there in the last minute that cost us the ballgame.”
There was the Kohrmann steal, a high pass that eluded Newman and another turnover with the Hornets still within two points.
We worked really hard and got that lead, but we made some poor decisions there in the last minute that cost us the ballgame.
Nashville coach Brad Weathers
“We’ll continue to get better,” Weathers said. “When you’re that close it hurts not to pull that off. We worked awfully hard tonight and then to let it slip away is tough.
“I thought we had a tremendous second half until the last minute of the ballgame.”
Along with Kohrmann, Central got 11 points and some tight defense from Chase Schneider on Newman, who will miss Saturday’s tourney game to take a recruiting visit to Ole Miss.
“I thought Chase Schneider did a heck of a job guarding Royce Newman,” Shubert said. “Chase had a whale of a game.”
Kohrmann scored Central’s first 10 points and had 12 of the Cougars’ 16 in the first quarter, hitting five straight shots along the way. That included a pair of 3-pointers he dropped in on his first two attempts of the night.
After falling behind 8-4, Nashville stormed back with an 8-0 run to grab a 12-8 lead. Central answered with an 8-0 run of its own and the Cougars led 26-21 at halftime.
Nashville got 13 points from Newman and 10 each from Hayden Heggemeier and Jaris Dalman. The Hornets weren’t called for a foul until the 4:56 mark of the third quarter, then picked up three in the next 19 seconds.
Mater Dei 53, Mascoutah 29
Mater Dei had no trouble at all with Mascoutah as the Knights (13-3) won their sixth straight and improved to 2-0 at the tournament heading into another showdown with Breese city rival Central on Friday.
Mater Dei got 13 points off the bench from 6-7 junior Mason Toennies and seven points from Spencer Broeckling. Nick Pollmann and Butchie Timmermann had six points each for the Knights while Ethan Mayberry had 11 for Mascoutah (4-16).