Seniors Jack Strieker and Kolby Schulte combined for 39 points as the Central Cougars held off Okawville, 53-47 in the pool play round of the 56th Annual Mater Dei Christmas Tournament on Wednesday afternoon.
“That was a great, hard-fought win, led by our seniors,” Central coach Jeremy Shubert said. “Jack and Kolby had great offensive games, but every one of our seniors stepped up and played well.”
The top-seeded Rockets, last year’s tournament champions, came into the tournament undefeated but lost their second game in three tries at the event. Okawville (10-2) dropped a shocker to Highland in the second game of the tournamennt Tuesday before bouncing back to defeat Mascoutah later.
Central (8-3)improved to 3-0 for the event and can do no worse than Friday evening’s third-place game. Central could play for the championship by defeating Mascoutah at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Okawville’s Noah Frederking, an Evansville commit who became the tournament’s all-time scoring leader Tuesday, led all scorers with 23 points and added nine rebounds. The Cougars were able to lock down the rest of the Rockets, limiting Frederking’s teammates to just 24 points on just 7-of-19 shooting. Central forced 13 turnovers while committing just 7.
The Cougars built a 19-9 lead after one quarter, and still led 29-24 at halftime. The Rockets made a run early in the third quarter, taking a 30-29 lead when Frederking grabbed his own miss and drained the putback. Strieker hit a jumper and two free throws to give Central the lead again, and after a Frederking 3-pointer knotted the score at 33-all, Schulte hit a layup to give the Cougars an advantage they’d never relinquish.
Strieker drew the unenviable task of guarding Frederking, and while the Rockets’ leading scorer still scored his share of points, Strieker was able to avoid foul trouble, not picking up his third foul until more than halfway through the final quarter. He finished the game with four fouls.
Okawville is off until 9 p.m. Thursday, when they face Briarcrest Christian of Memphis, Tenn. Central faces Mascoutah at 6 p.m. Thursday.