The Central Cougars advanced to the championship game of their first Class 3A regional boys basketball tournament.
Kolby Schulte scored a game-high 16 points, and a stingy Central defense didn’t give many open shots in the Cougars’ 58-32 semifinal win over Jerseyville in the Civic Memorial regional Tuesday.
“The refs like to let you play a little bit more in the postseason, but 3A is a stronger game than 2A,” said Schulte, a senior. “There seems to be an upset every night. You’ve got to bring it against whoever you play.”
The Cougars brought stifling defense that held Jerseyville to just 22.8 percent shooting from the field. In fact, if not for free throws, the Eagles would have gone into the locker room at halftime with just five points.
Civic Memorial landed just two field goals in the first half, its first with 48 seconds left in the first quarter, and another with 39 seconds left in the second. The Eagles were 8 for 35 on the night.
“I think they had nine points at the free-throw line in the first half. Otherwise, they would have had just five other points,” said Central coach Jeremy Shubert. “Our defense was good all game.”
The Cougars (25-4) will play either Triad or Civic Memorial — which play in the other semifinal game Wednesday night — for the regional title at 7 p.m. Friday.
Jerseyville’s season ends at 11-19.
Jerseyville tried to throw Central off its offense with zone defense. While it managed to created some turnovers early, Schulte broke the zone with eight first quarter points.
Junior Tyler Joest also had five in the period, including a surprise 3-pointer from the corner with 1:22 left that put the Cougars ahead 13-4.
“Kolby absolutely came up big,” Shubert said. “He’s got to make stuff happen against that zone. We were able to get him him spots where he rose up off of ball screens or off penetration. That 15-foot shot is his shot when he can knock it down.”
Central then opened the second quarter with a 13-2 run to open a 27-9 lead. The Cougars never led by fewer than 16 points the rest of the way.
Joest added 11 points for Central, which also got eight points each from Joe Ratermann and Jack Strieker.
The Cougars hit 24 of 45 shots from the field (53.3 percent), including five 3-pointers.
Jerseyville was led by junior A.J. Shaw’s 10 points.