Centralia junior Javon Williams, Jr. finished when it counted the most on Wednesday at the Class 3A Benton Sectional Basketball Tournament.
Williams scored eight of his 14 points in the fourth quarter as the Orphans broke a 26-all tie and went on for a 41-34 semifinal over the Central Cougars before a large crowd at Rich Herrin Gymnasium.
Central, competing as a 3A school for the first time, battled back from a nine-point deficit in the first half to take a 24-22 lead on a pair of free throws by 6-foot-8 Tyler Joest with 3 minutes left in the third quarter. But that would be the Cougars highlight of the night as they managed just one basket over the next eight minutes. Centralia went on a 6-0 run to take a 32-26 lead.
With the sturdy 6-2 Williams and 6-4 Dawson Berry scoring 13 of the Centralia’s fourth quarter points, Central (26-5) would get no closer than three points the rest of the night.
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“He (Williams) didn’t finish very well and we didn’t finish around the basket as well as we usually do. But I thought we made enough plays and got some stops on the defensive end in the fourth quarter,” Orphans coach Lee Bennett said. “It wasn’t pretty but it was good enough. That’s a very good basketball team we beat tonight.”
The win moves Centralia into the sectional championship game at 7 p.m. Friday at Benton High School. The Orphans will take on Benton (31-2), which defeated Cahokia 48-43 in Tuesday’s semifinal.
Getting six points from Williams and five from freshman Jamie Long, Centralia led 15-11 after one quarter then stretched the lead to 22-16 at halftime against the Cougars, who managed only five second-quarter points.
Central was led by senior guard Jack Strieker, who connected on 4 of 6 shots from beyond the 3-point line and scored 12 of Central’s points in the first half.
“Offensively, we had some good shots that we didn’t knock down, and they (Centralia) did a good job on the boards and were able to get to some loose balls,” Central coach Jeremy Shubert said. “In the second half, we did a better job on the boards. It just comes down to execution.”
Shubert added that the Cougars took the ball to the basket better in the third quarter. And it showed. The Cougars made a concerted effort to get the ball inside to Joest, who scored six of his 12 points to key the run.
Central senior Kolby Schulte hit a short jumper late in the third quarter to tie the game at 26.
But Schulte’s basket would be Central’s last until until just more three minutes remained in the game. Going into its delay game, the Orphans forced Central to foul. Centralia made 7 of 8 from the foul line in the final three minutes.
Williams and Berry had 14 points each for Centralia, while Joest and Strieker had 12 each for Central.