Even though no tournament championship plaque came with their 64-54 win over Okawville on Saturday at the Highland Optimist Shootout, the Central Cougars were more than willing to celebrate a big victory.
Central lost 48-40 to Okawville on Dec. 30 in the championship game of the Mater Dei Christmas Tournament. This time the Cougars got a solid defensive effort that included more balanced offensive support led by senior Logan Kohrmann’s 18 points.
Kolby Schulte and Corben Zanger added 12 points each and Chase Schneider tossed in eight.
The rematch featured two of the state’s top teams. Okawville is ranked first in Class 1A and Central is third in 2A.
“Those guys are dog-tired right now,” said Central coach Jeremy Shubert, whose team was coming off a 67-56 Cahokia Conference win over Columbia the night before. “We had to dictate tempo, that was one of our goals — come out strong, dictate tempo and get the ball inside. The guys executed tonight.”
The win capped off a 3-0 week for the Cougars (14-2), who played Friday and Saturday without two starters in the lineup because of disciplinary reasons.
That’s just been tradition. They tell us every year that Central’s known for their defense. From Nick Grapperhaus and Justin Becker down to Jacob Timmermann on to us, we just try to keep it up every year.
Central senior Logan Kohrmann on the Cougars’ effective defense
“This is the first time I’ve seen them play with this group and I thought they had good chemistry, good flow to their game,” Okawville coach Jon Kraus said after his team dropped to 13-3. “Those guys that are playing now want to play, so they’re going to go try to find minutes. With those guys out it’s an opportunity for those kids.”
Kohrmann said the main strategy was to pound the ball inside against the smaller Rockets, with a lot ot help from 6-7 sophomore Tyler Joest, the 6-5 Schneider and 6-3 Zanger.
“We felt like we had an edge in the post definitely with Corbin and two bigs starting this time,” Kohrmann said. “He stressed last game to get it into the post and we didn’t really do that enough. This whole week he stressed getting it into the post again because Okawville’s a small team.
“Regardless of who we put out there, Coach always says our five guys ... he thinks we have an even chance against anyone we play.”
Okawville lost its second straight game after a 13-1 start. The Rockets lost to Nashville on Tuesday and had trouble dealing with Central’s defense and rebounding Saturday.
That first half we pretty much allowed them to do whatever they wanted to. We didn’t stop them from doing much offensively. We didn’t rebound when they missed shots, we didn’t get loose balls, we didn’t take charges. The little things you’ve got to do to win big games, we didn’t do.
Okawville coach Jon Kraus
Okawville junior star Noah Frederking scored 15 of his 22 points in the second half, but no other Rockets player had more than Alec Wisneski’s eight points.
Central players have defense just as high as offensive on their priority list.
“That’s just been tradition,” said Kohrmann, who did a nice job on Frederking for much of the first half. “They tell us every year that Central’s known for their defense. From Nick Grapperhaus and Justin Becker down to Jacob Timmermann on to us, we just try to keep it up every year.”
Kraus said the Cougars were much more aggressive.
“That first half we pretty much allowed them to do whatever they wanted to do,” Kraus said. “We didn’t stop them from doing much offensively. We didn’t rebound when they missed shots, we didn’t get loose balls, we didn’t take charges. The little things you’ve got to do to win big games, we didn’t do.
“If you don’t rebound the ball you can’t dictate tempo, so we never dictated tempo in the first half for sure.”
The Cougars burned through a 16-2 run in the first half that turned an 11-9 lead in the first quarter into a commanding 27-11 cushion in the second.
Joest continued his solid play of late, tossing in four quick points at the start of the second quarter to help ignite the offensive rally.
Central pushed its lead to 30-18 at halftime before Frederking began to heat up offensively in the second half.
The Rockets got as close as seven points several times in the second half and crept to within five on a late bucket by Frederking. Schulte helped close out the win with nine of his 12 points in the final quarter, while Zanger had six of his 12 in the same span.
Shubert singled out Zanger as an example of someone who waited patiently for a chance to contribute.
“He’s been a great teammate,” Shubert said. “He loves to play and it’s been matchup issues and things. Quite frankly he’s just risen to the occasion. He’s a senior and he wants to help this team any way we can.
“We wouldn’t be undefeated this week without Corben Zanger, there’s no doubt about it.”