Many times when familiar foes tangle with each other in the playoffs, an unlikely hero emerges that has a much bigger impact on the outcome of the game than anyone anticipated.
That could be the case when Central (28-4) takes on Nashville (21-10) at 7 p.m. Friday in the Class 2A Pinckneyville Sectional championship.
Both teams have obvious top guns, with Central led by senior guard Logan Kohrmann (17.8 points per game, 50 3-pointers). Kohrmann has 20 or more points in six of his last eight games.
Nashville counters with Ole Miss football recruit Royce Newman (17 ppg), coming off a 32-point explosion Wednesday in a 47-45 semifinal win over Pinckneyville.
“There’s not a whole lot secrets at this point,” Nashville coach Brad Weathers said. “Each team knows each other and what they’re trying do, and their strengths. Everybody’s trying to take away the best player and counter those things.
“Defense is usually the key factor at this time of the year.”
Defense escaped Nashville at the end of its previous meeting with Central on Jan. 21 at the Nashville Invitational Tournament. Central trailed by six with 1:22 remaining, but closed out the game with an 11-2 run and got 24 points from Kohrmann in a 51-48 victory.
“We had an opportunity to win the game and didn’t get it done,” said Weathers, whose team got 13 points from Newman that night and 10 each from Hayden Heggemeier and Jaris Dalman. “We had a hard time guarding Kohrmann and their late pressure bothered us. Kohrmann had a big night and (Chase) Schneider hit a couple of threes.
“They’re awfully tough to guard. They’ve got so many playmakers and their guard play is so strong.”
Central coach Jeremy Shubert is aware of the damage Newman (17 pppg) can do inside. He saw it firsthand Wednesday when Newman had all but 10 of his team’s 42 points.
“We’re going to have to battle Newman just as hard or harder because he’s playing at a high level,” Shubert said. “He played with a higher gear than I saw him play the first time we played them before. He ratcheted it up a notch for sure.”
By the numbers
NASHVILLE: Newman (17 ppg); Brady Bultman (11.6 ppg); Ryan Brink (9.1 pg, 40 3-pointers).
CENTRAL: Kohrmann (17.8 ppg, 50 3-pointers; Jack Strieker (8,8 ppg, 15 points and 11 rebounds on Tuesday); Chase Schneider (8.3 ppg, 64 3-pointers).
An inspired Newman could make it tough on the smaller Cougars inside. He hit 12-of-18 shots and eight of 13 free throws against the Panthers.
“He had plenty of touches (Wednesday), but the fact that he was still finishing and scoring those points was good,” Weathers said after watching Newman hit 30 points or more for the third time this season. “He took it upon himself down low. He’s certainly capable.”
The x-factors for Central are Kohrmann’s ability to score from anywhere — and for other Cougars like Strieker, Kolby Schulte or Schneider to step up with big nights.
“Hopefully he doesn’t get in a rhythm,” Weathers said of Kohrmann. “He is obviously a prolific scorer and a strong rebounder. He’s such a good balhandler and passer they can play off of him right now.”
Shubert would like to see the Cougars get to the rim — and the free-throw line — a lot more.
“I hope we’re getting the ball inside a little bit more, whether Logan or anybody else,” he said. “We need to attack the rim more. We didn’t do that enough against the first time against them.”
Class 1A North Greene Sectional final
After splitting two games played in Okawville this season, rivals Gibault (23-9) and Okawville (28-4) get the privilege of driving nearly two hours north to White Hall’s North Greene High for the sectional final. Game time is 7 p.m. Friday.
Neither is complaining since the winner reaches the Jacksonville Super-Sectional on Tuesday.
Both teams smacked around their sectional semifinal opponents; Gibault beat Carrollton 54-35 and Okawville pounded Pawnee 67-46.
Gibault got 30 points and 14 rebounds along with a 10-of-13 shooting performance from junior Trevor Davis in a 59-51 victory over Okawville on Dec. 22. Okawville star junior Noah Frederking had 24 points in that one.
In the Jan 23 rematch, Okawville’s Shane Ganz fired in 23 points and Frederking had 12 while David was held to seven for Gibault.
Gibault’s 6-5 senior center Brian Deterding has enjoyed big games in both meetings. Deterding had 17 points and 10 rebounds in the Hawks’ win and 14 points and 11 rebounds in the loss.
“Somebody’s probably going to make an adjustment one way or another, or one team will,” Okawville coach Jon Kraus said. “Especially in a game like this with the importance. Somebody that maybe you’re not expecting to hit shots or make some big plays will step up, that secret-weapon kind of kid.
“I feel like that’s always big in these kinds of games.”
By the numbers
GIBAULT: Davis (16.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game; 39 blocks); Deterding (15.3 points and 9.1 rebounds per game, 61 percent shooter); Jacob Rueter (10.7 pointsd and six assists per game; 65 3-pointers).
OKAWVILLE: Frederking (20.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game; 50 3-pointers); Ganz (11.8 ppg, 28 3-pointers, 93 assists); Brad Fuhrhop (7.1 ppg).
Kraus is wary of Gibault’s inside-outside attack that can catch fire if Rueter or Garrett Rueter are hitting 3-pointers.
“They shoot the ball really well from the perimeter and if you let some of those guys stand their and play H-O-R-S-E and start making threes, that opens things up for them inside,” Kraus said. “That’s what can make them really difficult, but we’ve both got kids that can shoot it.
“We executed better the second time and they executed better the first time.”
Okawville hit 25-of-43 shots in the second game.