On Friday the Central Rebels did something only one other Boys Basketball team has ever done in the history of the program, make it to the Semifinals of the State Championship Tournament. After knocking off Dexter in the first round, the Rebels got revenge on MICDS in the Quarterfinals to become the first Central team to reach the Semis in 47 years.
The 27-3 Rebels beat Dexter 73-53 on Monday with relative ease, but had to really gut one out against their next opponent. MICDS is only one of three teams to beat Central this season, and they did so in Park Hills with an 18-point victory, so this was a a statement game. This time the Rebels stepped up and took down the Rams 56-52 to punch their ticket to the Final Four for the first time in nearly half a century.
The game against Dexter was a tight one in the beginning, with Central taking a narrow 11-8 lead after one quarter of play, but the Bearcats clawed back in the second. They erupted for 22 points and held Central to 13, despite big threes from Jobe Bryant and Caden Casey. Just like that the Rebels found themselves down 30-24 as the halftime buzzer sounded.
Something clicked in the second half for Park Hills though, and his name was Jobe Bryant. He poured in 10 of the 17 points for the Rebels in the third and Central was able to tie the game at 41 heading into the final frame. Then in the fourth the Rebels were able to pull ahead early on and Dexter was forced to foul. Central made their bones at the free-throw line to build their lead, and then some.
Bryant had 11 more in the fourth, including going 8-of-10 from the line, and the Rebels put up 30+ on the Bearcats in the last eight minutes. They chewed up the clock, and turned what was a tight affair, into a convincing 73-53 victory.
Bryant led the way with 28 points and made 11-of-16 free throws, while sinking three from beyond the arc. Casey was next in line with 12 points and hit a pair from downtown, while Mason Williams and Kendall Horton each had nine points for Central.
That win set the stage for the rematch with MICDS and had the Rebels looking to make some school history. Assistant Coach Mark Casey talked about the team mentality in regards to the potential matchup, saying, “the night they beat us at our place we had a long talk afterwards and talked about the possibility of getting to play them again if everything worked out. So our guys were excited to get that chance.”
The Rebels didn’t squander it.
They went up early with a 16-9 first quarter, helped by five points from Horton and four from Triston Stewart. The Rams rebounded a bit in the second with an 11-10 frame, but it only trimmed the lead by the slightest of margins. When the halftime buzzer sounded, Central still owned a 26-20 lead.
MICDS was pumped up after the break though and responded with 19 points. They managed to contain Central enough to tie the game at 39-all and had the momentum heading into the final quarter. The Rebels snatched it right back though. The two teams essentially traded buckets for most of the quarter but Central was able to maintain a slight lead, which constantly forced the Rams to foul.
The fate of the game would be settled at the free-throw line, and the Rebels came through with clutch shooting from Bryant and Casey. Bryant hit all four of his attempts, and in the final 30 seconds, Casey went 4-for-4 and hit the final two with just six seconds remaining to seal the deal.
Central hung on to close out the 56-52 victory and send the Rebels to some glorious yet unfamiliar territory. Coach Casey beamed, “It was honestly just a really good team effort all around, and we played defense really well all night.”
Bryant was the leading scorer once again with 16 points and went a perfect 6-of-6 from the line. Casey was nipping at his heels though with 13 of his own, and was clutch at the stripe as well, hitting 9-of-11. Horton had nine, Stewart came up with eight and Williams had five while draining the only Central three-pointer in the game.
With the Quarters all sewn up, the Rebels are now slated to play Lafayette out of St. Joseph in the Semis on Thursday 3/16. There will surely be some butterflies, but this is an exciting opportunity for a truly exceptional basketball team. Expect Central to bring the house with a trip to the Finals on the line.
Good luck Rebels!