All good things must come to an end, but that doesn’t mean the journey was any less significant.
On Friday, the 28-3 Central Rebels embarked on their first ever State Championship Final, but ran into a buzzsaw in the form of the Vashon Wolverines. Vashon was just too tough a test, as the 64-37 victory gave them three consecutive State Titles and bounced the Rebels from the tournament.
It wasn’t the ending Central was hoping for, but it capped off the greatest season in Park Hills basketball history, and that will not go unnoticed by the coaching staff, fans and families of this special group of young men. This team is just the second in the history of the program to make it to the Final Four and the only one to reach the Finals.
They went 28-4, had winning streaks of 12, 10 and six games and never lost back-to-back contests. They won the Gene Steighorst Invitational Tournament and the Bob Sechrest Jr. Christmas Tournament, and won their Conference and District before coming one win shy of being the best Class 4 team in the State. It was quite a run.
As for the Vashon game, there may have been some first quarter nerves, because the Wolverines (who are no stranger to the State Finals) came out gunning with an 18-7 first quarter. Central collected themselves in the second though and played neck and neck with Vashon. Each team scored 15, but the Rebels still had an 11-point hole to dig out of at the half.
The biggest difference was the Wolverines hit 50% of their shots from the floor and made 50% of their three-pointers. The Rebels were just 39% and 20% in those categories, as the shots just weren’t falling in this one.
The second half wouldn’t be any kinder to them, as Vashon poured in 15 more in the third quarter and held Central to just eight. That set up the fourth quarter with the Rebels down 18 and the Wolverines in complete control. The defending champs iced it in the final frame with 16 more and Central collected just seven for a 64-37 final.
Knowing the game was out of reach, the coaching staff gave everyone a chance to grab some State Final minutes on the court before the clock ran out.
It was just an off day for this usually dynamic offense, as the Rebels shot just 25% in the second half. Jobe Bryant led the team with 13 points, but he had an uncharacteristic day on the court, going just 3-of-17 from the field and 0-for-4 from downtown. He did lead the team with five rebounds though.
Mason Williams was next in line with eight points and hit two of the team’s three makes from beyond the arc. Kannon Harlow was a perfect 3-of-3 shooting for six points and had three assists, while Kendall Horton had five points and led the club with three steals.
This Vashon team is no joke and the Rebels did well to hang in there as long as they did. They have no reason to feel anything but pride for this season, and should hold their heads high after a historic run.
The team stood on the court after the game and received medals and the second place trophy, adding even more hardware to the trophy case back in Park Hills.
Seniors Horton, Triston Stewart, Williams and Collin McMullen will be missed after closing out their High School careers in style, but the bulk of the team will return next year. Bryant, Zack Boyd, Caden Casey, Harlow and Christopher Lachance all return for another season in 2023-24, so this team will be dangerous once again.
Congratulations to all the Rebels and their coaching staff on a consistently epic campaign, and we’re already looking forward to another dominating run next year.