CHAMPAIGN — The ups and downs of the game ended simultaneously with the final buzzer.
In the first city series showdown basketball game of the year, Centennial was up.
Central was down.
The Chargers scored the final 17 points Saturday in a boys’ basketball game they trailed with 5 minutes to play on their own home court.
As an estimated 2,000 spectators watched, Centennial was near-perfect down the stretch and pulled away for a 66-48 non-conference triumph.
The Chargers had no turnovers in the fourth quarter, kept the Maroons off the free throw line and buried 11 of their 13 free throw attempts.
"Defense was definitely our key," Kyree Sago said, "and we had a lot of energy off the bench."
Centennial’s non-starters outscored the Central reserves 22-7. Rameon Starks had nine points, Sago seven and Steven Lee six. The trio hit 9 of 10 free throws.
"We couldn’t have asked for a better last 41/2 minutes," Centennial coach Tim Lavin said. "In a game like this, as tight as it was, to have no fourth-quarter turnovers is outstanding."
Central’s final points were scored by Germaine Roebuck with 3 minutes, 42 seconds to play. His basket left Central on the short end of a 49-48 score.
Charger freshman Tim Finke drained a three-pointer 13 seconds later as Centennial closed strong.
"This ends a good week," Lavin said. "We’re playing pretty well. I hope we feed off this."
Terrion Howard scored a game-high 16 points for the Chargers (13-4), hitting 7 of 10 shots, including two three-pointers. Quin Nottingham scored 12 points and Finke 11.
"We did an outstanding job on (Dominique) Brize and (Noah) Wells all night long," Lavin said.
Brize finished with 10 points, but Wells was held to three and none in the last 221/2 minutes.
Central countered with double-doubles from its inside players. Luke Beesley and Jabari Freeman each scored 14 points. Beesley cleared 11 rebounds. Freeman had 10.
"Our first 10 or 12 games, we were not getting that out of them," Central coach Sergio McClain said. "We got wins (Saturday) in columns we hadn’t gotten wins before, like our post play.
"Our perimeter guys now have to figure how to balance with the success our bigs are having."
Centennial held a 23-12 first-half edge in rebounding, but the Maroons (6-9)grabbed the first seven boards of the second half and turned an eight-point deficit at intermission into a 36-36 draw on Brize’s second three-pointer.
Beesley had nine points and six rebounds in the third period.
Though the game didn’t count in the Big 12 Conference standings, McClain didn’t like the message that was sent.
"Every game means something," he said. "The score is misleading, but they feel they can handle us. You don’t want to give a team that confidence."
The rematch will occur in 26 days, at Central’s Combes Gym.
"We’re getting better," McClain said. "We’re starting to play a solid 31/2 quarters. We’re just losing focus. We’ve got about 10 games to figure it out."
When Central made its second-half run, Sago said the Chargers didn’t panic.
"We got relaxed," he said. "We looked at each other and said, ‘We’ve got this.’"