Cowper lifts Chargers to rivalry win

Cowper lifts Chargers to rivalry win

CHAMPAIGN — It'll be remembered as the Bryson Cowper Game.

It's just hard to say which of his standout moments mattered most in a potential season-defining victory for Centennial boys' basketball.

Cowper banked 30 points — a buzzer-beating shot from the opposite free-throw line among them — and came away with a crucial steal as the host Chargers stunned rival Champaign Central 58-54 on Friday night.

"It means a lot," Cowper said of the win. "I know mostly everybody in the gym, so getting to play in front of all of them is great."

Cowper drilled a quartet of second-period triples en route to 16 points, almost singlehandedly dragging the Chargers (8-8) back from a 23-11 deficit through eight minutes.

The last of those conversions started with Cowper stumbling to the floor following apparent contact. He was barely back to his feet when he launched a two-handed heave across most of the court.

The bid swished, and Centennial held a 34-30 halftime edge it'd never relinquish.

"It ends up a four-point game," Chargers coach Tim Lavin said. "That's a huge basket."

But Cowper doubled down when the Maroons (8-7) inbounded the ball with 11.5 seconds remaining.

As Central's Ray Weatherall tried to squeeze through Centennial's Jamonte Williams and Dayton Coleman, the ball came loose and landed in Cowper's hands. He sprinted the other way, hit a layup and drew a foul to ice the thrilling affair.

"It happened so fast," Cowper said. "I don't even remember the play."

"It means a lot," Lavin added. "And we didn't disappoint."