CHAMPAIGN – Centennial appears to have a pair of up-and-coming basketball stars in sophomores Rayvonte Rice and Jeff Johnson.
The 6-foot-3 Rice had a big night, scoring 20 points and grabbing six rebounds, to lead the Chargers to a 64-48 non-conference victory against Mahomet-Seymour. The 6-6 Johnson contributed nine points and grabbed six caroms.
"I thought it would take longer for them to come around," coach Tim Lavin said after the Chargers won for the ninth time in 11 games. "They have stepped in because of injuries and have played much better than I expected. They are different types of players. Ray is far more explosive, while Jeff has a great sense for the game. He can pass off or step out and shoot the jumper."
Standout junior point guard James Kinney fueled the Chargers early, scoring seven of his nine points in the first quarter to lead a 20-7 run. Johnson and reserve Tyron Smith added four points each in the surge. Rice had seven points in the second period as the Chargers increased their lead to 37-14 at halftime.
"I cut it to the hole tonight and got a lot of easy shots," Rice said after hitting 10 of 12 shots from the field. "James (Kinney) and Bryson (Davis-Johnson) did a good job of finding the open men. I hadn't anticipated playing as much as I have been this season. The coach told me to work hard in practice, and that's really paying off for me. I feel a lot more comfortable now that I'm playing more. We've also been playing better as a team the last few games."
The Chargers got contributions up and down the line, with nine players scoring. Smith joined Rice in double figures with 11, and Jordan Johnson came off the bench to connect on 4 of 5 field goal attempts for eight points. Centennial hit 29 of 50 shots for 58 percent.
Juniors Nick Washburn and Luke Radliff led the Bull-dogs with 14 and 10 points, respectively. Radliff also had eight rebounds and Washburn six.
"I thought we got two or three good things out of this game," Lavin said. "For one thing, we played a lot of people. I also thought we played real well for the first 3 1/2 quarters. Our defensive pressure was good, and we were able to get them out of the things they wanted to do. We also did a good job of getting the ball out on the break off our defensive pressure.
"It's also good to have a game like this rather than taking a long break before starting play in the Centralia tournament."