LINCOLN — Five timeouts delayed the game’s final 22.1 seconds, but for Centennial’s Michael Finke it was all good.
The junior scored the tiebreaking basket with 4.3 seconds to go and — two timeouts later — made sure the 64-62 margin stood up by blocking a Seton Academy shot at the other end of the basketball court on Saturday.
His happiest moment “was definitely the block,” Finke said.
He had a game-high 25 points as well as a game-high three blocks as the Chargers dispatched the Sting and Minnesota-bound Alex Foster in the Eaton Thanksgiving Tournament.
The Chargers built an 11-point lead after 21/2 quarters but trailed by a point with less than 90 seconds remaining.
“A great sign,” Centennial coach Tim Lavin said, “is when we let it slip away, we didn’t panic and got it at the end. To execute against a very good team like that is good to see.”
Phillip Wright came off the bench to score 10 points for Centennial.
Finke’s game-winning shot was courtesy of an assist from Dustin Walls.
“We’re looking to him for defense and to pass the ball to the right guys,” Lavin said. “For the most part, he has done that.”
Walls also chipped in with seven points to go with his team-high four assists. Dedric Byrd scored eight points.
“We’ve got things we need to work on, but with only three guys back who played a lot last year, we’re doing OK,” Lavin said.
Lincoln 53, Danville 52, 3 OT
Coach Ted Houpt’s Vikings did what they needed to be in contention against the home team but not enough of the things that could salvage a victory.
“I know there’s a silver lining, but sometimes you want the ‘W,’ ” Houpt said. “When kids fight like that, and battle, and can’t get over the hump, it’s frustrating.”
Every Danville starter shot at least 50 percent. The Vikings held a 28-18 rebounding edge.
“Our goal is to sustain that effort and have it be who we are,” Houpt said. “Most encouraging was that we kept our heads, had good shot selection and our defense was really good against their man-to-man offense. If we have a chance to set our defense, we’re pretty good.”
Denzel Smith scored 15 points and Marcus Merriweather 13 for the Vikings. Smith hit a three-pointer with 6.2 seconds left in the first OT. Lincoln’s Max Cook forced another extra four-minute period with a 30-foot buzzer-beater.
Cook’s shot was one where Houpt was second-guessing himself. “I was thinking, ‘Should we foul before they get a three off,’ but as the clock ticked, it was less likely they were going to get a good shot,” he said.
In the second OT, Danville ran the clock down to less than a minute before committing a turnover. Cook’s late shot from 28 feet was off target, and Smith rebounded at the buzzer.
Lincoln had the ball the first three minutes of the last OT before missing a shot. Smith hit 1 of 2 free throws for Danville with 39.2 seconds to play, but the Railsplitters countered with the winning basket with 13.8 seconds left on a penetration move by Edwards Bowlby.
Danville 46, Morton 44
Houpt earned his first coaching victory with the Vikings as Danville snapped a 14-game losing streak in Lincoln’s tournament, dating back to 2009. Danville held its turnovers to seven.
“You can see the growth already,” Houpt said. “Both games today, our guys put themselves in position to win games. You hate to have too many consolation victories.”
The Vikings (1-4) led by six with less than three minutes to play but fell behind 44-43 after a 7-0 Morton run. The last of Smith’s game-high 19 points came on a three-pointer from the baseline at 1:19, returning the lead to Danville and ending the game’s scoring.
“He’s a big-time player, and people will start noticing him all around the state,” Houpt said.
Smith also had a game-high seven rebounds and five assists. Daniel Carter had 12 points, and Te Von Hutcherson scored seven points.
Lincoln 53, Centennial 48
The Chargers (3-2) were forced to play catchup after falling behind in the first quarter but couldn’t get closer than the two-point deficit they faced (38-36) after the third quarter.
All-tournament selection Finke had 14 points. Wright and Michael McCray each hit 11 points.
“This was a good start for us,” Lavin said. “We only had nine practices before we played and we faced teams like Cahokia, which could make the Final Four. Lincoln’s a tough team to play. They get the lead, spread you out and then make most of their free throws.”