URBANA — Mike McCray’s role for Centennial’s basketball team is really no different than any of his teammates.
His job is to help the state’s 11th-ranked Class 3A team be successful.
The only difference is that five of his teammates get a head start every game. They are on the court for the opening tip. McCray is summoned sometime thereafter.
“I tell him it’s not who starts, it’s how many minutes you get and what you do when you’re in there,” Centennial coach Tim Lavin said.
McCray did plenty in Tuesday’s 64-54 Big 12 Conference triumph against Urbana at Urbana Middle School. He scored 13 points — two behind team leader Michael Finke — and tied for second among the Chargers with four rebounds.
McCray is OK with his role.
“Sitting on the bench first gives me an opportunity to analyze what’s going on and see where the openings are,” McCray said.
“I know that Coach trusts me to go out and help the team. I like my role.”
Urbana coach Vashoune Russell would have been satisfied with a lesser performance from McCray, who scored nine second-quarter points as the Chargers expanded a six-point lead into an 11-point cushion at halftime.
“We thought if they beat us, he’d have to be the one, and he beat us,” Russell said. “That’s what we needed (a double-figure scorer off the bench). After the shots he hit, I’d think he’d go into the next game with a ton of confidence.”
McCray provided the early spark, but he said it could come from anyone.
“One thing we do well is get the intensity going and feed off of that,” he said.
The Tigers’ Donald McKinley scored eight points in the first three minutes of the third period as Urbana stormed back into contention. However, the game’s complexion changed with 3:05 left in the quarter.
McKinley was whistled for his fourth personal foul and immediately received a technical, which put him on the bench for the final 11 minutes. A Cole Hoffman three-pointer pulled Urbana within three points (43-40) in the quarter’s final minute, but without the ball-handling McKinley, Centennial turned a pair of turnovers in the final 18 seconds into layups while building the lead back to seven points.
“We put ourselves in position, but it boiled down to execution,” Russell said. “I’ll take the blame for that one. We had the game where we wanted it.”
The Tigers stayed within six points until the final minute. Luke Vaughn converted two breakaways into slam dunks in the last 42 seconds, accounting for the final four Centennial points. Dedric Byrd added 14 points for the Chargers.
Urbana sophomore Greg Boyd scored a game-high 17 points and also led all rebounders with seven. McKinley finished with 12 points.
“That (Urbana) team will be pretty good,” Lavin said. “They had one of their best players foul out, but they play hard and had a good game plan.”
The 6-foot-9 Finke led Centennial with six rebounds. The 6-8 Vaughn was one of four Chargers who captured four rebounds.
“Their height is very impressive,” Russell said. “I don’t understand why they grow taller on the other side of Wright Street.”