McKinley, Tigers surprise Centennial
CHAMPAIGN — Urbana won’t win the Big 12 Conference championship.
Centennial might not, either.
The Tigers never trailed and held off a furious fourth-quarter rally by Centennial to prevail in a 64-57 upset Tuesday night.
The Chargers could have clinched a share of the regular season conference championship with a win against the Tigers and a win Friday against Bloomington. Now, those plans are a bit skewed after a balanced Urbana squad pulled out the win.
“We’re just trying to get ourselves some momentum going into the postseason,” Urbana coach Vashoune Russell said. “We’re a pretty scary team when we execute. That’s the thing with us. We’re so Jekyll-and-Hyde that we never know what we’re going to get.”
Senior guard Donald McKinley led the Tigers with 18 points and a team-high nine rebounds. Greg Boyd (11 points, six rebounds) and Conner Gremer (10 points, six rebounds) chipped in offensively, while seniors Troy McBride and Michael Thompson combined to make 3 of 4 at the foul line in the final 40 seconds after Centennial cut Urbana’s 54-38 lead with 4:30 left to 58-57 with 59 seconds remaining.
A brief skirmish between the two teams at midcourt ensued with 26.2 seconds left and Urbana up 60-57. No technical fouls were called, and Gremer made two free throws to give the Tigers a more comfortable 62-57 lead.
“It was really tough at the end,” Gremer said. “Our season’s been rough, but we just fought back and had to come out to win this one.”
The Chargers went on a 10-0 run to trim Urbana’s lead to 54-48 with less than three minutes left, and two three-pointers by Jeffrey Lavin (14 points) decreased Urbana’s lead to 58-54 with 1:36 left.
Centennial junior Michael Finke led all scorers with 20 points on 5-of-9 shooting from three-point range. The Illinois recruit had a game-high 11 rebounds to go with three blocks.
“Finke’s a great shooter,” Russell said. “He showed that tonight. When I shook his hand, I said, ‘Do you ever get cold?’ ”
McKinley, who finished 8 of 25 from the field, didn’t in crunch time, scoring half of his points in the fourth.
“We were the underdogs coming into this game,” McKinley said. “My team played great this game. They stepped up and made the major plays we needed.”