Chargers look to future after unhappy exit

MOUNT ZION — There is a natural order to things.

In life, the cycle goes from birth to death.

In sports — which some fanatics consider equivalent to life and death — there are wins and losses.

Each team seeks the wins. Naturally, that translates into one fact: some team will be disappointed.

“Unfortunately, we lost this one,” Centennial junior Michael Finke said Friday after Centennial’s boys’ basketball season came to an end with a 63-41 Class 3A sectional title-game loss to unheralded Chatham Glenwood.

“We’ll walk out of here strong, with our heads up,” Finke said.

They just couldn’t exit the Mount Zion gymnasium feeling happy.

In this win-or-go-home game, Centennial mustered just one tie (2-2), and it lasted less than 30 seconds.

This was a night when numbers accurately told the story.

The Titans hit 57.1 percent of their shots. Centennial’s accuracy rate was 30.4 percent.

Glenwood held a 32-18 rebounding advantage.

Only once during the 32 minutes did Centennial (22-9) score consecutive baskets without the Titans answering with at least one field goal in between.

“These games happen,” Finke said. “It just had to happen in our last game of the season. They played great defense.”

Finke scored a team-high 19 points, including a three-pointer in each of the final three quarters.

Against the Titans (23-10), there was little support. His teammates were a combined 8 for 34 from the field, including 1 for 12 from three-point range.

“We had a game plan and we stuck to it,” Glenwood coach Todd Blakeman said. “They had shooters we had to cover, and we had to keep them out of the paint.”

While the Chargers struggled, Titans junior Peyton Allen showed why he has scholarship offers from Bradley, Iowa and Oklahoma State. He scored a game-high 24 points and knocked down 10 points during the first 3:05 of the second half. The 6-foot-4 shooter finished 5 for 6 from three-point range.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Blakeman said. “We’ve been fighting uphill all season, Sickness. Injuries. Back-to-back games in the regional. In the sectional. Nothing now will shake us.

“We played well.”

The Titans led by eight points at intermission, but with Allen’s sharpshooting, built a lead that was never less than 10 points during the final 14:06.

“The first half, they outhustled us,” Centennial coach Tim Lavin said. “The second half, I won’t say we took desperation shots, but we took shots that were tough on us. That’s a real good team, and they extended the lead on us.”

Finke was 3 for 5 in the second half. The rest of his teammates were a combined 4 for 20.

“When we get down like that, it’s difficult to come back,” Lavin said. “They pushed us around.”

Rather than dwell on the finale, Lavin focused on the 31-game schedule.

“We had 22 wins, the fifth most in school history, and reached the Sweet 16,” he said. “It hurts now, but there’s a lot to be proud of. We have some guys coming back, and we can build off that.”

Two returnees in particular are UI recruit Finke and point guard Dedric Byrd, the transfer from Chicago Foreman who has scholarship offers from Loyola and Wisconsin-Green Bay. Both are juniors.

“We play AAU ball together (with the Peoria Irish),” Finke said. “Tryouts are Sunday. We’ll have a lot of games together by next year.”
Lavin isn’t worried about Finke and Byrd’s commitment to the game.

“Hopefully some of the younger guys will see the success we’ve had and make a commitment, too, and work hard in the offseason,” he said.

Chatham Glenwood will play Cahokia in a Tuesday super-sectional in Springfield. Cahokia handed Centennial its worst loss in an early-season game when it jumped into a 36-5 lead after one quarter.

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