Maroons' win extra special
CHAMPAIGN — Centennial and Central could have played basketball all night at Combes Gym.
They nearly did.
In what might go down as one of the best crosstown rivalry games — ever — the host Maroons outlasted the Chargers 80-79 in triple overtime.
Whew. And the main attraction of the night came after Centennial beat Central 62-59 in overtime of the junior varsity game. The near-capacity crowd received an extra 16 minutes of basketball, all told, on the night.
“I couldn’t have expected to have a game like this the first time,” Central coach Wayne McClain said after his coaching debut on the Maroons’ sideline in their own gymnasium. “I’ve been in a lot of big ones. I’m just glad for the kids. They’ve worked hard. Both teams played hard. Either one of us could have won it.”
Illinois signee Michael Finke paced the Chargers (5-2, 1-1 Big 12) with a game-high 33 points and 17 rebounds.
“He’s a good player, and he’s going to be good,” said McClain, a former Illinois assistant under Bruce Weber and Bill Self. “Illinois has got a good player. That’s the bottom line. I like him.”
But Finke’s gritty effort, along with 17 points and seven rebounds from Steven Lee, wasn’t enough to overcome the 1-2 punch the Maroons (3-2, 1-0) had in seniors Sean Suggs and Kameron Rowan.
Suggs (25 points, five rebounds) made the game-winning basket — and what turned out to be the final points of the night — with 40 seconds left in the third overtime on a running floater in the lane. This was after the left-handed-shooting guard tied the game at 70 in the second overtime with a three-pointer with four seconds left.
“I just shot it with confidence, hoping it went in,” Suggs said. “It was unbelievable.”
Rowan supplied a steady hand all game for the Maroons, scoring 22 points. He scored two field goals in the third overtime, which saw six lead changes just in that four-minute session.
“It’s just a great feeling,” Rowan said. “To have a former college coach, and one who has won three state titles, it doesn’t get any better than that. If we don’t listen to our coaching staff, something’s wrong with us.”
Centennial led 60-56 with 47.8 seconds left in regulation after Dedric Byrd (nine points, seven rebounds) made two free throws. But a three-pointer from Jamal Stovall (seven points) with 30 seconds remaining cut Centennial’s lead to 60-59, and then Suggs made 1 of 2 free throw attempts with 1.3 seconds left to force overtime.
And all the drama that came in those three extra periods.
“A couple times it looked like (Centennial) had it won,” McClain said. “Our kids fought. It’s a start. That’s all it is. It’s just one game, though, and it’s a long journey. We’ve just got to keep winning. It’s simple.”
Rowan understands why his classmates stormed the court after the game. But he and the rest of his teammates have bigger objectives in mind.
“This game means something in Champaign, but we’re pushing for state,” Rowan said. “We’ve got to keep working.”
Friday night’s win by the Maroons snapped the Chargers’ two-game winning streak in the series between the two Unit 4 high schools that Centennial has dominated recently. A look at the last 16 meetings:
Date Result Comment
Dec. 6 Central 80, Centennial 79 (3OT) Sean Suggs and Kameron Rowan lift Maroons past Chargers with gutty effort
Jan. 25 Centennial 70, Central 54 Michael Finke (25 points, 13 rebounds) and Luke Vaughn (14 points) propel Chargers
Dec. 7, 2012 Centennial 78, Central 59 Michael Finke (20 points, 10 rebounds) and Dedric Byrd (16 points) carry Chargers
March 2, 2012 Central 58, Centennial 42 Maroons use 18 points from Corvon Butler to win 3A regional title in Rantoul
Feb. 3, 2012 Central 62, Centennial 43 Corvon Butler helps Maroons end 10-game losing skid to Chargers with 25 points
Jan. 13, 2012 Centennial 61, Central 60 Dustin Walls banks in a running floater with 2.6 seconds left to rally Chargers at home
March 1, 2011 Centennial 68, Central 54 Josh Piper (21 points, 15 rebounds) leads Chargers in Class 3A regional semifinal win
Feb. 4, 2011 Centennial 46, Central 43 Questionable foul call on Central’s Jay Simpson leaves Maroons in a tizzy
Jan. 14, 2011 Centennial 81, Central 78 (OT) Corvon Butler (25 points, 15 rebounds) helps Centennial rally on the road
March 5, 2010 Centennial 47, Central 36 Rayvonte Rice scores 16 points as Chargers grind to 3A regional title in Danville
Jan. 29, 2010 Centennial 57, Central 54 Josh Piper scores 11 points and grabs five rebounds before taking late-game charge
Dec. 18, 2009 Centennial 91, Central 78 Rayvonte Rice scores 45 points on 17-of-22 shooting to lead Chargers at home
March 6, 2009 Centennial 70, Central 61 Before they win a Class 3A state title, Chargers take down Maroons in regional final
Jan. 30, 2009 Centennial 60, Central 45 James Kinney supplies 17 points and eight rebounds as visiting Chargers roll
Dec. 19, 2008 Centennial 77, Central 62 James Kinney’s game-high 23 points helps hot-shooting Chargers to home win
Feb. 29, 2008 Central 81, Centennial 69 Verdell Jones III scores 18 of his 22 in second half to lead Maroons to 3A regional title