Maroons add more hardware to trophy case

Maroons add more hardware to trophy case

PARIS — Travel is nothing new for the Champaign Central boys' basketball team.

Trips to play high-level competition in Chicago, Centralia, Highland and Belleville the past four months made the hour jaunt to Paris on Friday night nothing out of the ordinary.

Nor the end result.

The top-seeded Maroons steamrolled No. 6 Effingham 76-45 to win the Class 3A Paris Regional championship, the third straight regional title for Central and first 20-win season in a decade.

The last Central team to reach that victory milestone featured a Division I player in Verdell Jones and a season that ultimately ended with a third-place finish in Class 3A.

This year's Central team again features a D-I talent in Grand Canyon signee Tim Finke, but it was another senior who stole the show on Friday.

Point guard A'Kieon Gill poured in a team-high 24 points and drained four three-pointers for the Maroons (20-8), who led 32-19 at halftime against the Flaming Hearts (14-16)

"We were just running our offense and getting into our offense," Gill said. "It was very fun, and we know this is our last chance to possibly make a run."

Central won its second straight postseason game by at least 30 points, with Finke adding 14 points and freshman Khailieo Terry chipping in with 10 points.

Seniors Jaden Aikens and Jonte Coleman both finished with eight points on a night where Central had 11 players dot the scorebook.

"Our guys had fun," Central coach Jeff Finke said. "Part of the reason we play the schedule we do is to prepare for the postseason and because it's fun for our guys. They get the chance to get into tournament routines during the season, which helps us out."

Effingham hardly challenged Central after halftime, but the Maroons will likely be tested at 7 p.m. on Tuesday against Springfield Lanphier (25-3) in the Eisenhower Sectional semifinals.

Lanphier — which beat Lincoln 33-19 on Friday night —has ended Central's season the last two years. Both those losses to the Lions happened in the sectional semifinals.

"This was our plan when we came in was to have this success," Jeff Finke said. "We felt we had a chance. We've been blessed to have great kids and kids that have bought in. Now, we need to take the next step."

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