CHAMPAIGN — Pryce Punkay was not the first option for Champaign Central’s final play of Tuesday night’s boys’ basketball game against Decatur Eisenhower.
The plan was to get Isaiah Jackson free going toward the basket off a back screen with 2.4 seconds to play and the Maroons trailing by two points at Combes Gym.
Win it in overtime. That was the idea.
“They kind of blew it up,” Punkay said of the Panthers taking Jackson out of the play. “(The coaches) told me to sprint to the ball if that happened. I sprinted to go get it, and Isaiah Roosevelt was able to make a good pass to me.”
Punkay drilled the three-pointer from about 10 feet behind the line and right in front of the Central bench to give the Maroons a 52-51 victory. It was Punkay’s second buzzer-beater in five games after delivering the winner in overtime against Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin last Friday at the Galesburg Thanksgiving Tournament.
Just watch pic.twitter.com/Hfzy18vIxP— Champaign Basketball (@HoopinMaroons) November 29, 2019
“He was not the first option, but he’s not a bad option if he gets stuck,” Central coach Jeff Finke said of Punkay. “It was kind of broken like the last one, but Pryce made another great play to make a shot. He’s a gamer. He’s been preparing for that, really, for a long time. He’s at the YMCA every day even when we practice. He’s had some opportunities, and he’s made some shots.”
Punkay’s last-second three-pointer gave him 19 points for the game to lead Central. Jackson added 10 points and six rebounds as the Maroons (3-2) got back on track after leaving Galesburg on a loss to the host Silver Streaks to finish tournament play.
“It’s really huge to win these close ones now,” Punkay said. “It gives us more experience as a team.”
Central could use it. Punkay and Jackson are two veterans on a fairly inexperienced team overall.
“Our guys are growing up,” Finke said. “We’re playing a lot of guys that haven’t played much varsity basketball. We’re a little shorthanded, but the guys that are playing are competing. ... We’re happy to be where we are. Guys are stepping up and doing things that maybe they didn’t think they’d have to do.”