Year in and year out, Central plays as grueling a boys basketball schedule as just about anybody in the state.
This season, Bearcats coach Matt Fine upped the difficulty another notch by scheduling defending Class 3A state champion Guerin Catholic.
“We picked them up late this year,” Fine said. “We were scheduled to play in a tournament over Christmas break, but we needed to pick up a couple of home games and we got out of the tournament.”
Saturday, the Bearcats played host to the 3A No. 5 Golden Eagles, one night after playing at North Central Conference rival Kokomo. And for the second consecutive game, Central threatened to pull off the upset before falling short in the second half as Guerin Catholic escaped with a 69-60 victory in the Muncie Fieldhouse.
The Bearcats trailed by just two points, 54-52, in the second half when a momentum-turning play sealed their fate.
“We had a play set up for Jabriel (Allen) and got called for an illegal screen and then they scored four unanswered,” Fine said. “We just couldn’t get over the hump.”
Allen scored a game-high 29 points and fellow senior Kaleb Mallory contributed 18 for the Bearcats (1-3).
Guerin Catholic answered by knocking down 3-pointers in the first half to bring Central out of its zone and then pounding the ball inside to 6-foot-6 junior Aaron Brennan, who is drawing interest from Butler, Indiana and Purdue. Brennan finished with 26 points.
“They got us out of what we wanted to do against them,” Fine said. “We went mostly man in the second half.”
The Bearcats lost both of their games this weekend, but Fine emphasized that the positives from their play outweighed the negatives.
“We’re getting better,” he said. “We’ve just got to control the things we can control like shot selection, effort on the glass and turnovers.”