For just the second time in school history, the Central Private School boys basketball team will play for the MAIS Overall title.
CPS (28-4) advanced to today’s final with a dominating 57-36 victory over Parklane Academy Friday at A.E. Wood Coliseum. The win came thanks in large part to center Liam Thomas’ 21st triple-double of the year. Thomas, the Rebels’ towering 6-foot-10 center, finished with 14 points, 21 rebounds and 12 blocks.
“He is game-altering in this league,” CPS coach Henry Gantz said. “I don’t know what in the world I would do if I had to go against him because he’s not only 6-10, he’s athletic.”
Next up for CPS: reigning Overall champion Jackson Prep.
Prep advanced to today’s 3 p.m. final with a 62-48 victory over Marshall Academy in a rematch of last year’s championship.
It’s the third straight Overall Tournament final appearance for the Patriots (35-3).
Prep coach David Horner quashed any notion that his team is taking the Rebels lightly.
“We don’t take it for granted at all,” Horner said. “It doesn’t get old. We’re going to prepare for it like it’s the first time and like it might be the last time. We know it’s special.”
Prep was led by Josh Williams’ game-high 18 points. After trailing for most of the first half, Prep closed the second quarter with a 13-4 run. That momentum spilled over into the second half, too, where Prep extended its lead to 34-28 on a 3-pointer by Cade Noble. Noble finished with 10 points.
Brad Bennett led Marshall Academy (36-4) with 15 points and Dakota Dailey had 14. Tempers flared early when a loose ball led to a scrum on the floor. Bennett was called for a technical after he appeared to punch a Prep player late in the second quarter.
“They’re a good team, a physical team,” Horner said. “I think it took us a second to realize at what level we needed to play.”
“We knew it was going to be an intense game from the get-go and that we had to match that intensity,” Williams said. “Just take it head on.”
CPS raced out to a 19-4 lead in the first quarter and took a 29-9 lead into the locker room at half. Jaydyn Cohen finished with 16 points and seven assists for the Rebels. CPS held Parklane (24-11) to just 22 percent shooting from the field.
After falling one game short of the final last season, Thomas said he and his teammates are eager for a shot at redemption.
“We just wanted to get through this game,” Thomas said. “It would be huge (to win). The whole reason I came here was to win this.”