Unlike Central Catholic’s first two sectional victories earlier this week, the Knights had to scratch and claw themselves out of a double-digit hole before subduing Tri-Central 59-48 for its 12th consecutive Class A sectional championship.
The victory advances Central Catholic (15-8) to next Saturday’s Frankfort Regional in Case Arena. Tri-Central, which saw its seven-game winning streak snapped, ended its season at 11-12.
Senior Andrew Hubertz provided the exclamation point to the Knights’ victory, scoring 12 of his game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter. His 3-pointer with 2:35 left in the game gave Central Catholic a two-possession lead to throw cold water on Tri-Central’s final push for the upset.
“This is what we’ve expected out of him all season,” Central Catholic coach Dave Barrett said. “He’s finally starting to round into form after an injury earlier in the year. Nothing affects him. He shot with confidence, and that’s the way he is.”
The Knights had bounced back from an early 18-8 deficit to grab a 31-24 lead by halftime. The Trojans fought back and cut Central Catholic’s lead to 49-46 on a driving layup from Garrett Dick with 3:17 left to play.
After a timeout, Central Catholic threw the ball around for 40 seconds looking for an open shot against Tri-Central’s defense before Hubertz wiggled free for the 3-pointer.
“We just worked it around in our offense like we were supposed to do, and the open look came and I was able to knock it down,” Hubertz said. “Winning sectional is a good feeling, but we’re not satisfied yet.”
Trojan coach Kyle Zahn said he knew Hubertz’s shot was a back-breaker for his team, which had rallied in the third quarter.
“We had the momentum, and we did a heck of a job on defense that possession,” Zahn said. “They ran a set, and we got out and made our switches to get out on their shooters. We contested the shot, and he just knocked it down.
“Hubertz showed a lot of what I call senior leadership there. That doubled their lead where we had to chase them after that and it killed our momentum.”
It was Hubertz’s 10th point of the quarter. His layup with 1:26 remaining gave the Knights a 54-46 lead, and Tri-Central was forced to foul the remainder of the game. Senior Jack Churchill hit four consecutive free throws to ice the contest. He finished with 14 points.
“They came out hot, and we knew being at their home place and winning two games that they would come out with a lot of intensity,” Churchill said. “We got down, but we wanted to stick to our game plan and not get too panicked. It was tough, because they were making shots the entire game.”
Tri-Central made 7 of 10 shots in the first quarter and grabbed an 18-8 lead before Hubertz drained a 3-pointer with two seconds left.
The Knights turned the tables on the Trojans in the second quarter, going on a 13-2 run over the first five minutes to seize control. Jackson Anthrop’s 3-pointer gave Central Catholic a 24-20 lead.
Nick Thompson’s three-point play, followed by two Anthrop free throws, extended the lead to 31-22 before Kolby Thomas’s putback cut the Knights’ lead to seven at halftime.
Tri-Central freshman guard Dillon Smith scored eight of his team-high 13 points in the third quarter, and Smith’s 15-foot jumper with about a minute left got the Trojans within 40-37. But Hubertz nailed a 10-footer to push the Knights’ lead back up to five going into the fourth quarter.
“I’m proud of the way we hung in there,” Barrett said. “With our schedule, we’ve played some really good teams where we had to fight back from deficits, so we knew we could hang in there.”