Just when you think their may be a new challenger to take over the throne, the king reminds you why they’re on top.
For No. 2 Central Catholic (11-2), that reminder came in the form of poise as the Rams overcame a third quarter comeback by No. 3 David Douglas (12-1) to close out a 72-55 win in a highly-anticipated Mt. Hood Conference matchup Tuesday night.
“What I was most proud of was in the third quarter,” Central Catholic head coach Dan Munson said. “We were up by nine at halftime, Douglas gets it within one, then with two and a half minutes left in the third quarter we buckled down and got stops.”
The Rams, who have now won 27 straight league games, built a 32-23 halftime lead behind solid half-court execution on the offensive end and forcing David Douglas to shoot perimeter jumpers.
The Scots top post, Dwight Dew, sat most of the first half with two fouls, making it tough for David Douglas to get baskets in the paint. Junior guard Charles Jones, the team’s top scorer, kept David Douglas afloat with 11 of his 20 points in the first half.
Dew scored four of David Douglas’ first eight points in the opening minute of the third quarter to trim Central Catholic’s lead down to 32-30. The home crowd was loud as they appeared to witness the awakening of their undefeated team.
“They started getting to the rack on us,” Munson said. “We weren’t able to handle their penetration. They got some emotion and energy going. We had a hard time stopping that.”
Central Catholic, who was without starting senior guard and top scorer Deante Strickland due to disciplinary reasons, relied on other seniors to stop the bleeding. Patrick Myers ended the run with a layup off an in-bounds pass with 6:20 remaining in the third quarter. Point guard Xavier Hallinan quickly made it a six-point game after a fast-break layup setup by a LaMar Winston steal.
“We gained our poise and I felt like our leaders stepped up and calmed us,” Munson said.
David Douglas would not go away though. The Scots trailed just 42-41 after a pair of John Morris free throws.
Again, the Rams did not panic. Instead of senior starters stepping up, a junior coming off the bench turned the tide at the end of the quarter.
Six-foot-five forward Austin Rose scored the Rams’ final eight points of the quarter to quiet the home crowd and up Central Catholic’s lead to 48-43 entering the fourth quarter. Rose finished the game with 16 points.
“Austin has been huge,” Munson said. “We keep telling our guys to be ready. At some point you’re going to get a chance.”
Rose’s performance speaks to the depth of the Rams. Even without Strickland and the struggles of Myers, four Rams still scored in double figures. Hallinan led Central Catholic with 19 points, shooting 13 of 14 from the charity stripe. Winston and Simon Stringer each added 12 points to pace the Rams’ attack.
“We really feel that we have seven guys that can do some damage,” Munson said.
The offensive balance transferred to the other end of the floor in the fourth quarter. Intense team defense, once again, kept the Scots out of the paint.
“We started making them become jump shooters again,” Munson said.
David Douglas, less experienced this season with closing out games, settled for contested jumpers that failed to fall. Jones scored just two points and the Scots shot just 1 for 5 from the free throw line in the final eight minutes.
Meanwhile, Central Catholic returned to the first half execution offensively and steadily put the game away. The closest David Douglas got in the final four minutes was a seven-point deficit.
It was the 27th consecutive Mt. Hood Conference win for Central Catholic. The Rams will look to make it 28 when they host No. 10 Clackamas on Friday night.
David Douglas will look to bounce back from their first loss with a home win against Reynolds on Friday night.