LAFAYETTE — Central Catholic had no other option.
The Knights took away the inside and Kian Sills was the beneficiary.
Guerin Catholic’s 6-foot sophomore reserve guard found himself wide open in the corner with the Knights defending to stop a front line that went 6-5, 6-6 and 6-7.
Sills caught the inbounds pass coming from the sideline and in one fluid motion ended Central Catholic’s five-game winning streak with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer and a 52-49 victory over the Class A No. 3 Knights Friday at McHale Gymnasium.
“That’s only my second buzzer-beater ever,” said Sills, who finished with eight points. “It feels good. … It was definitely a rush.”
Central Catholic coach Dave Barrett was willing to live with the consequences if Sills hit the shot, knowing that trying to man up in the paint was almost assuring defeat.
“They took advantage with their big guys all night long,” Barrett said. “They are huge and we didn’t have an answer. We are 6-2 and 6-3 and 30 pounds lighter. We had to make (Sills) beat us. We couldn’t let them dump it inside, and he knocked down the jumper.”
Sills’ backbreaking dagger crushed a Central Catholic team that had twice come back from large deficits, thanks to a barrage of 3-point shots.
The Knights (10-4) trailed 15-5 after the opening quarter but cut it to 27-22 by halftime and tied the score at 35 going into the fourth when Jake Page hit a 3 from the corner just before the buzzer.
“They got up on us early in the first quarter,” said CC freshman Carson Barrett, who had 11 points and six assists. “We didn’t come out strong, but we made a comeback in the third quarter and started chipping away at it.”
It was a classic clash of styles. The Eagles needed everything to claim the Bishop’s Cup traveling trophy for the fourth year in a row.
“They are so tough to match up because they’ve got five guards on the court,” Guerin coach Pete Smith said. “Even though we have good size and can score inside if we don’t miss some bunnies, at the same time, they are very hard to guard with our height.”
Ben Tharp was 4-of-11 from 3 and led CC with 13 points, but his biggest impact came on the defensive end, where he was tasked with trying to stop 6-7 Jack Hansen. Hansen finished with five points, but 6-6 junior Zach Munson provided the combo down low the Eagles (11-6) needed.
Munson scored 21 points, including six in the fourth quarter that put Guerin up 48-37 with just more than three minutes remaining.
“Those guys are all giants down there. We just fight,” Tharp said. “There’s a lot of games like that and we just keep fighting. We know if we do our job, we’ve got a chance to win the game.”
Rather than wilt, the Knights shot their way back into the game again.
Carson Barrett’s conventional three-point play was followed by 3s from Page, Tharp and Avery Denhart’s triple from the top of the key — CC’s ninth 3-pointer — to tie the score with 32 seconds left.
CC almost came away with a steal in the final 10 seconds, but the Eagles recovered and called a timeout, setting up Sills’ heroics.
“We kept fighting to get back in, got there and catch a breath and they go on their run,” Tharp said. “They had the last shot. If we had the ball at the end, it could have been a different story, but not tonight.”
Contact Journal & Courier reporter Sam King at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @samueltking