By CHIP CIRILLO
Centennial guard K.J. Lesure scored 27 points to help eliminate the Ravenwood Raptors from the District 11-AAA tournament Wednesday.
Centennial fell behind by 10 points midway through the third quarter, but K.J. Lesure wasn’t worried.
The Cougars rallied with an 18-0 run en route to a 67-59 win over visiting Ravenwood in the first round of the District 11-AAA tournament on Wednesday night.
Lesure led the way with 27 points, including three 3-pointers, for Centennial (16-10), which lost in the first round the previous four seasons.
“I already knew what was going to happen,” Lesure said. “That’s one thing we talked about all year was always fighting. We’d be down and try to fight back. I had faith in my team and I knew we were going to give it all we’ve got and get the win.”
|Centennial’s K.J. Lesure scored 27 points against Ravenwood|
Centennial will face ninth-ranked Independence (23-2) in the semifinals at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Brentwood.
Ravenwood ends the season at 14-13 after falling to the Cougars for the second time in three games. The Raptors lost in the first round for the second straight year.
“Just our guys staying the course,” Cougars coach Peter Froedden said of the run. “We didn’t get off to a great start to start the game, we didn’t get off to a great second half, but that’s been kind of characteristic of our team this year for whatever reason.
“But I thought we stayed in the moment and it didn’t get too big for us. We stayed focused on what we were supposed to do and then the ball started falling our way. Basketball is such a momentum game that if you get it going sometimes it’ll carry you for a little blaze.”
Centennial built a 47-39 lead after the run, but Ravenwood answered with an 8-2 spurt to cut the deficit to 49-47 with 4:28 left on Case Bouldin’s 3-pointer.
The fourth-seeded Cougars retaliated with a 9-0 run and the Raptors never got closer than eight the rest of the way.
The 18-0 run was too much to overcome for fifth-seeded Ravenwood, which lost three of its last four games.
“We couldn’t stop them, we couldn’t score, poor shot selection,” Raptors coach Patrick Whitlock said. “There’s a variety of things that didn’t go our way. I would really say it was a lack of mental focus for probably a three-, four-, five-minute period there. I would have to go back and look at the film to judge how long. It felt like an eternity.”
The run ended a roller coaster season for Ravenwood.
“It kind of was our season in a nutshell,” Whitlock said. “We definitely had our moments, but we were incredibly inconsistent and that ultimately led to our demise.”
Bouldin, a senior, led the Raptors with 19 points, including four 3-pointers.
Zack Tudeen, a senior forward, added 13 points and Elon Smallwood, a sophomore guard, scored 12.
“It’s one of the hardest things to go through as a basketball player,” Bouldin said. “Growing up playing basketball since I was 6 years old. It’s hard to let it go.”
Centennial lost five of its last six regular-season games, but recovered just in time to remain alive
Lesure started off hot with 12 points in the first quarter and the senior point guard added 11 more in the fourth.
“That’s a big moment where your high school career can end it’s as good as you would want,” Froedden said. “He stepped up to the moment.”
Lesure’s final basket was a 3-pointer that gave the Cougars a 64-52 lead with 1:25 left.
“How much confidence do you got to take the shot … over in the corner that this old guy doesn’t want you to take? You probably know it, but you say, ‘I’m going to do it anyway because I need to throw one more dagger.’ ” Froedden said. “And he makes that shot. It’s one of those ‘What are you – good shot’ kind of things.”
Lesure earned the Raptors’ respect before the game even started.
“He’s been great all year,” Bouldin said. “He’s probably one of the best guards in the league other than (Independence’s) Grayson Murphy.”
Lesure’s versatility made it difficult for Ravenwood.
“He’s tough to stop every night,’ Whitlock said. “He’s very quick in the open court, he can score off the dribble. He’s a handful and we’re glad he’s graduating.”
Now comes top-seeded Independence, which beat Centennial twice during the regular season.
“It’ll take us playing well and them not playing so well,” Froedden said. “They’re a good team, well-coached. Their expectation to win is at a very high level. I think ours will be as well so I think it will be a really good game. The thing we can’t do is allow big runs to happen.”