PARK HILLS – Central remained poised through nine lead changes against North County in order to secure its second consecutive MAAA Large-School basketball conference title on Tuesday night.
The Rebels capped their unblemished conference season with a 62-56 victory after previously falling to the Raiders in the Christmas Tournament.
Central (12-8, 5-0) possesses a strong case for the No. 1 spot in the MAAA tournament, which will be seeded on Wednesday, after snapping a six-game win streak for North County (14-4, 4-1).
Wade Scherffius ignited an early forceful offense for Central with back-to-back 3-point plays within the opening two minutes of play. He proceeded to calmly pull up from five beet beyond the arc and drain a shot over Nick Parker one minute later to recapture an 11-10 lead.
Scherffius paced the Rebels with 22 points, while Breven McMullen notched 15 points plus three blocks.
Tyler Johnston recorded consecutive blocks for North County with one minute remaining in the first quarter, but McMullen battled down low to keep the Rebels ahead 17-14 as the period ended.
Central produced a 7-0 run early in the second quarter by taking quick, high-percentage shots.
Hayden Sprenkel answered by draining a jump shot from near the free-throw line, and brought North County within 24-18 midway through the period.
Sprenkel contributed a game-high 24 points plus seven rebounds for the Raiders, while Hunter Johnson ended with 15 points and five rebounds.
Isiah Poirrier made his first three shots from the perimeter, and added 10 points as North County focused on freeing its shooters with high screens.
Poirrier tied the score at 26-26 on his first 3-pointer with 1:45 to play in the second quarter, then drilled another to even the game at 29-29.
McMullen had a potential 3-point play negated by a travelling violation with 35 seconds on the clock, but beat the halftime buzzer with a turn-around jumper on the next possession to square the score 31-31.
Poirrier put North County ahead 34-33 with his third 3-pointer during the opening minute of the second half. The Raiders executed more effective drives to the basket following the break, rather than settling for outside jumpers.
A loose ball that resulted in cluster of six players near midcourt led to a wide-open layup for Johnston, which widened the North County lead to 43-39. Johnston earned the first free throws of the game for the Raiders one minute later, and split them to tie the score 44-44.
North County shot 2-of-5 from the line, while Central ended 11-of-16.
McMullen blocked a putback attempt by Johnson with 4 seconds on the clock, and Jake Casey beat the buzzer with a transition layup to give the Rebels a 48-47 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
Johnson and Poorman each converted quick layups on the fourth period, but Central responded to finish the contest on a 14-9 run.
Brent Wagner scored five straight points to gain a 55-54 edge with five minutes to play, and the Rebels never trailed again.
Central preserved its late advantage with methodical passing to manage the clock and create easy looks in close.
Wagner posted 10 points with six rebounds in the win, while Holden Mayberry notched a game-high 12 rebounds plus nine points.