PARK HILLS — The Central boys basketball team decisively prevented a second semifinal upset from unfolding at the MAAA tournament with stellar defense and lethal perimeter shooting on Friday night.
The 3rd-seeded Rebels buried 13 3-pointers and used superior guard play to dominate Valle Catholic 73-44 while committing only nine turnovers.
Senior guard Alaric Jones connected five times from long range to score a game-high 21 points, and made an equally important impact as the defensive end by stifling the Warriors’ best ball handlers.
Central (16-6) received nine points each from Jake Bridges, D.J. Buckhanan and Brayden Manion, and will meet Potosi for the championship on Saturday night after the Trojans upended top seed Farmington 46-43.
Junior forward Andrew Basler paced Valle Catholic (13-7) with nine points and a game-high nine rebounds. Sophomore Connor Basler also scored nine points while Daniel Bergtholdt added eight.
The 7th-seeded Warriors generated just two points from their starting backcourt before halftime, and finished with 18 turnovers.
Central created four steals within the opening two minutes, and senior Hunter Courtois capped a quick 7-0 spurt with a transition layup.
Koltyn Schilly made a putback and Jacob Trautman finished a superb series of passes to keep the lower seed within 13-10 as the first quarter ended.
Valle Catholic survived 11 triples from West County in a quarterfinal upset win on Tuesday, but would not overcome the Rebels’ ensuing barrage.
Jones drilled the first of five 3-pointers during the second stanza. Manion and Bridges combined for three more to comprise a 9-0 run, and the 27-14 advantage that resulted would never be in jeopardy.
Central also had a strong quarter inside with key rebounds from Colin Bess and eight points overall from Scott Richardson.
Bess saved an offensive carom near the baseline moments after Valle had drawn to within 10 points, and Jones splashed another deep jumper to make the halftime margin 32-19.
Buckhanan attacked the basket for scores to directly answer field goals by Bergtholdt and Connor Basler in the third quarter as the margin soon swelled to 48-28.
Junior Brandon Caldwell knocked down two triples in the closing minutes, giving Central a total of 30 bench points.
Each team landed 10 different players in the scoring column. Valle Catholic will play Farmington for third place on Saturday.
Valle Catholic 10 9 14 11 – 44
Central 13 19 22 19 – 73
Valle Catholic – Connor Basler 9, Andrew Basler 9, Daniel Bergtholdt 8, Chris Cabral 4, Jacob Trautman 4, Tyler Shuh 3, Koltyn Schilly 2, Bryant Vessell 2, Tyler Uding 2, Cole Wood 1. 3-point FG – C Basler. (FT: 7-14)
Central – Alaric Jones 21, Jake Bridges 9, Brayden Manion 9, D.J. Buckhanan 9, Scott Richardson 8, Brandon Caldwell 6, Austin Caldwell 4, Colin Bess 3, Hunter Courtois 2, Gabe Craig 2. 3-point FG – Jones 5, Bridges 3, Manion 3, B Caldwell 2. (FT: 5-9)