CUBA, Mo. – The Class 3, District 3 championship plaque serves as a symbol of resilience for Central senior guard Wade Scherffius in a season riddled with physical adversity.
The latest challenge arrived late last week in the form of a viral illness that potentially threatened his availability for postseason play – but not for long.
Scherffius repeatedly broke down opposing defenders off the dribble Thursday night, and the Rebels earned a title repeat with a healthy 65-48 victory over Steelville.
Sophomore Brent Wagner scored 10 of his game-high 18 points in the first quarter, and senior Holden Mayberry posted 16 points with 10 rebounds for Central (20-9).
Scherffius tallied 17 points and four assists while showing no visible signs of discomfort. He would shine brightest in the second period with four separate field goals.
“I’ve been really dehydrated lately, because I had that stomach virus,” Scherffius said. “I had to get an I.V. before our last game… But tonight I felt a whole lot better.”
“I didn’t just hurt my ankle this season. I also hurt my knee three times last summer,” he added. “It’s been a grind ever since. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs this season, but this win feels good.”
Wagner opened the contest with a couple of driving layups, and sank the first of his four 3-pointers to highlight an 8-0 run that enabled the Rebels to lead the entire way.
Steelville (21-5) committed seven turnovers in eight possessions over the first four minutes, but briefly drew within 10-8 after Garrett Marshall struck twice from long range.
The pivotal stretch of dominance arrived before halftime as the Rebels shared the ball effectively. Jake Casey provided a spark off the bench by drawing a charge and finishing a transition layup.
Will Hopkins was involved in distributing as Scherffius, Casey and Wagner buried three 3-point shots in a row to create a sudden 30-13 separation.
“It’s just a team effort. We all just want to see each other succeed,” Scherffius said. “We shot our threes well, and we expect that every time.”
Scherffius slashed from the right side for a made layup while being bumped, and burst through the lane for an uncontested finish as Central carried a 38-18 lead into halftime.
The Rebels elected to run two stalling possessions following the break, and both worked to perfection as Mayberry sank two baskets in the lane.
He added a putback, and Hopkins dropped in a short hook as the 50-24 margin teased a possible running clock.
The Central defense continued doing its part. Steelville was limited to a single field goal in the third quarter by Marshall, who had a team-high 11 points.
“We talked about getting off to a fast start in both halves,” Central coach Adam Barton said. “With that crowd being excited after their girls won earlier, it was important to quiet them down.
“I was mentally preparing for the opposite and having to regroup, just in case. But when our guys got to the basket and scored a couple of times, then got some big defensive stops, we were off to a hot start and I knew we would be alright.”
The Cardinals exactly doubled their previous offensive output in the fourth period with the eventual outcome already decided.
Sophomore Rylee Mabe drained two 3-pointers, and Tanner Diaz attacked for three more baskets. Garrett Becker equaled Diaz with 10 points for Steelville.
The Rebels advanced to the Class 3 state sectional round, and will face Whitfield (20-7) at Jefferson College on Wednesday night.
Matt King is the sports editor for the Daily Journal. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org