Centennial’s last run finally, definitively put Cimarron-Memorial away on Tuesday night.
The Bulldogs raced to leads of as much as 20 points twice in the first 7 minutes, 7 seconds of their Northwest League boys basketball season opener at home, only to have the Spartans claw their way back close. But finally, after Cimarron had gotten within 13 again early in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs pulled away for good en route to an 81-62 victory.
“That’s kind of Cimarron’s M.O.,” Centennial coach Noah Hartsock said. “They play in a lot of close games.”
The big first quarter gave the Bulldogs (6-2 overall, 1-0 Northwest) a cushion. Cimarron (5-5, 1-1) closed the gap to 32-23 on Makhi Walker’s basket inside with 2:24 to play in the first half. Walker’s bucket, part of his team-high 15 points, almost immediately was answered underneath on the other end by Leland Wallace, however.
The Bulldogs 6-foot-6-inch force inside went up strong, put the ball through the net with some authority and was fouled. Wallace made the free throw, part of his 19-point, 16-rebound night, to extend the lead back to 35-23 and Cimarron would never get it under double digits again.
“He’s been a dominant force for us,” Hartsock said of his big senior. “He just spent a lot of time in the gym over this summer to get better. He worked on his free throws, how to position his body. It’s really paid off for him.”
Dominating inside, Wallace did go to the free throw line regularly on Tuesday, and he made 5 of 9 attempts from the stripe. Wallace’s 19 points was second on the team to Savio Rivera’s 21. Rivera did much of his damage as Centennial built the big early lead. He scored 14 of his 21 in the first 7:07 of the game.
His final points of the first quarter, two free throws (he was 6-for-6 from the line overall), extended the lead to 20 points for the second time in the quarter, 24-4. Rivera then let his friends take over.
“Savio is such a great distributor,” Hartsock said. “He has games where he scores 30. But he also has games where he scores five.”
Jairus Dickson and Chris Dockery each added 11 points, with Dickson also contributing six rebounds. Austin Anderson was the final Bulldog in double figures with 10 points.
Brian Lang added 13 points for Cimarron.