The plan from the beginning was to attack the basket, and while the Centennial High boys basketball team may have strayed from that plan for a portion of the second half, Talon Pinckney brought the Patriots back on course.
The senior point guard kept his eye on the hoop, scoring on an under-handed shot off the backboard in the closing seconds for a 38-36 victory over Borah on Thursday night that put the Patriots alone in first place in the 5A Southern Idaho Conference with three games remaining in the regular season.
“They ended up double-teaming me and I just, I don’t know,” Pinckney said. “I broke the double team, and I looked to pass to someone because we had time. Then they all spaced out, and I just saw the basket and took the shot.”
The Lions (15-2, 11-2 5A SIC) had won 10 consecutive games following a 54-44 home loss to Centennial on Dec. 11 and have owned the No. 1 ranking in the state media poll the past four weeks.
With their season sweep of the Lions, the Patriots (16-2, 12-1) have won nine in a row and are in prime position to win their first 5A SIC regular-season title since 2010, assuming they can get past Rocky Mountain, Capital and Nampa. The Grizzlies are the only conference team to beat the Patriots this season, winning 50-40 on Dec. 17.
“I told the kids after the game, ‘Enjoy this tonight, but tomorrow we’ve got another big game.’ We go to Rocky Mountain, and that’s our only league loss,” Centennial coach Josh Aipperspach said. “We’ve just got to continue to play. We’ve got to continue to get better, never be satisfied with how we are playing.”
Centennial’s strategy put the Lions in foul trouble early. Starting point guard DeAndre Jones went to the bench with two fouls midway through the first quarter, and forward Jake Paulin followed him with two fouls a minute later.
“In the previous game (against Borah), we got to the basket a lot, too,” Pinckney said. “We just figured we would try again.”
The game was tied 16-16 at the half, and Borah seized the momentum toward the end of the third quarter as senior Rylan Bergersen scored four straight points, and freshman Ellis Magnuson hit a 3-pointer from the top of the arc for a 27-23 Borah lead with about a minute to go in the quarter.
Magnuson finished with a team-high 12 points for the Lions and hit a game-tying 3-pointer with about 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Before Magnuson’s 3, Centennial senior Connor Desaulniers put the Patriots up 36-33 with 38.9 seconds on the clock after collecting four straight points in a span of 12 seconds on a jumper in the key and a pair of free throws.
Centennial called the timeout after Magnuson’s basket, setting up Pinckney’s game-winner.