KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Central downed Oak Park for the third time this year when the moment called for it most, riding a brilliant first quarter to a 54-35 win over the Northmen on Saturday at Oak Park High School to advance to the Class 6 District 16 semifinal.
The Indians began the game shooting lights out, entering the second quarter already leading by 16 points, mirroring the start they managed in their 57-37 win over the Northmen in the final game of the regular season.
“Our goal coming out was to go hard and try to replicate the game that we had Tuesday playing them, and we did,” Central (15-11) senior Jay Jura said after the game.
Instrumental to their early success was the Indians’ typical well-oiled brand of team basketball, the main benefactor of which being senior guard Will Small.
Small accounted for 11 points in the first quarter, including three shots from beyond the arc. He led all scorers in the game with 19 points.
Central coach Jacob Kimble wasn’t surprised to see Small rise to the occasion.
“He has a scoring mentality. If he gets a clean look at the basket, we feel pretty good about it,” he said. “He’s just been a great player for us for four years and to see him come out and compete like that in a game like this really fun.”
Small spoke on his energy from the jump.
“It was a lot of emotions at first,” he said. “I was just staying the course and coming out with great energy to put them away.”
The second quarter wasn’t much different. The Indians continued to exert control over the game, and entered the second half with a 32-15 lead.
However, the game became considerably dicier in the third. Oak Park (10-13) knocked down a few shots, but the well seemed to have run dry for the Indians, offensively. They managed just two points and Oak Park shrunk their deficit to single digits by the start of the final period.
The Indians finally scored again with just over six minutes remaining and relied heavily on juniors Trey Main and Jace Taylor, to claw their way out of their slump.
Taylor drew a pair of momentum-swinging charges and converted a crucial and-one following a crafty reversal, and Main led all fourth quarter scorers with nine points in the period.
Despite the uneasy middle portion of the game, Main remembered the words of his coach: basketball is a game of runs.
“I don’t really think any two players did it all, but it was nice,” Main said. “They went on a run, but we weren’t too nervous. Just a ten point swing. We have a good team, and have unselfish guys so we were able to put them away.”
The Indians advance to play No. 1 seed Staley at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.