Daily Camera file photo
LAFAYETTE — A dominant opening quarter left little in doubt as Centaurus blew out Greeley Central Thursday night. It was the perfect start for a team coming off a pair of forgettable finishes.
Mario Everett had 16 points, Owen Koonce added 14, and the Warriors won 55-38 to snap a two-game slide.
Centaurus (15-6, 8-4 4A Northern League) was coming off consecutive losses in which it had a late lead at Thompson Valley last week, then found itself tied after three quarters against league-leading Longmont Tuesday. Over those final frames, it was outscored a combined 36-19.
Quickly, it turned the page against the struggling Wildcats (5-15, 2-9).
Everett, who was just 1-for-6 with two points against Longmont, put that behind him with a quick 12 points to open the game. Carson Hill chipped in seven of his 11 points as the Warriors scored 21 of the game’s first 23 points.
“After those two losses, having this tonight gives us our confidence back,” Everett said. “We feel we can end the season strong and go into the postseason knowing we can do a lot more.”
A little later, Koonce, the reigning BoCoPreps.com player of the year, stole the ball off a dribble and finished a breakaway with an emphatic two-handed dunk. The lead grew into the 20s late in the half and got up to 25 by the start of the third.
“It was a really good start and it felt good because it was probably one of better halves of basketball we’ve had this season,” Centaurus coach Travis Maron said. “But we’ve struggled to finish. It happened at Thompson Valley, in the fourth quarter against Longmont, and we’ve had some other games where we’ve struggled to finish as well.”
This one included, he said.
While the game never seemed in the balance, Greeley Central got as close as 15 twice in fourth. The Warriors calmed things with an alley-oop from Everett to Koonce to go up 53-36 with 4:59 remaining. Koonce finished things with another breakaway off a steal — this time pulling up easy for a lay-in over a dunk (which drew a light-hearted groan over by the home student section).
“We didn’t play nearly as well in the second half,” Maron said. “We’re still trying to find ourselves and try and figure that piece out. I’m looking at myself and asking these guys those questions because we’re almost done here with the regular season, and going into the postseason we want to be playing well.
“People say it’s not how you start but how you finish.”
Centaurus — which was knocked out of the running for a league crown after the Trojans beat Mountain View in Longmont Thursday — still has a chance for a first-round bye in the postseason with two games remaining.
A No. 9 seed a year ago, it came into the night tied for 15th in the 4A RPI rankings with Green Mountain and Silver Creek. The top 16 teams in the playoffs receive a bye and a guaranteed home game in the 48-team field.
The Warriors face Niwot Tuesday, then end the regular season against Northridge Wednesday.