By CHIP CIRILLO | Photos by STEVE WHEELER
After playing the first seven games of the season on the road, Centennial was so charged up to finally get on its home court.
It showed, as a strong start fueled a 65-60 win over Summit on Friday night.
The Cougars (4-4, 1-1 District 11-AAA) seized a 21-8 lead after the first quarter before holding off a late rally by the Spartans (6-2, 1-1).
“It’s called adrenaline rush — best I can put it,” Cougars coach Pete Froedden said. “It’s the first home game and we’re just happy to be here. I think nobody had any saliva after the first minute and a half of the game because we pretty much depleted everything we had.”
Two late schedule adjustments put Centennial on the road for the first seven games.
Dusty Williams, a transfer from Battle Ground Academy, sparkled in his first game ever at Centennial, as he led the Cougars with a season-high 23 points, including 16 in the first half.
“We were so hyped,” said Williams, a 6-foot-3 sophomore wing. “We couldn’t stop going crazy after somebody hit shot after shot.”
Centennial is a young team with only one senior.
“I think (Dusty) is gaining momentum trying to figure out how we want to play, so it’s still a learning process for him,” Froedden said. “But he’s got a lot of talent and huge upside. It’s going to be fun watching him grow as he moves forward.”
Hayden Pearson added 10 points for the Cougars, who have two starters back from last year’s 7-21 team.
The loss ended Summit’s five-game winning streak.
“Their fans, their crowd had great energy and we, obviously, didn’t match it from that perspective,” Spartans coach Josh Goodwin said. “They deserved to win and we got what we deserved in terms of the result.”
Goodwin said the Spartans are “notoriously slow starters because we just feel like we can show up when we feel like it.”
Summit couldn’t contain Williams, who got too many open looks.
The Spartans have managed to win six of their first eight without point guard Tai Carter, who suffered a knee injury in football.
“Put Tai Carter on any basketball team in America and they get better when he’s on their team,” Goodwin said. “So not having him is a blow, but it’s something that we have to get used to and we kind of have to work around to try to figure out what works best for us.”
Carter remains with the Spartans and sat on the bench in his street clothes, urging his teammates on Friday. He helped lead them to a 23-7 record and a Region 6-AAA semifinal appearance last year.
Jaden Lewis, who slid into Carter’s spot, led Summit with a game-high 32 points.
“Jaden is completely undervalued and underrated,” Goodwin said. “We have to go with our ‘backup point guard’ and he’s putting in 20, 25 points a game and playing 32 minutes, and guarding the best player on the other team.”
Summit’s Demontay Dixon, a 6-9 Illinois State signee, added 15 points.
Tim Ray, in his first season as a Centennial assistant, hired Froedden and Goodwin to their first basketball coaching jobs when he was Sycamore’s athletic director.
“I gave Pete his first coaching job and he gave me my last,” said the silver-haired Ray.
Goodwin, a former Belmont player, coached both of Froedden’s sons at Sycamore.
“We’re all intertwined there,” said Goodwin with a smile. “We’re all locked in there pretty close.”
Centennial visits Independence on Tuesday.
Summit hosts Brentwood on Tuesday.