Central Catholic tops Highlands in overtime

Tuesday, February 16, 2021 | 9:45 PM

Throughout this season, teams have learned they need to be ready on any given day, and Central Catholic was an example of that Tuesday.

After learning about their matchup with No. 4 Highlands earlier in the day, the Vikings (10-6, 4-4) squeaked out a 55-53 nonsection overtime victory over the Golden Rams (10-3, 6-1).

“Coming out here on the road, day of the game that we found out we were playing tonight, and we’re down some guys, too, it was tremendous,” Central Catholic coach Brian Urso said. “To show our resiliency in the fourth quarter and then in overtime to beat a really good Highlands team.”

With less than 10 seconds left in overtime, junior Jaden Bailey received a pass on the right wing and drove to the hoop for the winning layup.

Urso said the Vikings have been waiting for Bailey to get more aggressive as the season has gone on, and with the game on the line on Tuesday, he took control.

“To see him want the ball in that situation, take his guy off the dribble and use a little kiss off the glass, that was a big play for him individually,” Urso said. “We know he is capable of it, and the fact that he saw it go in I think is going to allow him to play that way moving forward.”

The Vikings handed the Golden Rams their second straight loss, after they lost to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, 73-51, on Saturday.

It was just their third loss of the season, but Highlands coach Tyler Stoczynski didn’t see the same fire in his guys against Central Catholic.

“I don’t know how many times we hit the floor tonight, but it wasn’t enough,” Stoczynski said. “I can honestly say that we won versus Mars earlier in the year because we literally got every single loose ball, and we were scattered all over the floor throughout the game. At times we did it today but not all the time.”

The Vikings jumped out to a 7-0 lead, but the Golden Rams quickly worked their way back into the game and cut the lead to 9-8 at the end of one.

Behind a six-point quarter from Jimmy Kunst, who led the Golden Rams with 17 points, Highlands took control and built its lead to 25-16 at the end of the half.

Central Catholic didn’t go away though and sophomore guard Randy Wilkerson, who led the Vikings with 19 points, took over in the third quarter.

He scored 11 points in the third, including 4 for 4 from the free-throw line, and the Vikings tied the score 35-35 after Carter Anthony hit back-t0-back layups.

“He was huge for us, and he’s been big for us this season at times, but that third quarter changed the momentum,” Urso said of Wilkerson. “He got more confident, guys rallied to him and found ways to get him shots. It was a great team effort in the third quarter.”

The teams battled back throughout the third and fourth quarters, and a layup by Bailey early in the fourth quarter pushed the Vikings ahead 39-38.

From there, the two teams traded leads. Jimmy Kunst hit a three after Bailey’s layup, then Wilkerson answered with one of his own to go up 42-41.

“We told ourselves at halftime that it had to be one stop at a time,” Urso said. “It has to start on defense, obviously, and then guys on offense gotta make shots. We had a lot of good looks in the first half, but we weren’t even confident to make plays. But once guys started trusting each other and we gained a little confidence we were able to get back into the game.”

Before Bailey’s winning layup, Highlands’ Wahkeem Roman tied the score 53-53 with an and-one layup.

The Golden Rams also had a shot at the end of the game, but Antoine McDaniel’s potential tying shot at the buzzer came up just short.

Now, the Golden Rams will look to get back to work and move forward. But, these are the type of games they want moving into the postseason.

“We want to know who we are, and we still have a long way to go, an awfully long way to go,” Stoczynski said. “We still have a long time to grow and the season is coming down to an end, so how focused are we going to be in practice and how much are we going to pay attention to detail and we’ll go from there.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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