COLLEGE PARK — Just one week after cutting down the nets for the Class 2A West region title, Zach Tucker and Century found themselves in their first state semifinal since 2009. Tucker stepped to the line with 2.3 seconds left, hearing the “MVP” chants from the Century crowd that made the trip to Xfinity Center. It was just what he wanted to hear as he sunk the final two free throws for his team.
Holding off a second half surge from Central, Tucker fought his way to 34 points on 8-for-14 shooting to lead the No. 20 Century to a 70-61 win over No. 18 Central.
“It was definitely a good night,” Tucker said. “It was a whole team effort going into the game.”
Century came right out of the gates in the first quarter and imposed their will. Tucker hit a 3-pointer at the top of the key and the Knights jumped out on a 10-4 early lead over the Falcons. Century shot 70 percent in the first quarter thanks to four 3’s from Tucker and Adam Rolfes, which stretched out the Central 2-3 zone. With almost three minutes into the second quarter, Tucker found Chris Norman on a lop that earned “wow’s” from both crowds. The Knights went on a 10-0 run at the end of the first and into the second quarter to increase their lead 20-7. Norman was subbed out with two fouls halfway through the quarter and Central answered with a 15-3 run of their own to cut the halftime deficit to two points.
“We had the same thing in the regional final against Williamsport” Century coach George Wunder said. “We just wanted to maintain the best we could.”
With Norman back into the game in the third quarter, Century got back to their offensive consistency. The Knights hit three 3’s to start the half and took an early 34-25 lead. After 2-3 zone and a 3/4 court press in the first half, Central switched to man defense. Century took advantage of the switch and took a 20-point lead with 1:37 left in the quarter.
In what seemed like the end of the game, turned into a comeback by Central. Zach Norman had to find the bench early in the fourth with four fouls and the Falcons went on another run. Switching back to the press, they forced 23 turnovers from the Knights. With 21 points from Trent Dixon and 18 from Deonte Cooke, Central stormed back to find themselves down three points with just 1:44 left to play. But Tucker did what he has done all season long and sealed the game for his team. Tucker finished 15-for-16 from the line and hit crucial free throws down the stretch. Central could not complete the comeback as Century pulled off a very gutsy win.
With the win, Century advances to the Class 2A state final game today at 6:00 pm, where they will take on No. 7 Patterson. Patterson comes off a convincing 68-49 win over Harford Tech
“You wanna get to this moment every season,” Wunder said. “To be able to play in the finals is something these guys have earned through a lot of hard work and a lot of discipline”