Central Catholic Jermiah Braswell (12) goes to the basket against Findlay's Chase Miller (3).
THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
Central Catholic broke things open in the middle quarters, outscoring visiting Findlay 41-27 in that span, and marched on to a 66-48 Three Rivers Athletic Conference boys basketball victory Friday night at the Sullivan Center.
The win gave the Fighting Irish (18-3, 13-1) an outright TRAC championship.
Jermiah Braswell led Central with 17 points, Marcus Winters had 14 points, and DeShone Kizer added 12 for the Irish, who close their regular season today with a non-conference game at Southview.
The Trojans (16-5, 10-4) got a game-high 19 points from Adam Twining.
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For Kizer, senior night was the final home game of his four-year varsity career, and he wasn’t about to let it end on a down note.
“This means a lot,” said Kizer, who will play football as a quarterback at the University of Notre Dame. “With all the people who came out to support us, it feels great.
“We won a TRAC baseball championship last spring, then we won a football TRAC championship, and now an outright basketball championship. This is what we strive for.”
“It feels weird because it seems like just the other day he was walking out on this court as a freshman,” Irish coach Jim Welling said of Kizer’s Sullivan Center finale. “DeShone is such a gifted kid, and I’ve been very blessed to have the opportunity to coach him for four years.”
Although Kizer went to the bench with his second foul just 50 seconds into the second quarter, he returned less than two minutes later and ignited Central’s offense.
The Irish trailed 16-15 when Twining sank two free throws 5:49 before halftime. Kizer sandwiched a pair of baskets around a 3-pointer from the Trojans’ Michael Clark, then fed backup forward Jerry Moore on a back-door layup for a 21-19 lead.
Findlay would take its last lead at 23-21 on two more Twining free throws with 1:27 left in the second quarter before Braswell and Winters sparked Central in the final 70 seconds of the half.
Braswell’s pull-up jumper in the lane was followed by Winters’ steal-and-layup. Winters added two free throws after an intentional foul call on Clark, and closed the decisive 9-0 run by hitting a 3-pointers with three seconds left in the half for a 30-23 lead.
“We got a lot sharper and we got a lot more rhythm,” Welling said of his team’s late second-quarter spurt. “We told the kids you’ve got to execute at this time of year. You’ve got to run your stuff, you’ve got to trust each other, and you’ve got to believe in what you do.
“We got a steal, and then another steal, and all of a sudden the way we play started to come out.”
Braswell added seven points during Central’s 20-13 third quarter, which closed with the Trojans down 50-36. Central hit eight of its 11 shots in that period.
“They just took us to the woodshed,” Findlay coach Jim Rucki said. “Let’s just say it like it is. They spanked us.”
The efficient Irish were 24 of 41 (59 percent) from the field, and 16 of 18 (89 percent) from the line. Central matched Findlay’s 16 rebounds, and forced 15 Trojans turnovers while committing just six.
Moore and Tom Vetter added eight points each for the Irish, and Vetter held Twining to just three of his 19 points after halftime.
Findlay was 16 of 30 (53 percent) from the field, and 10 of 11 (91 percent) at the line.
“They are really good defensively, and they are really good interior passers,” Rucki said. “They break you down and dish it to the open guy. You have to have better energy on defense to react and help against that, and we did have it.
“They were pushing us outside on our offense, and we couldn’t get into anything we wanted to get into very well, and they scored on almost every possession in the third quarter.”