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Stockton ends up fourth

By ERNIE W. WEBB III

Special to the Hays Daily News

EMPORIA -- There's never a good time for an injury, but the timing for one couldn't have been much worse for the Stockton High School boys' basketball team during Saturday's Class 1A Division I state consolation game against Centralia.

With a little more than a minute remaining in the first quarter, 6-foot-5 sophomore Jaden Williams suffered a knee injury. Though the Tigers managed to hang around until the third quarter, losing Williams for the rest of the night had a significant impact in a 78-47 loss.

"That hurt us a lot, really did," said Stockton coach Tom Stephens. "We've depended on those two (Williams and fellow sophomore post Justin Wiltfong) all season, and they can be a dominant duo."

Without Williams' presence inside, Stockton struggled to contain Centralia's powerful tandem of Samuel Steinlage and Brett Burdiek. The junior forwards combined for 25 points and nine rebounds, leading the Panthers to a 38-32 lead by halftime.

"Samuel and Brett have carried us all season, and they were great tonight," said Centralia coach Larry Glatczak. "The kids were loose tonight, and we just went out there and had fun. They lost their big kid, too, and I think (Stockton) ran out of gas there in the second half."

Less than 24 hours after losing a hard-fought game to South Haven in Friday's semifinals, the Tigers did appear to wear down in the third quarter, but Stephens said the Tigers stopped making good decisions.

"We started to fall behind a little, and then we just went crazy," he said. "We kind of panicked there, and it got away from us."

Stockton (18-8) trailed 46-39 after a Wiltfong bucket with 5:00 left in the third, but Centralia scored the last 10 points of the quarter to build a commanding lead.

The run stretched into the fourth quarter, as the Panthers raced to a 30-point lead, at 74-44, four minutes into the period. All told, Centralia outscored Stockton 28-5 during a nine-minute span.

"We just didn't have it in the second half," said Stephens, "but this was a really fun team to coach this year. They worked hard, and this will help us as long as we do our work in the offseason."

Stockton was hot at the start of the game and led 9-6 after Koby Beougher's 3-pointer from the key less than three minutes in. But Centralia answered quickly with a trey from Cody Huerter, igniting a 16-4 run that gave the Panthers a 22-13 edge.

The Tigers answered with a run of their own, scoring 10 of the next 11 points to pull even at 24-all. When Stockton cooled off, the Panthers (20-6) regained control going into halftime.

"Two things happened: they finally cooled off, and we started playing better defense," Glatczak said.

Beougher led Stockton with 17 points, while Wiltfong had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Steinlage had a double-double with 24 points and 11 rebounds, and Burdiek had 16 points and eight boards. Jovon Rosine was also in double figures for Centralia with 10 points.