Central basketball clips Washington’s wings

Last sea­son, in his first as George Wash­ing­ton’s boys bas­ket­ball coach, John Creighton got the Eagles to the play­offs be­fore suf­fer­ing a first-round exit. This year, he got them back there again, only this time, G.W. knocked off Ol­ney on the road in the first round, ad­van­cing to play the im­pos­ing Lan­cers of Cent­ral in Tues­day’s Class AAAA semi­finals.

Could Creighton get a team full of guys with little to no varsity ex­per­i­ence in­to the fi­nal against Mar­tin Luth­er King, one of the top Pub­lic League teams in the city?

The an­swer was an oh-so-close-but-no-ci­gar no, with Cent­ral pulling away late at the free throw line in a wire-to-wire game that was much closer than its 68-55 fi­nal score in­dic­ated. Al­though the Eagles lost, pro­gress for Creighton’s Di­vi­sion B pro­gram has been im­mense since he took over.

“It was just a great en­vir­on­ment,” Creighton said of the Tues­day af­ter­noon con­test at Cent­ral. “It was a packed house with cheer­lead­ers and the band, col­lege scouts, fans from both schools … just a great high school play­off game at­mo­sphere. It was close throughout, but we missed so many open shots early on that could have stretched the game. Then late in the game we had some un­for­tu­nate un­forced turnovers that they were able to con­vert on.”

The Eagles played without ju­ni­or Charles Brown, who scored a team-high 24 points in the first-round tri­umph over Ol­ney. Creighton didn’t elab­or­ate on Brown’s ab­sence bey­ond say­ing “It was an un­for­tu­nate situ­ation not re­lated to in­jury, and hope­fully it’s something he can over­come and learn from. I was still con­fid­ent in the rest of my team that we could beat them.”

Brown’s length cer­tainly could have helped against the front­court heavy Lan­cers, led by seni­or cen­ter Chris Bing, who notched 17 points and 14 re­bounds. Bing was one of four Cent­ral play­ers in double fig­ures; mean­while, the Eagles were led by seni­or James Cot­trell and ju­ni­or Jerome Blume, who scored 13 apiece.

“We were well-pre­pared,” Creighton said. “We kept the score close and knew it would come down to the last few minutes. Cent­ral played a really dis­cip­lined game to beat us. They didn’t make any poor de­cisions, they were scrappy and hustled to of­fens­ive re­bounds.”

Wash­ing­ton fin­ished with a re­cord of 15-7, in­clud­ing nine wins in Di­vi­sion B (Creighton has won nine di­vi­sion games in each of his first 2 sea­sons), while Cent­ral im­proved to 22-2 over­all. Creighton hopes that he can keep his young nuc­le­us to­geth­er for 2014-15, which is easi­er said than done these days in the Pub­lic League, where play­ers some­times jump to dif­fer­ent pro­grams like they were lilypads.

“I hope this group sticks to­geth­er,” said Creighton, who will next turn his at­ten­tion to the boys lacrosse pro­gram, which he also coaches. “You try to cre­ate a pro­gram, and it’s hard in such a cut­throat league where people move on to oth­er places. That’s out of my con­trol.

“One thing I can say is they got their chance to per­form to­geth­er as a young nuc­le­us. With not a lot of varsity ex­per­i­ence, they grew to­geth­er and took the next step. If they stick to­geth­er and keep work­ing hard, the sky’s the lim­it. It’s nice to see that, in the­ory, we have someone com­ing back at pretty much every po­s­i­tion. We had some peaks and val­leys, but by the fi­nal six to eight games I thought we were really all on the same page. We’ll let these emo­tions die down, then we’ll meet next week and start plan­ning for the fu­ture.” ••

You can reach at emorrone@bsmphilly.com.

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