STEVENS POINT, Wis. — The door was open ever so slightly for the Marshfield High School boys basketball team.
After Central dominated the early portion of the first half of Saturday’s WIAA Division 2 sectional final, a handful of 3-pointers and perfect free-throw shooting got the Tigers within single-digits of the Red Raiders.
Six minutes later, Central had slammed that door shut and punched its ticket to a third consecutive state tournament with a 72-52 win in front of an estimated crowd of 1,300 at Stevens Point High School.
Sophomore Jordan Davis drilled a long-range two just before halftime that gave Central (24-2) an 11-point lead, and they zapped any type of flow the Tigers had found with a 17-0 burst that spanned the first 5 minutes, 44 seconds of the second half. That run effectively sealed the win.
The run featured what Central supporters have come to expect from the defending state champions — the Tigers (14-12) were forced into tough shots and started the second half 0-for-6 from the field, and they committed four turnovers. Nearly all of the changes of possession ended with Central converting a layup or getting a good shot from the mid-range area.
“That’s our basketball,” said 6-foot-7 sophomore Terrance Thompson. “When we run, we’re going to be a hard team to beat. That’s what we like to do, and when we did that we got going.”
The scoring flurry quieted the Marshfield crowd and buried the Tigers under a 55-27 deficit with 12:16 remaining. The closest they got from that point was 20 points.
Thompson was a force against the Tigers much in the same way he was Thursday against Onalaska in the sectional semifinal. Marshfield couldn’t handle his size and finishing ability around the rim until foul trouble kept him out of the game for the final 10:16 of the first half. Still, he finished with 10 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
All five Red Raiders starters scored in double figures, and Central’s lead likely would’ve ballooned further had coach Todd Fergot not slowed the pace down with 10 minutes remaining.
“Marshfield did a great job battling,” Fergot said. “But Jordan’s shot got us some momentum, and that carried over.
“We got into foul trouble, so we weren’t maybe as aggressive in some situations as we planned on, but I was proud of our guys. Proud of the effort.”
Sophomore Johnny Davis had a game-high 23 points, 14 of which came in the second half. He was a big part of the deciding run, scoring eight points in the opening minutes after halftime. He also added eight rebounds.
Johnny Davis also missed time in the first half — the final 2:18 — with a pair of fouls, but he came out firing afterward.
“When the refs were calling it so close, we were getting a little ticked off, so we just knew we had to come out aggressive,” he said. “We were ready to play in the second half.”
Junior point guard Noah Parcher tallied 12 points, seven rebounds, and four assists — two of them were nifty drop-offs to Johnny Davis and Thompson for easy baskets during the decisive stretch. Jordan Davis finished with 13 points and junior David Hayden had 10.
The Red Raiders salted away the win with almost a perfect day from the free-throw line, going 25-for-27, and outebounded Marshfield 40-19.
Central controlled much of the first half with superior play inside.
Thompson muscled his way under the hoop for easy baskets, and had a pair of put-back layups that powered his eight points in the first 8 minutes.
Without Thompson off the floor, Johnny Davis was assumed the role of post scorer, getting inside and drawing fouls, which helped the Red Raiders be in the bonus for 10:48 of the half. Central went 11-for-12 from the foul line in the opening half.
The Tigers stayed in the game with solid shooting from 3-point and free-throw lines. Marshfield made five 3-pointers and eight free throws before halftime. Senior Seth Anderson tallied a game-high 21 for Marshfield.
“It’s exciting to go there for the first time,” Thompson said of making the state tournament. Thompson was at Logan last season, but did watch Central’s title run.
“I’m hoping we can bring back the gold ball. It’s going to be fun.”