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Central Christian boys comeback falls short

Central Christian coach Carl Rawls echoed the importance of free throws all season. His words proved prophetic in a 48-47 loss to Warrior in the Class A semifinals on Wednesday.

The Warriors overcame a 14-point deficit to take a 47-46 lead — their first of the game — on a pair of Wesley Bell free throws with 42.6 seconds left in the contest.

But, the lead would not stick.

Major Burton hit a free throw to tie the game, but a Warrior turnover with 11.1 seconds left gave the Central Christian a golden opportunity. It was one the Warriors could not convert.

Jarred Childers stole the inbounds pass and hurled the ball to a racing Stephen Stewart, who drew a foul with 9.5 seconds left. He made one free throw to put the Braves ahead, but the second bounced off, giving the Warriors one more chance.

The Warriors had two opportunities to steal the win, but Bell and Bryant Rawls missed short jumpers.

“It was clutch time,” said Warrior coach Barnes Heath. “It was a gut check. But, we had four or five overtime games last, so we’re used to it.”

The end result was a heartbreaking loss for a team that clawed its way back into a game that was all but over. The Warriors trailed 40-26 with a quarter left to play, and seemed lethargic and out of sync up to that point.

“We came out flat and dug a deep hole,” said Rawls. “We dug ourselves into a deep hole.”

A Pierre Coleman 3-pointer opened the fourth quarter, and sparked a 13-3 run to cut the deficit to 43-39. Coleman later hit a pair of free throws to bring the Warriors within two with 1:26 left, and he hit one later to set up Bell’s go-ahead pair.

“I’m proud of my kids,” said Carl Rawls. “They came out and showed great pride. My heart hurts for these kids because they worked so hard.”

The Warriors entered the Final Four as the field’s one-seed, but trailed 14-8 after the first quarter and 25-13 at the intermission.

Bell led the Warriors (22-9) with 11 points. Burton paced the Braves (26-5) with 10.