By Tommy Keeler Jr. - firstname.lastname@example.org
HARRISONBURG -- Central led throughout most of its game with Luray on Thursday night. The Falcons found themselves in control for three quarters, but they couldn't deliver the knockout punch.
Luray took advantage, closing the game with a big run to pull out a 57-54 victory in the Shenandoah District semifinals at Eastern Mennonite University.
"I thought they played a great second half, in particular the fourth quarter," Central coach Roger Wilkins said. "And that was the difference in the game."
Central led 52-47 with 3:05 left in the game, but Luray responded with a 10-2 run. Luray's 6-foot-4 center Josh McKenzie hit back-to-back baskets to get the run started.
McKenzie scored 11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter.
"He's had games like that this year, where it takes him a while to get in a flow," Luray coach Jim Sanders said. "In the first half we had a lot of opportunities inside and couldn't cash in on them. In the second half we finally started getting the ball inside and cashing in on them."
Two free throws by Central senior Drew Flores pushed the Falcons lead back to 54-51 with 1:46 remaining. Luray's Willie Logan drained a 3-pointer to tie the game with 1:25 left.
Logan made 1-of-2 free throws with 1:02 left to give the Bulldogs their first lead since early in the game. Central turned the ball over twice down the stretch and Torez Grandison made two free throws with six seconds left to give Luray a 57-54 lead. Kyle Willis missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Bulldogs the win.
"I'm real proud of the kids," Sanders said. "They kept their composure and kept their heads up. They did not get down or lose their cool when we were losing."
Central's top scorer throughout the season has been guard Aaron Heishman, but he had an off night against the Bulldogs, scoring only five points. Still, the Falcons were in good shape through three quarters.
Willis and Seth Bauserman led the way, especially in the first half.
The pair combined for 13 points to help the Falcons build a 17-9 lead after the first quarter.
"Obviously, Aaron Heishman didn't have one of his better basketball games tonight, but I thought despite that we did good for three quarters," Wilkins said. "In the fourth quarter I thought Aaron tried to step up, which a good leader should do, but it just didn't quite work out for him."
The Falcons built their lead to as many as 10 early in the fourth quarter, but each time they would go on a run, Luray countered with one of its own.
The Bulldogs were led by Logan and McKenzie with 15 each. The win moves Luray into the finals against county rival Page County. The winner will move up in the regional seedings, while the loser will most likely be the fifth seed and have to go on the road.
"That gives us extra incentive," Sanders said. "I guess everyone will get to see what it's like when [we play Page]."
Bauserman led the Falcons with 18 points, but had to leave the game late in the fourth quarter after suffering an ankle injury. Willis and Mike Marston each added 14 for the Falcons.
With the loss, Central will most likely drop to the fifth seed and will have to travel in the regional quarterfinals next Tuesday.