Special night for Centella as Grayslake Central earns first win
Brian Centella's long journey to his first win as head boys basketball coach at his high school alma mater led him to Brooklyn.
He found Brooklyn, his 19-month-old daughter, high in the bleachers, held tightly by her mother, Anna, and wearing a "Centella 42" jersey, a gift from Centella's mother-in-law. Centella had navigated his way through a happy crowd on Grayslake Central's court Saturday night after the Rams opened Northern Lake County Conference play by pulling out a 51-49 win over Grayslake North in front of a typical, large, energized crowd for the rivalry game.
Centella found his family.
A hug and kiss for Anna.
A hug and kiss for Brooklyn.
One happy Centella family. One happy Rams family.
"A lot of Grayslake guys that graduated with me (in 2005) were here," said Centella, the first-year head coach, whose Rams came into the game with an 0-5 record. "And obviously my brother, my sister, my brother-in-law, my sister-in-law, my daughter, my wife. It was special. It was fun."
"We wanted to win for him," Rams junior guard Amarion Coleman, who led the way with a game-high 15 points, 10 rebounds and 3 steals, said of his coach. "Super crazy environment."
Fun finish, too.
Coleman's three-point play after a putback put Grayslake Central up 47-45 with 1:33 left in the fourth quarter. Jamon Thomas' 2 free throws tied the score for Grayslake North (3-3). Then following a Coleman steal and Rams timeout, 6-foot-7 Grant Hardy (6 points, 9 rebounds) finished in the lane to give the lead back to the home team with 58 seconds to go.
A pair of free throws by Rams point guard Dillan Dumanlang (6 points) made it 51-47, before Jason Donohue (7 points) scored on a drive to get Grayslake North within two with 13 seconds left. The Knights had one more shot but missed a contested 3-pointer at the buzzer.
"We needed that," Coleman said. "We're just like a train. We're going to keep going and going now."
Grayslake Central had played tough in losses to Buffalo Grove (3 points), Zion-Benton (overtime) and Lake Forest (3 points).
"I'm just happy for the guys," Centella said. "We played in a really competitive Thanksgiving tournament (at Buffalo Grove). I think we can see the big picture and know that if we're competitive in those games, playing that level of competition will pay off later in the season or in conference games like tonight."
Griffin O'Gorden gave Grayslake Central a spark off the bench, scoring 6 of his 12 points in the second quarter to help the Rams go into halftime up 26-22. He hit a 3-pointer in the fourth.
Coleman's putback and 3-pointer helped the Rams erase a 10-2 deficit in the opening quarter.
"He's done such a great job this year -- defensively rebounding, energy," Centella said of Coleman. "That energy, you can't coach it."
Tony Hines led Grayslake North with 13 points, while Thomas and freshman Dominic Jankowski each had 10 points. Joe Swanson grabbed 11 rebounds and sank a pair of 3-pointers for the Knights.