Frederick defeats Centaurus in 1st round
Luke, or rather “Swift” Justice, sat with his legs sprawled out under the hoop, letting out a pummeling scream on the front end of an and-one bucket in the opening quarter Wednesday night.
A minute later, the Frederick senior hit from deep, mimicking Denver Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray’s Blue Arrow in celebration. He heaved up another 3 a few steps back of that only moments later.
The Golden Eagles are always premium theatre. Behind their fiery scoring leader that often steals the gleam off the hardwood, arguably the most entertaining team in the Class 5A playoff bracket is now trying to prove it’s undeniably its best.
Justice got hot early, finishing with a game-high 18 points, and No. 5 Frederick beat No. 28 Centaurus 73-45 to advance to high school’s parallel to the Sweet 16. They’ll host No. 21 Harrison Saturday.
“I feel like this is our state championship, 100%,” Justice said. “We’ve worked way too hard. Four years with each other and have played with each other for so long. We’re definitely ready to bring a state championship back to Frederick.”
Justice scored eight straight in the opening minutes, countering a 5-0 start by the Warriors. Taking the reins on a 10-0 spurt, he crashed into the lane for a threepoint play, then swished a 3.
His ensuing heat-check came from at least 25 feet away. Perfectly fine by Frederick coach Jeff Conway.
“He’s got a green light as soon as he crosses halfcourt,” Conway said. “He’s the one who gets everybody going. He flies around, makes stuff happen and he’s our energy guy. He gets us pumped up.”
The Golden Eagles (23-1) eventually outscored Centaurus 34-15 to close the half. Harry Singh provided another head-turning play, throwing a no-look, razor-sharp feed under the hoop to Matias Aldanas in the last minute before the break.
The lead pushed to 28 in the third thanks to a 13-0 run that saw Justice go coast-to-coast for an easy layup. JJ Strojinc followed with consecutive 3s before Jacob Lovins put down a one-handed slam to push the advantage into the 30s in the fourth.
“We know we can score,” said Lovins, who finished with 16 before signing autographs for some younger fans. “We just need to sit down and guard. Just lock up and if we can do that, we’re in a good spot.”
Asa Wentworth finished with 11 points as Centaurus (8-16) ended the winter reaching the postseason for a sixth straight time. Sullivan Cox had seven, Jack Carlson
six and Levi Rubin five.
The Warriors, who had one of the toughest schedules in the class this season, pulled their seniors with 2:27 remaining. Coach Travis Maron went down his bench and told his players, including his seniors, how much he cared for them.
“Whether they win or lose, that doesn’t change how we love them,” Maron said. “I was just trying to make that connection again with those seniors and let them know.”