LA JARA — The Centauri High School varsity boys basketball team held on for a 51-45 victory at home over rival Sanford.
The Falcons improved to 7-1 on the season heading into their winter break thanks to balanced scoring against the Mustangs (3-3) in the non-league contest played in front of a raucous, stand-room-only crowd. CHS has won four straight.
“It’s competitive, it’s a rivalry. I’ve been on both sides of it. Nothing but credit to the Sanford kids they played their heart out,” said CHS coach Larry Mortensen. “This was good for us to learn how to play in a tight game, which we haven’t had yet. Great environment to get a win.”
Junior Kallon Russel led the Falcons with 10 points including two 3-pointers.
Eight different players scored for CHS. Sophomore Troy Sowards buried three 3-pointers and finished with nine points. Junior Chaz Holman chipped in eight points followed by junior Kaleb Anderson and senior Leighton Curtis with six points each, senior Josh Taylor with five points, senior Kolton Johnson with four points and senior Mason Sowards with three points.
The Falcons made five 3-pointers in the game. Troy Sowards hit a big 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter on a set play to extend the CHS lead to 41-36 and start a 13-4 run.
“They went to a zone, and I had a sophomore kid, who plays JV come up and hit a big three,” Mortensen said. “That probably (third-quarter run) was the difference right there.”
During that stretch, Johnson made a layup, Anderson scored inside and Curtis made 4-of-5 free throws to seal the game for the Falcons.
“We showed poise when they came back,” Mortensen said. “Now, if we execute a little bit better, you know, don’t have some wasted possessions, we don’t have to do that, but again credit to the Sanford kids and coach, they did a great job.”
After falling behind early in the contest and trailing 26-18 at halftime, the Mustangs fought back in the third to close within 38-36 entering the fourth quarter.
Sanford outscored Centauri 18-12 in the third quarter.
Sophomore Ben Sittler scored seven points in the second half of the third quarter to help bring Sanford back. Junior Cash Caldon scored five points in the third on the way to a 10-point night. Senior center McCray Larson used his size to score six points in the third quarter for the Mustangs.
Sittler and Larson each scored 12 points to lead Sanford.
Centauri jumped out to a 10-0 lead midway through the opening quarter. Taylor scored twice in the paint on passes from Holman during the run, bookending a trey from Russell.
Ben Sittler ended the scoring drought for Sanford with a basket in the lane with 1 minute and 23 seconds remaining in the opening quarter. Centauri led 12-7 after the first quarter.
Russell buried a floater from the baseline to push the Falcons’ lead to 19-10 midway through the second quarter. His second 3-pointer of the opening half gave CHS a 22-12 lead a minute later.
Centauri closes its non-league schedule on Jan. 6 with a home game against Delta (2-4).
Sanford returns to action at Pagosa Springs (7-1) in a non-league game on Jan. 5.