RANTOUL — Josh Brent has seen enough games after two-plus years on the Central Catholic High School varsity basketball roster to understand that a spark needs to come from anyone no matter what the circumstances.
Friday night, Brent carried an igniter in his back pocket.
With his team lacking on both offense and defense, Brent ignited his teammates and played like a true two-year letterwinner on both sides of the court in the Saints' 63-49 victory over Rantoul.
"We came out and weren't playing our best game and I think it was time for me to step up," Brent said. "I don't think I've done it all season. This is a time where I had to step up and my teammates had to rely on me and I had to take the team on my shoulders."
Fortunately for the Saints, he could bear the pressure on his massive shoulders.
With his team holding a 14-10 lead after one quarter, Brent played with fire and aggression that no one could contain. Over the final three quarters, Brent scored 14 of his game-high 20 points and snared 13 of his game-high 14 rebounds.
"He's just a monster in there," Rantoul coach Chris Wagner said. "We did everything we could to bang with him, but he's just twice our size. He's a good ballplayer."
Central Catholic (3-2 overall and 2-0 in the Corn Belt Conference) outscored the Eagles 49-39 over the final three quarters and forced 20 turnovers in that span by constantly taking Rantoul out of its up-tempo style by switching from man-to-man to zone defenses.
"We went to some defensive pressure that generated offense," Central Catholic coach Jeff Wulbrun said.
The offense seemed to come easy.
With Rantoul (0-5, 0-1) focusing on the perimeter, the Saints found the open man created by the Eagles' inability to defend the post.
"They were jumping out into the gaps and leaving our post players wide open," Central Catholic senior Matt Pelton said. "Our post players played great tonight."
The starting frontcourt of Brent, Justin Safford and Paul Kabbes finished with 37 points and 32 rebounds. The trio finished 17-of-33 from the field.
"They made the plays we needed them to since our shots weren't falling," Pelton said. "It's just a great effort by the post."
Shaffer Sallade finished with 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field, while Pelton added six points. Despite the impressive offensive numbers, the Saints committed 20 turnovers.
"We won obviously," Wulburn said. "They did some trapping in their half-court (defense). We've got to do a better job of identifying it and moving the ball to the weak side and have guys penetrate."