EUREKA — In a bid to exit the ranks of the winless, the Central Catholic High School basketball team had to solve a big problem Friday named Keegan Zimmerman.
The 6-foot-8 Eureka senior scored 28 points and grabbed seven rebounds, but the Saints got 26 points from 5-11 Cole Davis in a 75-60 nonconference victory to improve to 1-4.
“He causes a lot of problems,” said Central coach Jason Welch of Zimmerman. “He’s tough. He’s got good hands. He’s got good feet. We were trying to make him take tough shots.”
Davis sank five 3-pointers while nearly matching Zimmerman’s production and got lots of help from other Saints. Tommy Nelson chipped in 16 points, Samuel Tallen 10, J.T. Welch nine and Owen Morris eight.
“We are challenging (Davis) every night in practice,” Jason Welch said. “He’s reaping his rewards for hard work.”
Morris came in after Nelson drew a technical foul at the 5:30 mark of the first quarter.
“Owen played a great game,” Welch said, “maybe the best game of his varsity career.”
A Zimmerman 3-pointer pulled Eureka (5-1) within 25-24 with 5:34 left in the second period. The Saints answered with a 25-9 run to go up 50-33 at the 4:03 mark in the third quarter. The Hornets got no closer than nine following a Brady Krile 3-pointer with 4:11 left.
During Central’s 25-9 escape, Eureka committed eight turnovers and missed 8 of 11 shots.
“I thought we had a really good game,” Davis said. “We had a ton of guys on the floor, a ton of guys saving balls from out of bounds.”
After going 0-4 in the Intercity Tournament, Davis felt his team’s strength of schedule paid off.
“Playing those tougher teams in the Intercity can help you learn some things,” he said.
The Saints played with confidence.
“When you are 0-4, you feel kind of down,” Welch said. “It’s kind of like life sometimes, but you’ve got to keep going.”
Zimmerman, who came in averaging 27.6 points and 13.0 rebounds, finished 10 of 22 from the field.
“I thought they sped us up a little faster than we wanted to go,” said Eureka coach Tim Meiss, whose team got the worst of an 18-10 difference in turnovers. “We didn’t necessarily get the ball in the spots we had been getting it.
“They do a nice job of moving the ball. We had some tough matchups with them. I thought they did a great job of rebounding.”
Central won the battle of the boards, 32-21, as 6-0 Luke Yoder grabbed 12 rebounds and Tallen seven. Yoder, who also drew a technical foul, finished with six points.
Davis was 7 of 13 from the field as the Saints shot .477 compared to Eureka at .518. Krile had 11 points for the hosts.
“(Davis) was the guy we were trying to not let touch the ball,” Meiss said. “We didn’t do a very good job of that.”
Meiss felt the contest will only help in the long run.
“It exposes stuff you need to work on and get better at,” he said. “You get kind of lackadaisical when you win.”