BLOOMINGTON - Brent Holtz said the energy just wasn't there for Bloomington High School's basketball team most of the game Friday night. Coach Ron Rose agreed.
But in the last 10 seconds, the Purple Raiders experienced an adrenaline rush.
BHS' Lonnie Lawrence blocked Champaign Centennial's Lamarcus Haynes' drive to the basket with five seconds left. Lawrence quickly outletted the ball to Holtz at halfcourt.
"I looked up at the clock and it said three seconds, so I knew I could get there," said Holtz.
Holtz's layup, his only basket of the night, beat the buzzer. That set off a wild celebration as undefeated BHS escaped with a 56-54 victory over the Chargers in a Big 12 Conference game at the Robert Frank Sports Complex.
"When Lonnie gets the ball I just have to take off," said Holtz. "He's one of those guys who gets a rebound and just throws it. He's a heckuva rebounder."
Centennial coach Tim Lavin didn't protest Holtz getting off the shot in time. However, Lavin was dismayed no foul was called as Haynes went into the lane before meeting Lawrence.
"He got knocked off balance and off the ball all the way back by the top of the key," said Lavin. "We attacked the basket and were in double bonus. The kid (Haynes) had just missed two free throws, but he's a good free throw shooter."
The Raiders improved to 5-0 overall and 3-0 in the Big 12 in their only home game until January. Justin Bocot scored a game-high 22 points to pace BHS, while Lawrence contributed 10 points and 13 rebounds.
"It was a disappointing performance for us. I think our kids feel that," said Rose. "The nice part is everyone understands we have to get better for the upcoming schedule."
After breezing to the Intercity Tournament title, BHS seemed ready for another rout.
Bocot sank four 3-pointers in the first quarter, sparking the Raiders to a 20-12 lead. Freshman D'Mitri Riggs made another 3-pointer to put BHS ahead 25-12 with 5:47 left until halftime.
Centennial (1-5), playing its Big 12 opener, wasn't about to be the Raiders' next blowout victim.
Junior guard Mike Locksley scored 14 of the Chargers' 17 points in the second quarter, sinking three 3-pointers. Centennial cut the deficit to 30-29 at halftime.
"We became very lackadaisical on both ends of the floor," said Rose. "Defensively, we just looked tired. We had no energy or bounce. They took the fight to us the rest of the game. For some reason we were on our heels and didn't play with much enthusiasm."
BHS put together a brief spurt in the third quarter, going on a 10-0 run to take a 42-36 lead. The Raiders still led 44-39 heading to the fourth quarter.
Again, Centennial didn't buckle. Freshman James Kinney's 16-foot baseline jumper put the Chargers in front 52-51 with 1:45 left. Locksley missed two free throws with 53 seconds left, but immediately stole the ball in the backcourt and went in for a layup.
BHS' Cory Hainlen, who scored 10 points, sank both ends of a one-and-bonus, cutting the gap to 54-53 with 20 seconds left. Haynes missed two free throws with 17 seconds left before Centennial fouled Riggs on the other end.
Riggs missed his first free throw before swishing the second, setting up the frantic finish.
"We got lucky tonight," said Holtz. "This was our worst game we played so far. We had a good quarter and that's about it. That's not going to work with any other team in our conference."
Locksley paced Centennial with 19 points, while Kinney added 13.
Neither team shot well. BHS finished at 38 percent from the field and made 11 of 22 free throws. Centennial shot 37 percent and sank 9 of 16 at the line. BHS grabbed a 36-34 rebounding advantage.